A post-rock staple for years, it's remarkable that Tortoise has continued to be a relevant instrumental band until this, their sixth proper full-length release (or eighth depending on what you're counting). Beacons of Ancestorship is another strange and compelling addition to their catalog, blending a wealth of genres such as Jazz, rock, and electronica into a complex and experimental whole, and will no doubt feel like a welcome return to form for some. Their formless, shifting songs consistently surprise and take a few spins to truly begin to understand, making this an album that may require some patience to fully comprehend. The songs on Beacons never become so obtuse that they become impossible to enjoy, they just deserve more than a cursory listen to be appreciated.
Early in the record the pace is kept fast and the intensity high, especially the synth-driven opener, "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In," an eight-minute rock number that sets the stage for the following "Prepare Your Coffin," which feels very much like the second half to the story. From there, the record subtly transitions from these louder, synthetic moments into slightly more organic, acoustic territory and back again. "Gigantes" and "The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One" are highlights from earthier side of the album, the former a sharp, rhythm-heavy track filled with hyper percussion and spiky guitar lines, the latter a mellower, jazzier tune. Both stylistic sides of the album are equally fascinating, but it's the band's ability to build the record in such a way that it functions so well as one work that makes Beacons of Ancestorship special.
Even after some heavy rotation for the review, I'm a bit at a loss as to how to accurately describe this album, though I suppose any good experimental rock record would cause that same issue. Tortoise's use of disparate musical techniques and theory is as impressive as it can be baffling, and once the songs are allowed to soak in, Beacons of Ancestorship becomes a adventure worth returning to for further exploration and discovery even if you can't explain exactly what it is that draws you in. To get a taste of the record, you can download "Prepare Your Coffin" below as well as check out the artistic video for the song.
Prepare Your Coffin (MP3)