The first thing that strikes us about Tortoise’s first studio album in six years is the extent to which electronics now dominate their sound.
Any fans who lost touch after their Millions Now Living Will Never Die album might not recognise the band on this record. But the spirit remains the same and their spacious, clean production style will be familiar. The Catastrophist has its genesis in a 2010 commission from the City of Chicago that emphasised the jazz and improvised music scenes, so the album has avant-garde tendencies. Yet the inclusion of a sparse electro-funk cover of David Essex’s Rock On, percussive and catchy Shake Hands With Danger and the spiralling lead single Gesceap implies that there’s also a desire to make accessible cuts along with the more jazz-inspired musings of Tesseract, At Odds With Logic and Yonder Blue. It’s the tracks that evoke the ghost of krautrock that will probably define the album – the pulsing synth of Ox Duke, driving, spilling drums of Gopher Island and intricate percussion loops of The Clearing Fills. Tortoise’s music has never been for the faint-hearted and this is the best introduction yet to their modern fare.