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Tortoise - TNT CD (album) cover

TNT

Tortoise

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.76 | 89 ratings

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TCat
5 stars Released in 1998, Tortoise's 3rd album wasn't going to rest on the laurels of their previous album. Instead, the band made an album unlike that of the post-rock heaviness of their prior albums by incorporating a more organic drum and groove sound where the different musicians in the band would add their own sections after the recording of the foundation of each track. What we ended up with is another excellent album from this groundbreaking band, this time with a lot more diversity and unique sounding songs. There are only hints of post-rock in this music which in some instances, is absent all together.

Starting off with the title track, 'TNT' opens the album by establishing a nice groove and a cool, yet simple guitar riff, and, instead of creating an added intensity, they build upon and improvise around the riff in a classic, jazz style, but also utilizing a bit of electronica just to keep things current, and adding in effects and such. Adding Jeff Parker to the band for this album definitely gave this post rock band a jazz edge that would stretch the boundaries of the sub genre even more.

'Swung from the Gutters' opens with a mellow jazz guitar solo before kicking in with an almost tropical vibe in the upbeat percussion. With the dual guitars now added to the band, we get to hear how much more depth has been added to their sound. This track is warm and inviting, and with the change of pace towards the middle, things stay fresh, especially when things turn slightly dissonant and experimental, with a nice mix of traditional jazz and wild effects.

'Ten-Day Interval' starts off with a melodic percussion pattern, again giving the track a nice tropical sound. After some nice effects, a processed piano effect comes in playing the main thematic material. The combination of the two creates an almost trance-like effect without any drums. There is not a lot of development to this song, but it's okay because it is pleasant enough the way it is. Some sound and noise effects play in a minimal way and take us into the next track 'I Set My Face to the Hillside', which begins with a guitar played in a Spanish/European cinematic style against a rhumba rhythm while children play in the background. Later, violin joins in along with accordion and light percussion. I'm a sucker for this retro-European style. Chimes and marimba play the middle section.

'The Equator' is a definite electronic track, at least it starts that way, but guitars are brought in later to drive the melody, but most, not all, of the percussion sound electronic. It has a Brazilian feel to it. 'A Simple Way to Go Faster Than Light That Does Not Work' begins with electronic pulses, but bass comes in quickly to establish a foundation along with percussion and guitars providing atmosphere. This one is less interesting, but at least it is fairly short. 'The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls' has a complex progressive jazz vibe to it. It starts out rather thick, but lightens up as it continues as a more accessible beat starts up and a nice bass generated melody picks up among tonal percussion. It's all the minor nuances in this track that make it interesting, but the melody is nice too.

'Four-Day Interval' sounds like a slowed down version of 'Ten-Day Interval' with deeper sounding instruments and sounds. 'In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women and Men' is an easy jazz groove with some interesting things added to it, especially with a hard hit in a few places that throws off the rhythm a bit. The last part of it goes into a minimal and free floating jam. 'Almost Always is Nearly Enough' continues in the minimal experimental sound with a slight trip-hop groove that builds a little bit. This is another relatively short mostly electronic track.

'Jetty' starts off with a rapid electronic beat with synth effects. The cool effects established in the previous track are built upon in this track. This track is also trip-hop with some nice jazz elements including both guitars playing solos to the complex electronic beat. The sound gets fuller when real percussion joins in. 'Everglade' begins with a nice atmospheric sound that eventually falls into a nice slow, yet airy vibe. This is nice and laid back without dragging along. It's a nice finish to this excellent album.

There is really a lot of nuance and beauty to this album, with it's laid-back, tropical vibe which depends upon elements of jazz improvisation to carry it along. The sound is not heavy, but is light, yet complex. Everytime you hear it, you pick up on something you missed the last time you heard it. This is also a groundbreaking album where electronics and organics are both used and they compliment each other quite well. Many groups were trying hard to reach this sound back when it was released, and yet Tortoise comes along and does it like it is so natural, like it is just so easy. Anyway, this is an essential album for lovers of jazz, instrumental and boundary stretching music. This is definitely a 5 star album.

TCat | 5/5 |

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