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Tortoise - Tortoise CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.59 | 46 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars Chicago based TORTOISE were one of the pioneers of the American style of post-rock in the early 90s where they, like others in the breakaway from indie rockers, were interested in experimenting with the hypnotic droning possibilities laid down by the Velvet Underground all the way back in the 60s. While bands like Talk Talk and Slint may have fully nudged the subgenere of rock that utilizes rock instrumentation to create varied timbres and textures outside the confines of traditional rock song structures, bands like Cut de Sac, Labradford, Bowery Electric and TORTOISE are cited as the founders of the American flavored stylistic approach which combined Krautrock with dub, jazz, electronica and minimalism. TORTOISE themselves formed in 1990 when bassist Doug McCombs (from Elventh Dream Day) hooked up with drummer John Herndon and set out to create freelance rhythm sections that took the elements of groove oriented genres such as reggae and add more complex elements.

The results of this experimental approach led to the eponymous debut album by TORTOISE which found a total of five musicians cranking out a plethora of different musical sounds from a veritable army of musical instruments including the usual rock suspects such as bass, guitar and drums alongside vibes, marimba, keyboards, sax, harpsichord and tons of synthesizers and effects. The combo effect of all these sounds delivered in an exclusive instrumental parade of sounds is indeed quite unlike many other artists of the days including other early post-rock bands. While incorporating jazzy elements into the overall hypnotic trajectory of the steady flow of rock led electronically tinged space dub, TORTOISE at this point still hadn't honed their skills to the point of such classics as "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" or my favorite "TNT."

The debut album by TORTOISE is exclusively instrumental and all ten tracks ooze by in the mid-tempo range and in retrospect doesn't come off as anything particularly brilliant since in time TORTOISE themselves would conjure up much more interesting post- rock offerings, but they did garner a lot of attention at the time of this release because of the unusual instrumentation of two bassists, three percussionists and an ample use of vibraphones and marimbas. This album also was released with two album covers, both of which i've somehow accumulated. While both are identical artistically speaking with three dots in three squares on a single colored background, one release shows alternating blue and white coloration while the other is of different shades of tan and brown.

Compared to later efforts, the debut by TORTOISE is a downright lazy affair with a steady groove that never gains very much steam or conjures up a lot of changing it up in the ole dynamics department. While they were successful in garnering the attention they needed in order to create a steady movement beyond the basics, the debut album isn't an album that really stands the test of time as does the following albums. While this is a perfectly satisfying hypnotic groovilistic parade of jazzy dub with Krautrock flavored elements simmering on a low lit pilot light, nothing really erupts into anything memorable either and granted TORTOISE were never known for epic extended jaunts that lead to crescendoes such as Godspeed! You Black Emperor, however they were known for an interesting instrumental interplay that doesn't quite muster up an ecstatic satisfaction level on this one. Not bad by any means but it only gets better from here.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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