Tortoise – The Catastrophist
Listening from record to record, you’d barely notice most changes in Tortoise’s oeuvre – there’s nothing here quite so forcefully different as the sonic reshuffle that came with 2001’s Standards. Instead, they’ve become beautifully adept at mapping out their own world, whether draping soft chords over gurgling, biomechanical electronics (The Clearing Fills) or traversing the landscapes of kosmische and dub with stuttering breakbeats as their only vehicle (Gesceap). On occasion, this world has felt closed off to visitors, but here the doors are wide open.
With vocalists on board for the first time (Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley on the hymnal Yonder Blue; US Maple’s Todd Rittman on a suitably tense cover of David Essex’s Rock On), purists might question whether The Catastrophist signifies a watering down of Tortoise’s idiosyncratic vision. Rest assured, although still more cerebral pleasure than triumphalist pop breakthrough, this uniquely accessible record is a subtle delight.