Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tortoise picks up the pace with sixth album

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge GONE FISHIN': Tortoise is back after a five-year hiatus.
  • GONE FISHIN': Tortoise is back after a five-year hiatus.

Tortoise's sixth album, Beacons of Ancestorship, arrived like a thief in the night, five years after the lukewarm reception of 2004's It's All Around You. The heady complexities that defined the group's strongest albums, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, TNT and Standards, had lost steam toward the end of the Clinton years, and another Tortoise album wasn't high on anyone's wish list. But the downtime was good for the Chicago five-piece. Beacons of Ancestorship is an aggressive record. "I remember when TNT came out and people would say, 'The pressure is on now!' I had no idea what they were talking about," recalls percussionist Dan Bitney. "Now I can say, yes it is. We knew that we needed to take a bigger leap with this record."

Tortoise ruled a cerebral corner of indie rock during the '90s. Bitney, drummer/producer John McEntire, bassist Doug McCombs, drums, vibes and keyboard player John Herndon, and guitarist Jeff Parker looked to the spacious intricacies of jazz to guide their brand of so-called post-rock. In a decade punctuated by such musical trends as grunge, indie rock and drum-n-bass, Tortoise took the experimental high road, composing serene and funky instrumentals that bridged jazz, kraut rock, hip-hop and dub.

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(Photo by Jim Newberry)

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