[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Live review of Tortoise, Fourteen Nights at Sea, half/cut on Thursday 8th December, 8.30pm a the Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne.
Every now and then, it’s nice to see promoters throw a bit of a curveball. There’s every chance the end result will be off-target. However, if it’s a calculated risk, punters, promoters and performers alike reap the benefits.
Such is the case with Life Is Noise touring Chicago prog quintet Tortoise. True to their name, Life Is Noise is generally known for promoting all things loud and heavy. Touring a band as diverse as Tortoise opens the door for similarly eclectic support acts; that is, if the promoter is willing to take yet another risk.
It would have been tempting for slap a couple of heavyweights in the local prog scene on the same bill as Tortoise. Surely, a band generally regarded as ‘progressive’ for their use of rhythmic counterpoint and seamless genre-bending would demand similarly complex supports? Instead, two bands for whom ‘less is more’ applies served as the perfect gateway to Tortoise’s polyrhythmic portal.
Indeed, whilst the room wasn’t packed to capacity, the crowd was respectable and most importantly, respectful. Opening act half/cut don’t necessarily kick things off, but instead rouse the crowd’s attention gradually. Vocalist Jessie isn’t kidding when she initially tells us she’s terrified, looking far more at ease when her uber-hipster bandmates kick into gear. The shorn-headed chanteuse looks like a less provocative Sinead O’Connor, and sounds like a cross between Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) and Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries). A few minutes are all she needs to make her presence felt as one of the best female vocalists going around in Melbourne.
As for her bandmates, they concoct somnambulant tones and melodies reminiscent of slowdive with shades of The Paradise Motel. That kind of sound was all the rage in the mid-to-late nineties. Now that Generation X has grown up, here’s hoping the Gen Y’s party like it’s 1999 again and half/cut earn the acclaim they deserve.
Self-described ‘ambient-post-rock’ outfit Fourteen Nights at Sea follow with a gradually filling room before them. Their sound could also be described as ‘shoegaze’, ‘drone’ or ‘psychedelic’. Often, all of those descriptions fall under the umbrella category of ‘tedious’. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with Fourteen Nights at Sea, but that isn’t to say they don’t demand patience. Sufferers of ADD zonked out by half/cut would have likely been comatose by the time Fourteen Nights at Sea finished their set. On the other hand, those with the mental capacity to sit and submit were rewarded with an undulating set compelling for its dynamic contrast.
The beauty of this band lies in the interplay between the two guitars, bass and synth. At various points, the cohesion is such that it’s difficult to discern one instrument from the other. Very rarely do bands achieve that kind of unity with ease. Fourteen Nights at Sea blend sounds in a way that isn’t overwrought and in turn gives every crescendo more impact.
Opening with a cut from their latest album, The Catastrophist, Tortoise brings exotic sounds to a venue better known for poker machines and the smell of stale tobacco. As fresh as a Balinese breeze, the sounds of gamelans are accompanied by xylophones and a real vibraphone. Tortoise travels the world of music as they traverse their own discography, with excursions into Latin grooves, dusky film noir tones and reverb-drenched dub sounds.
As far as prog bands go, Tortoise are the most punk out there. Whilst the interplay between Dan Bitney and John Herndon on two drum kits is excellent, the playful insouciance only allows perfection to be approached asymptotically. There are moments where instruments are slightly out of sync, but that is what makes Tortoise a unique beast. Many prog bands should take a leaf out of their book and realise that polish isn’t everything.
For this reason, Tortoise are as unpretentious as any prog band is going to get. Well, that was the case until Herndon broke three hours of Trump-free music by making mention of the dictator in waiting. Up until then, Tortoise did no wrong. Nonetheless, they made up for it with two encores which served up fan favourites Gesceap and Tin Cans and Twine.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_masonry_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1481353109065-6d5d1597-eac1-6″ include=”45196,45105,45104,45103,45102,45101,45100,45099,45098,45097,45096,45095,45094,45093,45092,45091,45090,45089,45088,45087,45086,45085,45084,45083,45082,45081,45080,45079,45078,45077″][/vc_column][/vc_row]