Tortoise - The Catastrophist
The Chicago Post Rock instrumentalists return after taking a nearly seven year hiatus since 2009's Beacons of Ancestorship. Do not be fooled by the length of absence or hideous album cover, The Catastrophist is the sound of Tortoise carrying on their grand tradition of being one of the more difficult groups from the “Math” rock genre to categorise. This latest offering retains the Krautrock influenced electronic beeps and synth work of Beacons, blending it with their same intricate jazz and prog guitar work cemented from their 1994 self titled debut.
Album opener ‘The Catastrophist’ kicks off proceedings with 15 seconds of 8-bit synth that could be taken straight from a beach race level from arcade classic OutRun, before settling into a smoother bass heavy jam session. It puts the album into context; the sound of a band trying new things with their established sound. The album also features an oddity, vocals... First up is David Essex cover ‘Rock On’ (feat. Todd Rittman from fellow Chicago-ites U.S. Maple) with the spaced out vocal delivery and distortion more reminiscent of a different David; Bowie rather than Essex. ‘Yonder Blue’ arrives further in (feat. Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo) providing a dreamy 60s pop soul ballad for the modern age. Other high points include the menacing ‘Shake Hands With Danger’, ‘Gesceap’ with the sound of Kraftwerk trying to operate a broken merry-go-round, and the more traditional jazzy guitar lines and fills of ‘Tesseract’. The Catastrophist is refreshing for a Math Rock/Post Rock band; it's the sound of Tortoise having fun experimenting.