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Published: 2009/06/29
by Pat Buzby

Beacons of Ancestorship – Tortoise

Thrill Jockey 210
Its fitting that the new Tortoise arrives at around the same time as the new Sonic Youth. Both bands broke some ground in the struggle to find new ways of approaching rock in the post-punk years. Despite the better to burn out ethos of that scene, though, both bands have more or less kept doing the same stuff. And although the shock value is gone, its still satisfying.
Since their lineup settled a while back, Tortoises musical personalities have become familiar. There is the dubwise bass of Doug McCombs, the jazz-schooled, occasionally ferocious guitar of Jeff Parker, and the combinations of gadgetry and (when the music merits it) slamming drums from the other three. There are the signifiers of large record collections, notably the spaghetti western music of The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One. There are the juxtapositions of the indie (Yinxianghechengqis stick-clicks-and-amp-buzz intro could have come off an early 80s SST record) and the defiantly non-indie (Penumbra sounds like a keyboard malfunction at an Alan Parsons Project session).
Beacons of Ancestorship wont change anyones perspective on Tortoise. Still, even the textbook Tortoise tracks have their surprising details, such as the slipping-out-of-time guitar on the closer. And a few tracks, notably the opening synth-buzz epic High Class Slim Came Floatin In, rank among the best sonic experiences theyve served up. The ideas here may date from the 90s, but this CD suggests that Tortoise could still be making this type of music in the 2020s.

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