It’s All Around You (Thrill Jockey)
by Tim Den
Like the impossible gathering of Earth’s flora on the (double!) cover, Tortoise‘s latest offering is one that draws, as usual, from worlds of progressive influences into a cauldron all their own. Latin, jazz, world music, post-rock (they’re from Chicago, after all), prog rock, IDM, all distilled of their essence via Soma Electronic Music Studios (owned and operated by member John McEntire) and reborn as It’s All Around You. Atmospheres pulse on “By Dawn,” spectres haunt in “The Lithium Stiffs,” mini-orchestras detonate in “Crest,” guitar riffage do battle in “On the Chin” and the title track, all augmented by tinkling vibes and slippery bass/synth bass. Closing with “Salt the Earth,” vintage ’70s film score is reinterpreted by cyborgs and then hijacked by Yes, as snarling bass distortion writhes under off-time vibe accents. It’s every bit as TORTOISE as Standards before it, with an almost “lovelier” approach to composing. The melodies are more effeminite, the songs easier to seduce… are the band trying to tell us something with the artwork’s soothing (yet unnatural) beauty? Have they gone SOFT!? Ah, but that’s the magnificence of Tortoise: Even as they lead you to believe one thing (in this album’s case, that they’re dolling themselves up in rose petals), they still make you second-guess yourself. If there’s strength in challenging predictability, then this reptile has got some force.
(PO Box 08038 Chicago, IL 60608)