Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (2009)


Tortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship; 2009
Thrill Jockey
My Rating: 39/100
Tortoise are one of the grand behemoths of post-rock, making almost-accessible experimental music for some fifteen or sixteen years now. Their first three full-lengths are testimonies to the power of sound, rife with inspiration and vision. Unfortunately, the band started to lose their way with STANDARDS, emphasizing the free-form influences of their jazz leanings over the structured instrumentalism of their earlier work. That didn’t ruin STANDARDS, which remains a pretty good record in and of itself, but it bears itself in full bloom on ANCESTORSHIP, their six full-length work. At this point the band seems completely different from the band bearing the same name in the 1990’s. Sure, there are interesting and pretty sounds here, but all in all the band seems to have simply lost the plot. I can’t really say too much beyond that. The songs just don’t have the power behind them to work their way into my head. Instead, BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP just sort of bounces off the cranial surface, heading into the abyss of space like radio static. Hope isn’t lost for another great Tortoise record, but the band’s really gonna have to pull something together next time to get me to listenTortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship; 2009
Thrill Jockey
My Rating: 39/100
Tortoise are one of the grand behemoths of post-rock, making almost-accessible experimental music for some fifteen or sixteen years now. Their first three full-lengths are testimonies to the power of sound, rife with inspiration and vision. Unfortunately, the band started to lose their way with STANDARDS, emphasizing the free-form influences of their jazz leanings over the structured instrumentalism of their earlier work. That didn’t ruin STANDARDS, which remains a pretty good record in and of itself, but it bears itself in full bloom on ANCESTORSHIP, their six full-length work. At this point the band seems completely different from the band bearing the same name in the 1990’s. Sure, there are interesting and pretty sounds here, but all in all the band seems to have simply lost the plot. I can’t really say too much beyond that. The songs just don’t have the power behind them to work their way into my head. Instead, BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP just sort of bounces off the cranial surface, heading into the abyss of space like radio static. Hope isn’t lost for another great Tortoise record, but the band’s really gonna have to pull something together next time to get me to listen.
Beacons_of_Ancestorship_coverTortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship; 2009
Thrill Jockey

My Rating: 39/100
Tortoise are one of the grand behemoths of post-rock, making almost-accessible experimental music for some fifteen or sixteen years now. Their first three full-lengths are testimonies to the power of sound, rife with inspiration and vision. Unfortunately, the band started to lose their way with STANDARDS, emphasizing the free-form influences of their jazz leanings over the structured instrumentalism of their earlier work. That didn’t ruin STANDARDS, which remains a pretty good record in and of itself, but it bears itself in full bloom on ANCESTORSHIP, their six full-length work. At this point the band seems completely different from the band bearing the same name in the 1990’s. Sure, there are interesting and pretty sounds here, but all in all the band seems to have simply lost the plot. I can’t really say too much beyond that. The songs just don’t have the power behind them to work their way into my head. Instead, BEACONS OF ANCESTORSHIP just sort of bounces off the cranial surface, heading into the abyss of space like radio static. Hope isn’t lost for another great Tortoise record, but the band’s really gonna have to pull something together next time to get me to listen.
TRACKS:
1. High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In (3/5)
2. Prepare Your Coffin (3/5)
3. Northern Something (3/5)
4. Gigantes (4/5)
5. Penumbra (3/5)
6. Yinxianghechengqi (3/5)
7. The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One (3/5)
8. Minors (3/5)
9. Monument Six One Thousand (3/5)
10. de Chelly (3/5)
11. Charteroak Foundation (3/5)
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2 Responses to Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (2009)

  1. “I can’t really say too much beyond that”

    Normally I would slam a critique that would contain such an ambiguous conclusion, but after having listened to Beacons of Ancestorship, I think it is about the best thing that can be said about this pile of pointless percussion.

    You’re absolutely right on about Standards being the lp when this band started to lose the subtext and move into weirdly mechanical (i.e., soulless) jazz-funk junk. I’m baffled by the number of fans of this group who insist the late period stuff is the best, when it contains hardly a trace of the subtle experimental/avant-garde sounds that made Tortoise one of the best of the post-rockers during the mid-late ’90’s.

    I listened to Beacons once under perfect conditions: a late evening road trip all by myself and it was awful. I couldn’t get over how nearly every track was so ridiculously dense that I thought I was listening to a straight-up drum and bass band.

    Plus, my disappointment was heightened by the fact that I actually held high expectations for this album due to a good review in the Onion AV Club. What the hell were they thinking?

    • John says:

      the record does seem to get some positive reviews in general, but i tried listening to it several times, and was so bored by it that it was next to impossible to get inside. that’s why i said i can’t really say too much beyond that. to be fair, STANDARDS really did grow on me after a while, but it’s nowhere near the power of their first three full-lengths. i think STANDARDS at least maintains enough structure to grasp onto something; BEACONS is so nebulous that, no matter how hard i tried, my mind just wouldn’t track.

      i think FOUR TET is a band that picked up the TORTOISE torch in the 2000’s. i guess it’s a slightly different genre, but to me, a record like ROUNDS represents what TORTOISE should be doing.

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