Thrill Jockey stalwarts Tortoise will release their sixth full-length album on 22 June 2009. It’s been 5 years since “It’s All Around You” was released, so expectations are high and the band does not disappoint. Sounding like the proper follow up to 2001’s “Standards”, “Beacons” is truly a prog album. It is dirty and crisp, simultaneously sounding like it was recorded underwater and in an air-tight studio. And as always, their sound is undefinable – dub, post-rock, lo-fi, electronica, dance, spaghetti western, jazz, classic rock, punk, it’s all there – kinda sounds like the album Trans Am wanted to make after “Future World”.
Tortoise and I have a long, torrid history together. I have been with them since the beginning. Have seen them play live 6 or 7 times. I saw them at The Magic Stick in Detroit for their “Millions Now Living” tour way back when, where they showed up on stage silent with little headlamps and played “Djed” in its entirety. Jeff Parker wasn’t even with them yet. Last I saw them was just a few months back at The Mod Club in Toronto, where they had the drums set up in front of the stage and they reminded me why I loved them in the first place. They are professional musicians that love what they do, and it’s completely evident on stage, when they’re all grooving and smiling, and rocking out a fabulously tight set.
Johnny Mac still proves to be one on the best sound engineers working in the business today, and I feel this album has much more resonance than “It’s All Around You”, it sounds more urgent and dynamic. Whereas with “It’s All Around You” the band seemed to be rehashing and falling back on familiar patterns and styles, “Beacons” sounds fresh, it sounds new, but still very much like the Tortoise you know and love.
The title of the album is fitting too. Tortoise helped create and develop the indie rock/indietronic scene we all shoegaze, get baked, and rock out to. Their musical influence really knows no bounds. Buy this album as soon as it hits the stores and if you’ve never seen them play live go see their show. Like Boomkat would say: Very highly recommended.