Tortoise, Hydrofoil | Thalia Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.


Andrew Paynter

When: Sat., Jan. 23, 6:30 p.m. 2016
Price: sold out
On their first new album in seven years, The Catastrophist (Thrill Jockey), Tortoise include gripping new wrinkles through collaboration—the combo enlisted Todd Rittman of Dead Rider to add his creepy croon to a cover of the 1973 David Essex hit “Rock On.” It’s unexpected, because Tortoise are an instrumental band, and they add a subversive polish and numbing throb to the original, while Rittman pushes his performance into vintage Bowie territory. Vocals of a much different stripe from Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley are featured on an original called “Yonder Blue.” The beautiful slice of blue-eyed soul sounds like it was taped off an old transistor radio as Hubley delivers the melody with a resignation that’s both hushed and honeyed. The rest of the album weds electronic impulses and rock-band muscle and recalls midcareer albums like TNT (1998) and Standards (2001), which both stand as personal favorites of mine. On The Catastrophist Tortoise remain confident in their abilities as well as content with their aesthetic breadth. A bit of the album’s material was gleaned and reworked from the results of a 2010 commission by the Department of Cultural Affairs for which the band wrote pieces for some of the city’s best jazz players. The pretty melody of the title track—voiced with a fizzy blend of guitar, organs, and synthesizers—gets its heft from rock-solid drumming and Douglas McCombs’s forceful bass, while the aptly titled “Shake Hands With Danger” conveys a sense of danger as the driving groove recalls Bjork’s “Army of Me.” With two of their members now living in Los Angeles, Tortoise may not be the envelope pusher they were two decades ago, but if they can still make a record as strong and consistent as anything in their discography, then I don’t really care.
— Peter Margasak



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