Tortoise – The Catastrophist


Tortoise - The Catastrophist (Thrill Jockey) 2016


The opening title track from Tortoise’s first album in seven years begins with a fanfare akin to a global news corporation theme, a synthetic clarion ident which proclaims Wake Up World to a sleepy populace. But this is no angered state-of-the-west address as kicked off 2001’s Standards album, rather The Catastrophist finds Tortoise consolidating their brand identity while reinvigorating a global audience reach sharing common identifying factors. It also contains a hefty injection of squelchy electro-funk.

Tortoise’s music always felt like the base elements of jazz and rock had been fed into a software program which then regurgitated the result in machine-like manner only to find a surprising amount of soul. Hence, the cover here of David Essex’s “Rock On” which on the surface cocks a hugely ironic eyebrow only to reveal itself as a melange of vintage glam given a systems update bringing to mind a 21st century Roxy Music. Elsewhere, “The Clearing Fills” portrays chiaroscuro cocktail bar muzak, “Gesceap” would perfectly fit a Terrahawks reboot, “Hot Coffee” funks away like Zapp with a hint of erectile dysfunction and “Yonder Blue”, sung by Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley, aches of disconsolate late night rhythm & blues.

It’s the perfect record for the paranoid procrastinator in your life, smooth and sheened on the surface, but underneath riddled with doubt and suspicion.

Words by Euan Andrews
FOR FANS OF: The Sea And The Cake, Trans Am, Slint
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