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Tortoise: Shining the Beacons of Ancestorship on Buffalo

I showed up late to the bandwagon on
Tortoise.  A band that is nearing
its 20th birthday, I discovered them several months ago after
realizing the critical acclaim and intense passion they had garnered over such
a long career.  After mentioning
how good I thought they were to my roommate, he rolled his eyes like a parent
watching their kid discover that fire burns.
  As many times as he could tell me, I
just had to figure it out for myself.

This year, Tortoise is releasing what will be
their sixth studio album, and their first in five years, as well as hitting the
road on a U.S. tour that hits the Tralf tonight.  The album, Beacons of Ancestorship
, plays off the
classic Tortoise concept of genre smashing.  If I were to take a bit of jazz, throw in some dub and
hip-hop influence and mix it with rock riffing and heavy synths, then we’d had
something like this album, an incredible mélange of influences that stands on
its own musically and which I can scarcely do justice. 

The album’s opener, “High Class Slim Came
Floatin’ In” is a perfect example, leading off with an uptempo, dubbed out (I
don’t know how it works either but it does) synth line backed by crisp, lyrical
drumlines before mutating into soft analog synth that in turn dissolves into
heavy guitar chugging.  And this is
all just one track.  There are
several more epic tracks, separated by a few shorter ones as well (“Penumbra”
is phenomenal, and only a minute long). 
My personal favorite, “The Fall of 7 Diamonds Plus 1” sounds like the
soundtrack to a spaghetti western, lonesome guitar ringing out over gentle
picking and organ, backed by what sounds like electronic drums and clanging
chains.  Another highlight, “de
Chelly” comes in like a church hymnal, all soft organ that builds synth and
guitar themes into a heart wrenching piece of nostalgia for some vague,
intangible memory of Sunday morning mass.

All in all, Tortoise seems to have pulled out
all the stops when it comes to the synthesizer this album, bringing it into
most of the compositions in some way, but this is by no means a slight against
them.  The album is a fantastic
piece of composition that pulled me in and was over before I even realized
it.  As I mentioned earlier, the
band has to be heard to truly “get”, so check out their myspace or go check
them out tonight at the Tralf, or even better, do both! 

 

Tonight at The Tralf 

Doors at 7PM with local
headliners Lazlo Holyfield

$18/pre – $22/day of

Image: Saverino Truglia

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