|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Genres||Post-rock, experimental rock, jazz fusion, electronica, minimalist|
|Associated acts||The Sea And Cake, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Eleventh Dream Day, Poster Children, Slint, The For Carnation, Brokeback, Isotope 217, Zwan, Beck|
|Past members||Bundy K. Brown
Tortoise's almost entirely instrumental music defies easy categorization, and the group gained significant attention from their early career. The members have roots in Chicago's fertile music scene, playing in various indie rock and punk groups. Tortoise was among the first American indie rock bands to incorporate styles closer to Krautrock, dub, minimalist music, electronica and various jazz styles, rather than the standard rock and roll and punk that had dominated indie rock for years.
Some have cited Tortoise as being one of the prime forces behind the development and popularity of the post-rock movement. Others, however, have characterised Tortoise's music as being heavily indebted to progressive rock.
The group's origins lie in the late 1980s pairing of Doug McCombs (bassist with Eleventh Dream Day) and drummer John Herndon, who imagined themselves as a freelance rhythm section (like reggae legends Sly and Robbie). That idea never saw fruition, but their interest in grooving rhythms and recording studio trickery led to partnerships with drummer John McEntire and bassist Bundy K. Brown (both formerly of Bastro) joining, followed by percussionist Dan Bitney. Though songs are credited to all the musicians, McEntire quickly became perceived as, if not the acknowledged leader, the group's guiding force. In reality his extra contributions mainly took the form of being the recording engineer and mixer.
Their first single was issued in 1993, and their self-titled debut album followed a year later. Instrumental and mostly mid-tempo, Tortoise slowly garnered praise and attention, due in part to the unusual instrumentation (two bass guitars, three percussionists switching between drums, vibraphones and marimbas). A remix album followed, Rhythms, Resolutions and Clusters.
Brown left and was replaced by David Pajo (formerly of Slint) for 1996's Millions Now Living Will Never Die, which showed up on many year-end best of lists, and the 20 minute Djed was described by critic John Bush as proof that "Tortoise made experimental rock do double duty as evocative, beautiful music." Also in 1996, the band contributed to the AIDS benefit album Offbeat: A Red Hot Soundtrip produced by the Red Hot Organization.
In 1998, Tortoise released TNT, arguably their most jazz-inflected album. Pajo had been replaced by Jeff Parker, who has a strong jazz background. 2001 led to Standards, where Tortoise incorporated more electronic sounds and post-production into its music than in previous works. In 2001 the band helped to curate an edition of the British All Tomorrow's Parties festival. They then returned in 2004 to curate another day of the same event.
It's All Around You was released in 2004. In 2006, Tortoise collaborated with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy on an album of covers entitled The Brave and the Bold, and released A Lazarus Taxon, a box set containing two CDs of single tracks and remixes, a third CD with an expanded Rhythms, Resolutions and Clusters (long out of print) and a DVD of videos and film of live performances. In 2001, the band recorded "Dideridoo" for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease.
The band performed at the ATP New York 2010 music festival, which was held in Monticello, New York.
In July 2013, photos and brief videos were posted to Tortoise's Instagram and Facebook sites showing the band recording new music.
- Tortoise (1994)
- Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996)
- TNT (1998)
- Standards (2001)
- It's All Around You (2004)
- Beacons of Ancestorship (2009)
- Rhythms, Resolutions & Clusters (1995) – remix album
- Remixed (2001) - remix album
- In the Fishtank (1999) – EP, collaboration with The Ex
- The Brave and the Bold (2006) – covers album, collaboration with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
- A Lazarus Taxon (2006) – compilation box-set of rare material, 3 CDs and 1 DVD
- Yanni Live at the Acropolis (2010) - part of Beck's online musical project Record Club; collaboration with Beck, Thurston Moore and Brian LeBarton
- Metro: The Official Bootleg Series, Volume 1 (2010) - live compilation
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 995–996. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- Allen, Jim. "From Tull To Tortoise: Post-Rock's Proggy Past". CMJ.
- Hutlock, Todd (2006-09-01). "Review of Tortoise's A Lazarus Taxon". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 2006-11-28.
- Bush, John. Review (AMG) for 1996 Tortoise album Millions Now Living Will Never Die
- Erick Sermon (March 2011). "Warm Ghost – Uncut Diamond EP -- Partisan Records: 2011". Music Nerdery. Retrieved 2011-05-08.