Chicago experimentalists’ latest covers wide territory, with mostly positive results.
Tortoise is one of the rare groups that defy easy
classification despite their status as founding fathers of the late-'90s
post-rock boom. Their newest album, Beacons of Ancestorship, is a winsome marriage of that knack for genre
cross-pollination to an eminently accessible pop-eletronica tenor. It’s also
the closest the quintet has ever come to a propriety-be-damned dance
album of manifold musical appropriations; the spaced-out phrygian guitars of
“Gigantes” give way to the frenetic punk of “Yinxianghechengqi,”
followed by the somber and churchlike “De Chelly.” Tortoise steadies these diverse flirtations with an assembly
of computerized beats and synth lines that recall the electro-prog meanderings
of post-Hackett Genesis. There’s plenty here for diehards to dissect (Wilhelm scream, anyone?) but the album’s real draw is its outright appeal to those
unversed in the band’s back catalog.