Sunday, 1 July 2018


"millions now living will never"
Year:    1996
Country:    US
City:    Chicago
Label:    Thrill jockey
Format:    CD, LP
Tracks:    6
Time:    40 min.
Genre:    rock
Style:            Post Rock

It’s hard to believe but there was once a time when the oft convoluted and meteorically misunderstood sub-genre of post-rock was just about finding its feet. With the likes of latter-day Talk Talk and Louisville quartet Slint having laid the transatlantic groundwork of sorts, Chicago instrumental outfit Tortoise all but personified its modus operandi in the mid-Nineties, not least on their second full-length effort, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, a six-track masterstroke boldly melding jazz, dub, rock and every conceivable sub-genre in between. Almost twenty years on from its initial release, a new vinyl re-issue of the record grants us an ideal opportunity to re-assess its legacy. Bowing out via the supremely cinematic, knowingly Morricone-inspired ‘Along The Banks of Rivers’ (see also: McComb’s solo work as Brokeback and Vincent Gallo’s Recordings Of Music For Film) Tortoise offer up a rather melancholic refrain to balance out the almost corporeal optimism that runs parallel with the band’s innate confidence throughout.  If the likes of Slint and Rodan were the shrugging, quietly calculating twentysomethings of early post-rock, Tortoise were, for the most part, propagators of a  playfulness and intelligence that, perhaps most impressive of all, never seemed to contradict each other on Millions Now Living That Will Never Die. More than anything, though, whilst not exactly flawless – and despite having release four superb albums since – it remains Tortoise’s most crucial statement to date; a gallant and ground-breaking second album  in which fearlessness and variance fortifies what continues to be its resolutely singular legacy (*Review by Brian Coney ).
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Year:    1998
Label:    Thrill jockey
Format:    CD, 2 x LP
Tracks:    12
Time:    64 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:            Post Rock

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Year:    2000
Label:    Thrill jockey
Format:    CD, LP
Tracks:    10
Time:    44 min.
Genre:    rock
Style:            Post Rock

Revered for their ineffably clean, precise playing, Tortoise couldn't help but mess with the formula slightly on their fourth album, Standards. And from the beginning of the first track it sounds like a major overhaul, with heavily over-miced drums and distorted guitars framing a pummeling groove from bassist Doug McCombs. On the second track "Eros," the phlegmatic synthesizer lines and clipped drums are more reminiscent of experimental electronica outfit Mouse on Mars than any fellow post-rock luminaries. When the band finally hits its stride, though, midway through the third track, "Benway," it's with a quintessential Tortoise groove, driven by repetitive bass figures and a vibraphone melody (plus a hilarious nod to prog-rock at the end, with several seconds of stop-start playing). Standards does return the group to the green fields of their last record, but only occasionally; John McEntire and company appear too restless to consider making the same album twice. Ironically, despite the range of sounds, Tortoise is still doing what they've been doing for nearly a decade: playing some of the most empathic, group-minded rock of their era, then indulging in much recomposition courtesy of the mixing desk and various effects. "Monica" is one of the least Tortoise-sounding tracks the group has ever recorded; it sounds like an early-'80s pop/R&B track (complete with talkbox guitar) filtered through the lens of British IDM, but then mutates into an intriguing stereo-separation drum workout. Overall, Standards has a few detours for fans conscious of any band's "progression," but plenty of interesting songs and great musicianship for less vested listeners. Though it doesn't develop the evocative or impressionistic side of Tortoise (as heard on TNT), the band is certainly as inventive as ever (*Review by John Bush ).
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