Music July 8, 2009 By Sonaar Luthra
tortoise page1 Tortoise
Photography by Jim Newberry for Thrill Jockey

tortoisetitle1 Tortoise

Here on Chicago’s west side, the streets are closed for Puerto Rican pride weekend. A swirl of festivities that could just as easily be celebrating a return to form for the pioneering avant-garde instrumentalists whose Beacons of Ancestorship, the follow-up to 2004’s tepidly received It’s All Around You, is just days away from hitting record stores.
     Tortoise has never been a full-time band, yet with all five members involved in countless side-projects – drummer Dan Bitney’s Isotope 217, for example – their many hiatuses have ensured an endurance that most indie bands from the ‘90s failed to cultivate. “High Class Slim Came Floating In”, the opening track on Beacons of Ancestorship, finds Tortoise embracing more playful and fuzzed-out sounds that Bitney admits might have been reserved for other projects in the past. “There’s always been a line with my ideas and stuff that I didn’t think was appropriate for Tortoise,” he says. “When I started 217 it was kind of a way to do what Tortoise was doing but more stripped down. It could be more funky or have hip-hop elements. So now I think that line of what was appropriate is gone.”