Tortoise – Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996)

Tortoise – Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996)

Tortoise deserve a genre named after them. It would at least make things easier for the unimaginative fools (like me) who write about music. Then I could just say: ‘In 1996, Chicago band Tortoise released this landmark album of Tortoise music that took Tortoise in a new direction and changed the way people would think about Tortoise forever. Only Tortoise can play Tortoise the way Tortoise was meant to played.’ It wouldn’t make much sense, but it would be so much easier. Post-rock, Prog-rock, Alternative, Experimental, Electronica, Jazz, Krautrock…none of these terms really seemed to sum them up, even though there were undeniable elements of all those things in their music. The opening song “Djed” was an epic 20-minute long soundscape that evolved – much like humankind – out of the static slime, and grumbled along the ground on bass fins until it merged with the drums and took its first steps on Neu! legs. Then things were happening. By five minutes in, you were compelled to see where this new species of music was going. And it certainly is a journey of an album. A free-flowing wordless trek through the primordial ooze of avant-garde music, from John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to Can and Faust, to Fripp & Eno, to Neil Young and the future Wilco, to Radiohead and Godspeed You Black Emperor! This sounded like something that was there in the background of all that music. Rubbing stones and sticks together, searching for that fresh spark. “Glass Museum” is a journeying raft on rough waves of slow-motion ocean, sailing off to find new land, and document the various species of life found there. “A Survey” makes camp in the darkness of unmapped forests and braves the night, while “Along the Banks of Rivers” finally heads for home with renewed perspectives, somewhat philosophical now of the fates (and double-edged prizes) that await those who venture into the unknown.


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