Tortoise, “The Catastrophist”
Tortoise has been producing innovative, genre-morphing music for over two decades, and with The Catastrophist—their first album in almost seven years—the experimental quintet still manages to take us somewhere new and unfamiliar. Actually, this full-length takes the listener multiple places: some comic and playful (“Gopher Island”), some sinister and sexy (“Shake Hands with Danger”), some otherworldly and labyrinthian (“Gesceap”), and some places—which, for the band, are most unfamiliar of all—with vocals. Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley lends her voice to the beautiful, floating “Yonder Blue,” and the band recruited U.S. Maple’s Todd Rittman for their dark, swaggering take on David Essex’s “Rock On.” Some might consider these sonic landscapes too far apart on the map, but the cohesion becomes clearer when you learn that this collection grew from pieces commissioned by their home city of Chicago, a place with a musical history rich in improvisation. There’s no word yet on which Catastrophist track will become the Windy City’s official anthem, but it really is only a matter of time.