Chicago’s borderless Tortoise present their 1st album in seven years with The Catastrophist adding a whole new bunch of stamps to their travelled sonic passports.
After 25 years of category-defying music, they remain a unique, complex proposition with the finely honed agility to hop from whizzy electro-jazz to progressive rock in the space of one track, whilst also taking in a narcotised cover of David Essex’/U.S. Maple’s Rock On, plus a seductive ‘60s pop sound sporting box by Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley, and languorous, creamy kosmiche jams in their stride.
“Tortoise, comprised of multi-instrumentalists Dan Bitney, John Herndon, Doug McCombs, John McEntire and Jeff Parker, has always thrived on sudden bursts of inspiration. And for “The Catastrophist,” the spark came in 2010 when the group was commissioned by the City of Chicago to compose a suite of music rooted in its ties to the area’s noted jazz and improvised music communities.
Tortoise then performed those five loose themes at a handful of concerts, and “when we finally got around to talking about a new record, the obvious solution to begin with was to take those pieces and see what else we could do with them,” says McEntire, at whose Soma Studios the band recorded the new album. “It turned out that for them to work for Tortoise, they needed a bit more of a rethink in terms of structure. They’re all pretty different in the sense that at first they were just heads and solos. Now, they’re orchestrated and complex.
As ever, Tortoise has conjured sounds on “The Catastrophist” that aren’t being purveyed anywhere else in music today. There’s a deeply intuitive interplay between the group members that comes only from two decades of experimentation, revision and improvisation. And at a time when our brains are constantly bombarded by myriad distractions, “The Catastrophist” reminds us that there’s something much greater out there. All we have to do is listen.”