Review Summary: Beacons Of Ancestorship is delicately balanced on seesaw, at any moment shifting for better or worse
Not too long ago, Tortoise reminded everyone why we love their distinct blend of post-rock with A Lazarus Taxon
, a three disc box set of rare material. That retracted the rekindling of their timeless albums TNT
and Millions Now Living Will Never Die
, where Tortoise essentially grew to what they are today. Now we find Tortoise stepping away from their marimba set and welcome a new wave of synthesized hooks. Abrasive, yet melodic, Tortoise’s approach is straightforward, but the execution is questionable.
Beacons Of Ancestorship
begins with a high frequency pitch, as “High Class Slim Came Floatin' In” moseys listeners with aural, spacey synth melodies. Awkward, intentional transitions trudge “High Class Slim Came Floatin' In” until more than halfway through when a thick, distorted bass riff hastily takes the song in another direction. This is the start of what has become a never-ending love-hate relationship with Beacons of Ancestorship
. Listening to “Prepare Your Coffin” and “Minors” unfolds an appreciation of their changing style, until one considers what that song could have been ten years ago. Yet Tortoise insists on a heavy rock mantra, with an ever dissipating jazz undertone. Once again, acknowledging the change is one thing, but adapting and mastering the change is a completely different task.
One of the brighter moments comes with “de Chelly” and “Penumbra.” The ambient “de Chelly” is a natural interlude for “Charteroak Foundation” while the thumping “Penumbra” shifts and slides gracefully. Meanwhile, “The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One” could easily be the next build-up theme for Western shootout or a scene reminiscent of a hazy, sweltering summer journey. With a chain keeping a steady beat and two guitars slowly keeping pace, it becomes a perfect serenade (but perhaps too similar to their Millions Now Living Will Never Die
, closer “Along the Banks of Rivers”). With that, “The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One” succeeds by separating and removing the somewhat monotonous dense distortions that can suffocate the albums beauty.
Unfortunately, Beacons Of Ancestorship
may leave listeners concussed; as there are only a handful of memorable musical fragments. There seems to be a sense of overlapping, preventing any distinct showcasing without revisiting a track. Tortoise have changed dramatically since their blast into musical recognition and Beacons of Ancestorship
is a setback. After all, living in the shadows of a famous, successful relative may be an impossible act to follow, and that is, metaphorically, what has plagued Tortoise.