Tortoise: Dan Bitney, John Herndon, Douglas McCombs, John McEntire, Jeff Parker.
Additional personnel: Kelly Hogan (vocals).
Recorded at Soma Electronic Music Studios, Chicago, Illinois.
In the second half of the 1990s, Chicago's Tortoise embodied the forward-looking, genre-bending, usually instrumental style that came to be known as post-rock. They've been refining their approach ever since, and IT'S ALL AROUND YOU offers an extremely concise version of the almost-indefinable Tortoise sound. Many of the familiar sonic signposts are here--the jazzy vibes, the polyrhythmic drum patterns, and the Morricone-influenced, heavy-reverb guitar. The overdubbed layers of vocals on "The Lithium Stiffs" are a new development, marking the first time anyone in the band has opened his mouth while the tape was rolling, but, overall, the album's blend of funk grooves, colorful electronics, and jazz-rock harmonies will feel warmly familiar to longtime fans.
Perhaps most notable is the fact that Tortoise seems to have honed its compositional chops to their finest point to date, making the melodies and structures of the pieces some of the most fully realized in the group's repertoire. At this point, the band is like a 21st-century equivalent to late-period Weather Report; they've already defined a new combination of jazz, rock, and electronics, and are strutting their stuff as the kings of their stylistic castle.
Rolling Stone (p.70) - 3 stars out of 5 - "Percussionists John McEntire and Dan Bitney lock into percolating, jazzy grooves with bassist Doug McCombs, and keyboardist John Herndon and guitarist Jeff Parker lay down single-note lines that bristle with angularity."
Spin (pp.107-9) - "[Parker's] controlled playing, a lean thrum of pocket-lint noise, is a valued commodity in Chicago's avant-jazz underground; on IT'S ALL AROUND YOU, it gives Tortoise their 22nd-century jam-band edge." - Grade: B
Entertainment Weekly (4/16/04, p.78) - "Subdued, layered rhythms leap from indie-jazz lightness to manic psychedelia, often in the same song..." - Rating: B+
CMJ (4/04, p.46) - "[L]ush and intricate..."
Mojo (Publisher) (4/04, p.108) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[T]he sound of a band sticking to its guns....That means rich, miscellaneous percussion from Dan Bitney and Johns McEntire and Herndon, Jeff Parker's always-inventive jazz-meets-surf guitar twang and Doug McCombs's ocean bed-trawling bass."
Paste (magazine) - "[T]he burbling beats, chimes, vibraphone and lushly synthesized vocals of 'The Lithium Shifts' and the dark collapse and tip-toeing starburst of 'Crust,' cut a straighter, more emotionally directive path than nearly anything in the band's catalog."