1 June 2016

Tortoise - The Catastrophist


I have a truth to admit, I like Sigh. A Japanese metal band of some repute, I class their fifth release, Imaginary Sonicscape as one of my favourite albums of all time. With that in mind, I approached The Catastrophist with cautious optimism as Eddie had told me there were similarities between Sigh and Tortoise.

The Catastrophist is a chilled burst of electronica, steady beats, relaxed key changes and a playful vibe that is very Sigh-like in places. It's easy going and a nice opener to the album.

Ox Duke is electronica with a heavy bass accompaniment. It follows on well from the title track and soon finds its own voice, though there is a nagging part of me that thinks this should have been in a low budget late 70's action film. Not sure where that comes from, but it's got that ring about it.

Rock On starts with a heavy, steady beat that immediately reminds me of Nine Inch Nails, the late nineties work anyway. The lyrics back up that feeling, punchy and perfectly aligned with the music. It's a nice, head bopping track, with a hint of Peter Gabriel in there in the middle. It's a short song, but all the better for it. 

Gopher Island is a machine gun of synth drums and keyboard work, think mid-80's arcade racer, that kind of tone. Interesting. At just over a minute, it's like a sorbet cleansing your palate before...

Shake Hands With Danger. Now this is a NIN laced track that wants Mike Oldfield doing the backing track. It also reminds me very much of a punched up version of an 80's action film soundtrack. I'll let you guess which one, but it works, very oriental sounding backing and nice guitar work. Yeah, I am getting a sense that whilst the album overall seems to be a bit all over the place with regards to tone, the individual tracks are the result of too many late nights with a dodgy action movie collection. And that, gentle reader, is not a criticism at all.

The Clearing Fills is a pop-laced chill out track. Hints of Mike Oldfield again, as well as the methodical beat guides you through four and a bit minutes of calm. Well, until the end where some dark overtones completely re-writes the track. Nice

Gesceap has an organ and keyboard filled beginning, before setting off an on winding, sing-song journey that picks up again as electronica intertwines around the half way mark. As it gets faster, the instruments begin to blur into one another, the pace almost dis-orientating until the last minute brings it back for a slow finish, giving the track a lovely conclusion.

Hot Coffee is a rich, jaunty track, we're definitely into mid-80's stylish cop film territory here. As well as that, there is a chill out vibe and, dare I say it, hints of Opeth in the key changes. Weird, but they work.

Yonder Blue is a heavy, slow, 50's themed track that languidly coils itself around you. Think last dance of the evening and you're there. It's a sad sounding track, like it's sorry that the fun is over and you have to go after this one. Except we're not as there are two tracks left. So what gives???

An encore! Tesseract brings in a lounge vibe, soft guitar and lovely drums backed by a base that lets you know it is in charge here. The synth ending would seem a little out of place, but, in fact, is entirely in keeping with the track

At Odds With Logic brings us back to the 50's again, seemingly mixing Yonder Blue with Tesseract. But wait, get to the two minute mark and it's all change, grim, threatening notes slowing it right down. It gets deeper, then just goes. That's it, times up, we are out of here.

So, what score to give it. I do like it. A lot. Genre wise and tonally, it's all over the place, but that's a strength here, not a fault. Mixing styles and themes almost haphazardly, the overall effect is a near perfect combination. It's a 9 from me.

Favourite track, now that's a tough question. I am going to go with Shake Hands With Danger. However, The Catastrophist is a close second.

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