Even though Tortoise has been active in the past few years — collaborating with Bonnie "Prince" Billy on a covers album and releasing a rarities collection — Beacons of Ancestorship is their first new batch of original tunes since 2004's It's All Around You. Though the band seem to pride themselves on pushing the envelope, Beacons of Ancestorship opens in approximately the same sonic space as their last album — namely, electronica. "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In" is a proggy eight-minute piece that thankfully isn't a harbinger of what's to come.
"Northern Something" is full of synthy blasts and driving drums, while "Gigantes" snuggles up next to techno and "Penumbra" sounds like something from an 8-bit Nintendo game. But, on tunes like "Prepare Your Coffin" and "Yinxianghechengqi," Tortoise seem intent on shattering their post-rock chains: The former sounds tailor-made for the urgent vocals of Michael Stipe circa 1983, while the latter sounds a bit like Detroit scuzz outfit the Dirtbombs. "Monument Six One Thousand" seems straight out of the '90s house scene, while "de Chelly" could be a lost Wendy Carlos composition. The album's got traditional Tortoise tracks like the meandering "The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One" and the mysterious "Minors." But Tortoise never really seem comfortable retreading their past glories, and the few moments they do that here are the most forgettable. —Willets