In the view of some Tortoise critics, slow and steady doesn't always win the race. It's All Around You, the latest Thrill Jockey Records release by this Chicago combo, is a deliberately paced effort that doesn't radically depart from Tortoise's previous platter, 2001's Standards. As a result, the disc disappointed reviewers who expect the group to revolutionize music as we know it each time out -- but then again, holding actions are seldom this intriguing. Drawing from a well of avant-garde, prog and jazz influences, Dan Bitney, John Herndon, Douglas McCombs, Jeff Parker and John McEntire -- who also recorded and mixed the disc -- create striking soundscapes that are by turns sumptuous ("The Lithium Stiffs," which features background cooing by Kelly Hogan) and ominous (the roiling "Dot/Eyes"). Granted, each note doesn't drip with emotion, but the fierce intelligence displayed by the players creates more than enough dramatic tension throughout the tracks, be they placid or prickly. If speed kills, then Tortoise, which is currently touring with Daniel Lanois, will be around for the long haul.


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