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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Tortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship
Thrill Jockey

Rating: 7.7/10 ?


August 20, 2009
I read a really interesting interview that Tortoise did with Time Out Chicago right around the time that Beacons Of Ancestorship was released. The interview broke down the album, track-for-track, with individual members of the band giving a background look at how they came up with each song and their individual approach to specific parts. Music listeners worth their salt are aware of Tortoise's great contributions to the worlds of indie, experimental, and electronic musics, but a lesser known fact is that the collective band members are avid fans of everything stylistically from reggae to hip-hop to modern classical. Without giving too much away, the Time Out piece delved into the album's comprehensive and diverse voice, examining an album that utilizes influences from and elements of samba, hip-hop, vintage funk, classic rock, and more.

Beacons Of Ancestorship is an album that only a band like Tortoise could get away with making and have it come off as one consistent, gathered piece of work. The work is a collection of songs that are all over the map in their rhythmic, melodic, and overall atmospheric vibe. It does leak essences of that signature "Tortoise" sound: spacey instrumental, polyrhythmic, omni-growing, eerie indie rock jams. However, the album that Beacons Of Ancestorship most calls to mind is not even a formal Tortoise album, but rather a beat and sample record called Bumps from members John Herndon, Dan Bitney, and Jon McEntire.

Every song on Beacons seems to have a unique base cadence (with lead song "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In" completely jumping rhythmic meter mid-song) that can dictate a different, individual character without straying from the record's overriding identity. "Prepare Your Coffin," the lead single from the album, is an upbeat composition and a constant progression of hooks and auxiliary parts that sticks fairly close to the longtime band standard of repetitive melody and creeped out '70s clavinet and synth breaths.

Where things get sorta strange, though, is in the track "Northern Something," an infectious cut that bares little resemblance to anything the band has done over the last two decades. The song almost comes off as a reggaeton jam, with distorted/dirty gurgling synth bass lines and Latin influenced clave-switch-freestyle urban beats. It feels like something out of left field but is perfect for the here and now; if the band had tabled "Northern Something" at some point in the past they would have been berated for going off their stylistic map. Eleven years after TNT however, the cut is relevant and a testament to a group of creative musicians pushing their own boundaries while doing something that still holds their identity together.

Textual descriptions may be difficult to understand without listening through the album's 11 songs, but for someone who has been a faithful listener since their eponymous 1994 debut it is important to know that Beacons Of Ancestorship is surely a keeper. Unlike other aging indie rock bands, Tortoise continues to sound fresh and make music that few other groups can.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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