Tuesday, 23 June 2009



For a record that appears to be getting universally panned I cannot really see what the problem with it is. Sure it has a bit of a stupid name but with the guitars now toned down and the keyboards turned right up, with an apparent influx of beats and new rhythms surely this should be appealing to the sensibilities of the crowd that has bought so heavily into Battles as it would appear Tortoise attempt to regain/rediscover some kind of face, even crown.

It is the distinct sudden overdrive of keys that is most strikingly noticeable about this release. This feels very much like a change in tactic, a step up in gear and maybe even some kind of regeneration.

There is no escaping that the pinnacle of achievement in post rock is to serve as an effective to score to bad sex in some tawdry movie and for this purpose Beacons Of Ancestorship certainly can serve.

The record opens in a confident, confrontational and upbeat manner with “Prepare Your Coffin”. Never before can I recall the band ever upping the pace (and stakes) to such a degree. The extended addition of keys is one of the most telling adjustments. As a result all sounds very slick and fluid even if from one perspective the track could have been the theme to Treasure Hunt in the eighties.

Moving onwards the strange sonic devastation of a song such as “Yinxianghechengqi” leaves you with hope for the genre that one day once more things will rise dirty again for the genre and the tugging will be again at our coattails as opposed to of their own cocks. With frenetic impulses the reckless abandon seems to serve as a steel determination to sabotage.

Soon it returns to business as usual with the clockwork repetition and precision of a well oiled machine, an almost synthetic group force displaying/deploying an even temper and discipline which far surpasses the playing of the majority of their peers.

Elsewhere “The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One” is distinctly Morricone sounding lending an epic tone to the collection of compositions. Today Tortoise are painting with broad strokes on an echoing canvas. In contrast with its stuttering tract “Penumbra” sounds like something MF Doom might happily spit over.

There is a more futuristic sense and feeling to proceedings. Often here are selections that would have sounded great on the score for Blade Runner or Escape From New York, a vibe that acts such as Zombi Zombi were discovering a few years ago.

Tortoise now are somewhat the music equivalent of NASA, a formerly groundbreaking institution now only viewed (heard) fondly by way of some kind of forced nostalgia. As a result everything they now have to do needs to be sharp on all levels due to playing to a crowd continually looking for adjustment and progression on the genre. Ultimately though once more it is a display of growth and maturity from people at the top of the games.

The beats are strong with this one.

Thesaurus moment: revital.

Thrill Jockey

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