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Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.73 | 98 ratings

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4 stars Tortoise's second studio album proper (1995's Rhythms, Resolutions & Clusters was more of a remix project) is probably their most appealing to fans of progressive rock. Founder member Bundy K Brown had left, although he is credited with writing portions of The Taut And The Tame, to be replaced by former Slint musician Dave Pajo, and the band wrote the bulk of the material during a stay in a farmhouse in rural Vermont.

The album opens with the remarkable 21 minute piece Djed, which has drawn comparisons with Krautrock, minimalism and dub. There's also a hint of what Soft Machine Third would have sounded like if it had been recorded in the 90s, but really Tortoise define their own sound and space with this track. There are four or five main themes, but rather than one leading neatly into another each emerges gradually from the previous one. The opening rumbling bass gives way to a slowed down motorik rhythm which morphs into a vibes driven piece of minimalism which is broken down and distorted into a piece of edgy electronica which then reintroduces the mallet percussion and so on, the whole thing underpinned by a logic of its own as though different layers are being peeled away to reveal something new and equally exotic beneath. Despite the disparate nature of the parts, the whole piece has a remarkable coherence and sense of purpose.

The second half of the album opens with the excellent Glass Museum, probably the most obviously post-rock track in their early output. Dave Pajo's guitar is the dominant instrument, backed by vibes, and the effect is a beautiful, shimmering piece of music that calls to mind the shoal of fish on the cover. The following couple of tracks continue to explore similar territory - A Survey is dominated by bass, while The Taut And The Tame features some almost straightforward rock drumming - but nothing new is added to what has gone before. Dear Grandma and Grandpa is a dark, slightly sinister ambient composition which shows their studio wizardry. The final track, Along The Banks Of Rivers, emerges from the gloom and reprises the ideas in Glass Museum, this time played with a slow, aching beauty, and this brings the album to a strong conclusion.

Millions Now Living Will Never Die is an ideal introduction to Tortoise, and despite the slight dip in the middle of the second half of the album it is an extremely strong piece of work which still holds up well a decade after it was originally released. If you can, pick up the Japanese release which features 3 bonus tracks including the gorgeous, acoustic guitar led Gamera.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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