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Tortoise - Beacons Of Ancestorship CD (album) cover

BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP

Tortoise

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.52 | 31 ratings

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TCat
5 stars Tortoise is one of the bands accredited to the rise in post rock music by being on of the genre's earliest innovators. Since that time they have expanded way beyond the bar they set, but since they are experimenters on and beyond the rock genre, they are progressive more than they are post rock. They have taken many current trends and turned them on their ear, for example, they have delved into hip hop, jazz, minimalism, drone and just about any other style, and have moved those genres way beyond their established borders. So, it's tough to pin them down to any particular genre anymore. They have even experimented with indie-folk with their previous album 'The Brave and the Bold' where they partnered with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy to release an album of completely reimagined covers, and they even messed up new age music by helping Beck dismantle Yanni's 'Live at the Acropolis'.

So after 5 years of doing little projects here and there, they finally released this album 'Beacons of Ancestorship', and, as usual, fans were wondering where they were going to go this time. It seems the band was out to re-establish their position as innovators and inventors in the music world. Once again, they work to stretch the boundaries of whatever is current, almost seemingly in order to create a new genre out of existing genres.

We start off with the 8 minute track 'High Class Slim Came Floatin' In'. Taking a mid tempo dance rhythm, they produce synth heavy and catchy melodies to pull you directly into their music. The rhythm is steady, but not necessarily standard with some tricky back beats. A sudden stop/start rhythm and melody suddenly comes out of nowhere, just as you thought you might get up and move around. Even with Tortoise, this catches you off guard. At 4 minutes, they then turn to a minimalistic approach, but a sudden quick build brings you away from that to a heavy beat and sound while arpeggios swirl around making for a repetitive section where dynamics and processed sounds are used on separate layers, creating a cool atmosphere.

Two shorter tracks follow this. 'Prepare Your Coffin' uses a nice guitar/synth combo to create a nice accessible rock tune against a fast beat. 'Northern Something' is driven by an almost tropical rhythm that is suddenly overshadowed by a dark, yet funky synth. The sound is anything but standard in the unique growly melody against the percussion that has somehow turned from tropical to a march.

'Gigantes' is over 6 minutes and starts with a middle Eastern rhythm and sound. The rhythm continues while the instruments go every which way making unique sounds and melodies. Of course, as can be expected from this inventive band, things change slowly and before you know it, the sound of the track changes to something completely different. The rhythm has evolved into something else completely and so has the melody. Tricky rhythmic passages keep this one interesting throughout.

'Penumbra' is a very short track, which seems like it is trying to catch a rhythm or groove, but doesn't quite make it. After a minute, it gives up and quits. At this point, the entire album shifts it's focus from techno inspired songs to experimental songs. 'Yinxianghechengqi' goes into a completely different direction. It is a loud punkish-sounding track, more chaotic and heavy than anything previous to this. At the 2:30 mark, it suddenly turns dark and experimental as different tones, textures and sounds try and fail to take over, then it fades. 'The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One' has a nice European vibe with a thudding beat over an almost Spanish sounding rhythm and guitar. Tortoise is only borrowing this for the background of something a little more complex than this, almost turning it into a lounge jazz style spaghetti western track.

'Minors' continues with that Euro-jazz feel that follows a melodic style more than the previous. The unexpected part is the electric guitar staying in the lower register making everything seem a little unsettling. 'Monument Six One Thousand' turns to a mid tempo funk with a guitar following a completely different meter. It all does come together somehow by the end of the track. It's kind of cool the way the funky bass line ties everything together. 'De Chelly' is another very short track which is simply a synth/organ playing chords, almost feels like church.

Finally, this album is all wrapped up with 'Charteroak Foundation' which takes the last track and expands upon it. A quick beat starts up over the top of a guitar playing an arpeggiated pattern. Synths start up tying the two strange meters together. Strangely enough, it all works. After the albums dive into darker tones in the middle, this is the track that takes us out of that darkness. It ties the light and dark feelings prevelant in both halves of the album together.

This is the Tortoise style that I like best with a lot of variety in the sound, stretching both the accessible and the dark into new areas. There is plenty here to keep the progressive minded interested especially when it comes to being progressive and relevant at the same time. A very good album, it keeps things interesting, and it even retains it's strange sense of playfulness and humor, even in the darker passages. This is an excellent instrumental album, that doesn't have to rely on one style, and isn't afraid to go off in odd tangents. I also love the sly way Tortoise can shift a track from one style to another in such a sneaky way, that if you aren't listening close, you may not even notice. This is intellectual progressive rock of the best kind, but you do have to be listening close or you will miss what makes it so humorous and intellectual.

TCat | 5/5 |

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