Album Reviews

Tortoise – The Catastrophist – Album Review


Tortoise – The Catastrophist – Album Review

With a back catalogue of studio albums dating back to ’94, this is Tortoise’s 7th album. They are a band that never seemed worried by fads or whatever other people were doing, but instead continued on their own path. For many, their sound edged too close to jazz, but their blend of delicate melody driven by strong percussion is something you can easily lose yourself in.

This album starts with the title track, The Catastrophist. It has a 20 second folly of nasty synth sounds to scare their fans before reverting to form, with a song that features pounding drums, ethereal keyboards and guitar. One of the most notable features of Tortoise is the absence of vocals, but there are two tracks featuring guest vocal appearances on this album, with the soulful Yonder Blue being the more successful of the two. Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley features and gives her gentle, soothing and distant voice to one of the more mainstream tracks on the album, their version of a 3 minute pop song. The other track with vocals is the quite bizarre cover of David Essex’s 1973 hit single “Rock On”.  The vocalist is not exactly a household name, with Todd Rittman, guitarist for fellow Chicagoans U.S. Maple, taking the microphone. His voice is altered into a distant echo, as this twisted, scalded cover version lurks in the shadows. It does stand out amongst the other tracks and is as individual as it is bizarre.

Other than this aberration, the album is fairly consistent in sound with what they’ve created before. There is no transformation from previous work but possibly due to this album being their first in 7 years, it’s great to have them delivering some warm grooves once again. Songs build through steady repetition, altering slightly over time so you hardly notice the changes. They’re the type of songs that feel like they have no reason to end, they create an incessant groove that could go on forever. An album well worth exploring.

Tracklist –

1. The Catastrophist
2. Ox Duke
3. Rock On
4. Gopher Island
5. Shake Hands With Danger
6. The Clearing Fills
7. Gesceap
8. Hot Coffee
9. Yonder Blue
10. Tesseract
11. At Odds With Logic



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