Beacons of Ancestorship
Label: Thrill Jockey
If modern music is all about the beat, then Tortoise should be the biggest band around. Drummer/leader John McEntire carries the melodies (or hooks) as much as the retro keyboard stabs do. A tune like "Penubra" is so unhip that it has to be cool; "Prepare Your Coffin" and "Northern Something" actually rock while sticking to a spacey synth-pop template; and tracks like "Gigantes" and "Monument Six One Thousand" offer beautifully odd thrills. Tortoise don't stay in one place for long, though, as they sample memories of Tangerine Dream, Hawkwind, Material, flamenco and half-forgotten soundtracks.