The Catastrophist

Written by: LF on 03/02/2016 18:48:59

If the name Tortoise does not sound especially familiar to you despite the band's genre-defining status, it might be because their new album (their seventh in total) is their first in seven years. The Chicago-based experimental post-rock band have not been on any kind of official break, though, and they have among other things spent their time on touring as well as working on the official score for the psychological horror movie "Lovely Molly".

While recognized as very influential to the post-rock genre specifically, Tortoise also incorporate many elements from progressive rock, jazz fusion, and electronica in their mostly instrumental music. This album features two songs with singing, the first one being "Rock On" with vocals provided by David Essex, which brings a Faith No More-vibe to the fore with its dragging tempo, doubled vocals and ominously swirling background. The other one is the simpler, heavily atmospheric "Yonder Blue" featuring Georgia Hubley from Yo La Tengo which sounds like a sonic daydream because of its lazy tempo and slurred sounds.

Most of the songs here make very noticeable use of synths as well as guitars for their main themes, not least the very first song, the uplifting, and titular "The Catastrophist". It doesn't just build further and further upwards in intensity as is an often used post-rock template, but rather it grooves through several distinct sections where different instruments dominate at different times. Many of the songs are more linear in their construction, though, maintaining a certain underlying soundscape throughout and building on top of it, as for instance the quickly echoing and reverb-induced "Ox Duke" or the album highlight "Shake Hands With Danger" with its very distinct xylophone-sound-backing and deep, haunting vibe. The heavily atmospheric and indeed hypnotic "Gesceap", which is also by far the longest track on the album at more than seven minutes, is also worth a mention here as one of the more impactful tracks of the record.

Generally, Tortoise succeed in weaving clever compositions that keep the listener hooked throughout, but a few songs don't seem to develop in any particular direction even though they all feature memorable sounds and strong riffs, most notably the very short "Gopher Island" with its quirky lead synth and underlying tuba-like theme. Overall though, it's a well-flowing and intelligent album that surrounds the listener with compelling sounds to float away in and it should intrigue any fan of instrumental music.


Download: The Catastrophist, Shake Hands With Danger, Gesceap
For The Fans Of: Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, Isotope 217, Don Caballero

Release date 22.01.2016
Thrill Jockey Records

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