Release Date: Apr 6, 2004
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Only in the post-Britpop dead zone of the late 1990s could Tortoise's arrival have been so celebrated. The Chicago group funnelled jazz, krautrock and dub into intricate, expansive instrumentals known as post-rock. Tellingly dubbed math-rock in America, it was dauntingly cerebral, fond of tricky time signatures and breathtaking pretentiousness. One Tortoise track was called In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Women And Men, which could never be confused with a Hives song title.
Tortoise only release an album about once every three years, and their style is one of the most distinctive in rock music, so a record that fails to push them forward can hardly be termed a failure. And yet, It's All Around You is a disappointment since it's clear the quintet is in a holding pattern, making music derivative of old glory TNT and even its shabbier successor, Standards. Everything is in its place here, every shuddering bassline or wheezing synthesizer or ringing vibraphone; every minimalist repetition of a theme, accompanied by subtly changing counterpoint; every pause before the band reworks the theme from a slightly different angle.
Tortoise's inception ten years ago shot an RPG into an American independent music scene whose blast took a bit of time to clean up. Instead of exploring the more traditional sounds of a rock-oriented band, the group looked elsewhere, incorporating elements of jazz, dub, world, and electronic music into their sound. Had the now bloated and somewhat useless term "post-rock" not existed at that point, Tortoise's birth as a creative entity would have necessitated it.