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Listening to Tortoise used to be a jazzy dreamscape of complex percussion, layered strings, and otherworldly electronic loops and licks. Their new album, Beacons of Ancestorship, shows a departure from that form into one that is more comfortable sitting with an Ennio Morricone piece than in the post-rock bin.

Beacons exhibits the quintet’s meticulous musical skills, following Tortoise mainstays McCombs and McEntire’s tireless artsy arrangements. But, this release has more of a melodic feel to it in many places, reaching back to the Chicago band’s late ’90s heights (Millions Now Living..., TNT).

The first track, "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In," with it's Spaghetti Western name, is an eight-minute adventure of scat drums and deep-synth voicings. The slower and somewhat hypnotic track "The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One" reinforces the Western theme, as does the hammered dulcimer sounds of "Gigantes.” The song cycle shifts after track eight into a more relaxing, jazzy, space-lounge style. The trip lasts 43 minutes and mysteriously gets briefer, better the more you listen to it.

  • Album: Beacons of Ancestorship (2009)
  • Artist: Tortoise
  • Label: Thrill Jockey
  • Songs: (1) High Class Slim Came Floatin' In (2) Prepare Your Coffin (3) Northern Something (4) Gigantes (5) Penumbra (6) Yinxianghechengqi (7) The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One (8) Minors (9) Monument Six One Thousand (10) De Chelly (11) Charteroak Foundation
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