It’s All Around You
If there’s one ubiquitous thing surrounding Tortoise’s It’s All Around You it would be middling praise. These would be assessments like, “it’s good, but•,” “I like it, even though•,” etc. Some circles have even thrown the harshest crit word at this disc: boring.
In truth, It’s All Around You is far from boring. It’s extremely low-key and borders easy listening on quite a few tracks, but all receptive ears should find the album engaging. The music is a step back from the abrasiveness of Standards, veering toward the ice fortress sheen of Millions Now Living Will Never Die. Songs like “Stretch (You Are All Right)” and “On the Chin” are replete with swaying, fluid rhythms courtesy of rich percussion and heavily atmospheric electronics while minimal Morriconne-ian lead guitar lines are laced through the sonic haze. The bulk of the album is made up of exquisite, but fleeting moments, like the playful, alternately tight and loose “Five Too Many” and the too-quiet-for-tinnitus “Unknown.” The only real misstep is when the band enlists some lyricless female cooing to make a grasp for Air on “The Lithium Stiffs,” only to fall short of the moon safari they’d hoped for.
What it comes down to is that while this is a beautiful album, for the most part, this band has played these notes before. A holding pattern with a slightly regressive bent isn’t exactly what’s expected from a group as adventurous as Tortoise. Think of this album as your father’s Tortoise: nowhere near as aggressively progressive as they’ve been in the past, but still thoroughly enjoyable.