Tortoise Standards

As today’s electronic artists begin working with more live instrumentation and guitar-based bands embrace technology, one might wonder if contemporary music is catching up with Tortoise, not to mention Tortoise’s obvious influence on their contemporaries. But as we see on Standards, Tortoise continues to set themselves apart through their sheer breadth of style while honing in on the common forces uniting disparate musical genres. It can’t get much more basic when it’s all about rhythms, textures and melodies. The latest Tortoise instalment once again fuses together elements of rock, jazz, jam, dub, funk, ambient, musique actuelle, jungle and pop into a cohesive entity using a warm mix of acoustic instrumentation and electronically generated sounds. As a percussion ensemble, they are perfectly suited to explore diverse terrain while paying homage to the almighty groove. From the epic, Neil Young-styled skronk-rock opening of “Seneca” to the calm easy-listening closer “Speakeasy,” Standards covers a tremendous amount of ground, including the dub pop of “Six Pack,” some retro electro soul on “Monica” and the up-tempo progressive fusion of “Blackjack.” Some of the tracks are even broken down into separate movements themselves, bridging great musical distances like the fantastic “Benway,” which begins like an early ambient Eno/Fripp project and suddenly changes course into a Zappa-esque jazz number. Recordist John McEntire’s ear for comforting textures holds the proceedings in balance as the group freely explores sweet grooves and deep melodies throughout. (Thrill Jockey)