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Artist: Tortoise
Label: Thrill Jockey
Genre: Alternative
Release: Jan 2004   My Rating: 0
Duration: 43:37
Summary: In calling its new album "It's All Around You", Tortoise might be referring to the cultural universe from which it draws its expansive, one-of-a-kind sound. Try as you might to be succinct in describing the Chicago band's dreamy instrumentals, the only way to categorize them properly is to string together stylistic tags like so many Mardis Gras beads. As with a Quentin Tarantino movie, part of the pleasure is identifying and annotating the sources of the music as it unfolds, and folds back on itself. Studio-refined without being studio-slick, "It's All Around You" is awash in ambient pop and cool chamber jazz, hip-hop beats and more strident rhythmic feats, Spaghetti western touches, and the sound of ... opera? Just when it has you falling into its seductive spell, it will jolt you with a dose of rancorous drama. It's Tortoise's most accomplished and winning album--great fun and some kind of great art and who cares where that twain does or doesn't meet? "--Lloyd Sachs"

Artist: Tortoise
Label: Thrill Jockey
Genre: Rock
Release: Jan 2001   My Rating: 0
Duration: 44:19
Summary: Tortoise formed in Chicago in the early 1990s from a pool of musicians most of whom had spent time in bands concerned with aggressive, guitar-centric rock. From the outset their aesthetic was crafted partly in opposition to that. Relying mostly on drums, vibraphone, two basses, keyboards, sparing use of guitar, and being attuned to the many strains of electronic dance music that developed throughout the decade, the ensemble quickly established a distinctive sound that caught a lot of people's attention. But it was a couple of years before their compositional skills caught up with their sonic inventiveness. John McEntire's crucial role in shaping the sound of the last couple of Stereolab records has been mirrored on his own group's records, and by the time "TNT" was released, they'd put all the pieces together to create a record that lived up to their reputation. And "Standards" is at least as good if not better. Having made their declaration of independence from rock, the roiling drums and guitar distortion at the start of "Seneca" are as near a return to it as they've made. However, after a couple of minutes they settle into a funky groove with half a dozen short interlocking melodies, and it eventually dissolves into a percussive wash and segues into "Eros," which starts with one of Dan Bitney and John Herndon's signature Steve Reich-ian mallet instrument patterns. There's an effective compositional tension throughout in which particularly abstract electronic passages will suddenly yield to surprisingly pretty melodies before heading back out to space. Those who've followed the band this far are going to be very happy, and anyone who has been hesitant would do well to take the plunge. "--Bob Bannister"

Artist: Tortoise
Label: Thrill Jockey
Genre: Alternative
Release: Jan 1998   My Rating: 0
Duration: 64:48
Summary: Like their moniker suggests, Tortoise wield a thick exterior of styles while the essence of their sound smoothly beats on. They brazenly titled their latest endeavor "TNT" as if to signal a break from their former shell. But don't be deceived by explosive associations, for the acronym is meant to stand for "Tough-N-Tender." The album displays a tenacious level of technical proficiency and creative divergence from five Chicago guys doing what they love. Tortoise avoids the experimental minimalism displayed on earlier releases in favor of a more accessible and upbeat turn of the collective dial. Rooted in jazz structures, the dripping electronic treatments on most of the tracks further distinguish the sound. Because the thematic expressions jive with unassuming clarity, no vocal or lyrical elements are needed nor occur. While darker sides of psychedelic guitar emerge, the loungy low end sections evoke intrepid fantasies of isolation on the swankiest of desert islands. "--Lucas Hilbert"