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3.9 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 22, 2016
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The tunes on Standards are direct and immediate, yet they maintain the exploratory edge that has always characterized the group's output. The fusion of instrumental sounds (electric, acoustic, and synthesized) is subtle and subversive. Similarly, the group's fluency within the studio environment gives the finished work a quality that alternates between artifice and reality. Whilst TNT was constructed in the studio using segments recorded, improvised or altered electronically, the Standards sessions began after a period of rehearsal and composition. The contrast, simply stated, is that the studio was used extensively as a compositional tool for TNT, whereas with Standards it was used predominantly as tool to realize and enhance the existing new compositions. The studio does not impose itself on the recording to the same degree we witnessed on TNT, and the resulting record is in many ways reminiscent of their unadorned self-titled debut.

Tortoise formed in Chicago in the early 1990s from a pool of musicians most of whom had spent time in bands concerned with aggressive, guitar-centric rock. From the outset their aesthetic was crafted partly in opposition to that. Relying mostly on drums, vibraphone, two basses, keyboards, sparing use of guitar, and being attuned to the many strains of electronic dance music that developed throughout the decade, the ensemble quickly established a distinctive sound that caught a lot of people's attention. But it was a couple of years before their compositional skills caught up with their sonic inventiveness. John McEntire's crucial role in shaping the sound of the last couple of Stereolab records has been mirrored on his own group's records, and by the time TNT was released, they'd put all the pieces together to create a record that lived up to their reputation. And Standards is at least as good if not better. Having made their declaration of independence from rock, the roiling drums and guitar distortion at the start of "Seneca" are as near a return to it as they've made. However, after a couple of minutes they settle into a funky groove with half a dozen short interlocking melodies, and it eventually dissolves into a percussive wash and segues into "Eros," which starts with one of Dan Bitney and John Herndon's signature Steve Reich-ian mallet instrument patterns. There's an effective compositional tension throughout in which particularly abstract electronic passages will suddenly yield to surprisingly pretty melodies before heading back out to space. Those who've followed the band this far are going to be very happy, and anyone who has been hesitant would do well to take the plunge. --Bob Bannister
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 22, 2016)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Thrill Jockey
  • ASIN: B000056O2R
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,466 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 5, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Now I get to trot out my indie rock snob identity card and say that I have enjoyed Tortoise since they first appeared in record stores with their Gamera EP, and their self-titled first lp and a masterpiece by any realm of the imagination.
Their first album, maybe out of some kind of nostalgia of mine, is still my favourite record. It's so pure and simple and unadorned. It's like Kind of Blue for me--I can listen to it over and over and I'm always impressed.
That said, this is my 2nd favourite of their records. Something about it is just fantastic, just really fantastic. The rockin' beginning is so great. It's a great album. It's really super great. I loved it a lot. They have deftly avoided becoming a Neu! tribute band. (Here's where I have to hand in my snob badge: I hadn't even heard of Neu! until Astralwerks rereleased their albums--and I'm a Kraftwerk fan from way back in the day! so bully for me.)
I think it's cool that Tortoise are on Warp in the UK. I like Warp music a lot.
A really great thing to look for if you've been enjoying Tortoise but don't just want to fall into the old trip of just buying their many side projects (Pullman, Sea & Cake, etc.) would be to check out FREEFORM's new album Audiotourist, which is just amazing, mixing classical Chinese and Vietnamese instruments and field recordings with a Tortoise-stye syncopation and sort of gentle, Mouse on Mars style electronics. Really good, and a bit less well-known. (I'm thinking why just go on and plug Stereolab and whoever else, when it's pretty obvious you've heard of them if you're looking at reviews of Tortoise albums...)
The strange democratic thing that makes these reviews kind of fun is that it's a good place to connect sounds, like amateur musicology. That's my take at least.
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Format: Audio CD
Yo, a couple of people obviously don't really have a problem so much with this record itself, but the "demographic" who listen to it. Well, my friends, the question is not about who listens to this, but about what kind of music the musicians themselves are making.
Actually, I was very disappointed with this album when it first came out. Being an enthusiastic fan of "Millions Now Living..." and "TNT", I believed that Tortoise had lost their epic and experimental flair. Well, give it a little while to find its way into your happy place - I'm a believer now. The virtue of Tortoise's past records was all of the divergent paths that the band tried on for size. Whether it was the pastoral sonic poetry of "I Set My Face to the Hillside" or the floating "Glass Museum", Tortoise seemed to have a real flair for a sort of meditative instrumental rock.
Well, "Standards" is a vastly different affair. On the whole, the sound is extremely focused, as close to a truly conventional album as Tortoise has ever come. Also, I'd say there's a bit more emphasis on American music styles, a la free-form Jazz, Funk, R&B, etc. However, the songs also tell a clearer story this time around. I know that sounds pretentious, but it wasn't until I realized that that I was able to relish this album.
On the whole, it's hilarious that some people hate this music (the people who listen to this music) so much that they have to completely trash it because of the people who listen to it. I personally bought this because of my love for Tortoise's back catalogue. I suspect Tortoise is just a group of guys who enjoy making music, just like any other hard-working band. So judge them based on their records...that being said, given time, this stands strong with the rest of their work.
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Format: Audio CD
O.K., I know it is not going to happen anytime soon, but labeling a band like Tortoise is just never going to give them justice. Like another band Porcupine Tree, who are continually labeled as a monster they are not, Tortoises' influences, like that of Porcupine Tree come from all forms of popular and "about as left of center as you can get in music" from the last 40 years. Tortoise envelopes these sounds into something that IS original. They are not blatently ripping off a riff from anyone. I think people would wish there was some form of mimicking from "jazz rock", "prog rock", "alt rock", and dare I say "post rock". And then they would proceed to bash the originality of Tortoise. And yet, they are still bashing Tortoise for sounding like something they are obviously NOT. This is original. You cannot say one COMPLETE track, or one COMPLETE album sounds like somebody else.
Standards has all of Tortoises' quickiness and dilusion of past albums, with some organic textures almost making this sound more like a non-electric sounding band yet incorporating electronic sounds. You dig. If you listen closely, there are beautiful melodies here, interspersed with a rhythm section that just keeps getting better.
If this was 1976, this would've been praised as a "masterpiece". Now it is 2002 and it should be regarded as one. It is ashame that punk rock with all of its honesty and heart took the rock field 25 years before a band like Tortoise realized that there is heart and honesty in any rock music you do, and have it carry over in what should've been another great scene in the mid 1970's. Instead what you had was electronica doing its own thing, rock music doing its own thing. Why?
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