Tortoise (Illinois)

This legendary instrumental quintet is considered to be a key progenitor of the post-rock genre. Their much-lauded mid-nineties releases (especially Millions Now Living Will Never Die [1996, Thrill Jockey]), featuring twinned bass guitars, tuned percussion, and expansive production, helped to extend the possibilities of conventional rock instrumentation and material. With their wide embrace of musical sources including dub, minimalism, musique concrète, jazz, and chamber music, Tortoise opened up the field in which, most notably, Montréal’s legendary post-rock scene plays (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, A Silver Mt. Zion, etc.)

Unlike much Montréal post-rock, however, Tortoise’s sound has always been rooted primarily in percussion. While funk and dub reggae are usually cited as primary musical tributaries (original members Doug McCombs and John Herndon once functioned as a Sly and Robbie-style freelance rhythm section), there are often clear points of reference to the percussion-driven minimalist composition of Steve Reich. Now, 15 years since their debut, self-titled release, Tortoise is something of a classic ensemble. With some historical distance from the subcultural foment that posited post-rock as the way forward for creative practitioners on the cusp between popular and art music conventions, it is increasingly possible to assess the enormous influence Tortoise has had.

Their music – propulsive, detailed, and provocatively enigmatic – not only resounds throughout the current generation of musical experimenters, but also will surely do so for generations to come.



Dan Bitney – bass, guitar, percussion, vibes, marimba, keyboards, baritone sax

Doug McCombs – bass, bass 6, guitar, lap steel

Jeff Parker – guitar, bass

John Herndon – drums, vibes, keyboards, sequencing

John McEntire – drums, modular synthesizer, ring modulator, guitar, electric harpsichord, keyboards


Jazz Festival
Upcoming shows for this performer...


River Run Centre, Main Stage
$25 / $20
Tickets 2008