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Tortoise – 'The Catastrophist' review

Published on 22nd January 2016

Twenty years into a career that’s influenced not just individual acts but whole scenes (it was for them that Simon Reynolds first coined the term "post-rock"), Tortoise could be forgiven for resting on their laurels for album number seven. And while large sections of The Catastrophist deliver what Tortoise albums are supposed to – dense, polyrhythmic experiments into texture, timbre and dynamics played with an addictive, virtuoso level of restraint – there are also hints the band are as investigatively restless and playful as ever.

David Essex remains one of the more unlikely targets for a Tortoise cover version, but his 1973 single Rock On is reimagined here is a hulking beast, and with Georgia Hubley from Yo La Tengo lending vocals to sleepy ballad Yonder Blue, Tortoise manage to add vocals to their existing sound palate with impressive seamlessness, and that sort of frictionless musical development is the album’s most pleasing characteristic.

Indeed, as time passes, Tortoise might be appropriating the characteristics of their name: The Catastrophist isn’t violently breaking new musical ground – but then again, slow and steady wins the race.


8/10

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