Monday, October 12, 2015

Tortoise - It's All Around You

It's All Around You is a solid maturation of the Tortoise sound. It's their fifth album and the compositions are surer, bolder, subtler than any of their previous work. Where their earlier tracks were often whimsical and wandering, these are thoughtful, artfully produced works that don't need to lean on their pastiche or irony or 21st century genre fusion to be respected. The triptych that opens the album is some of the most breathtaking work they've ever done, as audacious and ambitious as anything you've heard from them. The first track is a latin-infused tapestry of guitar and vibe melodies, while the second is a sibilant electronic dub brain massage. The third is a bold, sweeping Zappa anthem that will have you shaking your head in wonderment. This is Tortoise's most cohesive album yet, good for focused end-to-end listening while having tracks that are capable of standing on their own.

All the usual elements are here: the mesmerizing blend of instruments to the point where you are surprised where one ends and the other begins, the fun sometimes screwball rhythms, the jazz inspired melodies and some great rock-out moments. Instrumentation hasn't changed: two vibraphones, two drum kits, bass, synth/effects, twang and jazz guitar.

Its mood wanders from joyful heights to angsty darkness and back. Tortoise's production values improve with each album they release, and this is no exception - you will greatly benefit from playing this album through a quality sound system or headphones, and make sure you're reproducing the bass properly because it's sublime.

John McIntyre's drumming is on showcase here, building to a wild crescendo with the album's closing track. The electronic expression of Tortoise is more finely represented here than on any previous album.

This album showcases some of their most subtle, melodic and consistent work to date. If you like Friends of Dean Martinez, Calexico or M83 give this a try. If, not - try it anyway - it's that good.

Track Listing
    "It's All Around You" – 4:09
    "The Lithium Stiffs" – 3:59
    "Crest" – 4:21
    "Stretch (You Are All Right)" – 5:14
    "Unknown" – 5:38
    "Dot/Eyes" – 3:46
    "On the Chin" – 5:21
    "By Dawn" – 1:51
    "Five Too Many" – 4:33
    "Salt the Skies" – 4:45


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