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(Thrill Jockey)

After almost a 3-year break between recordings, nearly anything that Tortoise released would find it difficult to stand up to the expectations that people have for it. Perhaps one of the best ways for the group to throw everyone off, then, is by doing just what they've done with the aptly titled Standards. Instead of going off and changing their sound too drastically, and without going back to anything that they've done before, they instead work a middle ground with the disc, taking the excellent familiar parts of their sound and incorporating some new things for a release that's new and familiar at the same time.

With the exception of one or two songs on the release, you can listen and hear the group Tortoise performing the songs. That might sounds like sort of a silly thing to say, but after TNT a couple years back now, some people may have been expecting them to take yet another about-face and again end up somewhere in left field. Instead, they've arrived at a nicely composed mid-ground, and have managed to harness much more energy than they did on their previous release.

Within the first two minutes of "Seneca," one may think that it's a different group alltogether. After a blast of dusty electric guitar and fuzzed-out crazy drumming, the track eventually settles into one of the best grooves on the disc. The track winds down into some strange electronic sounds (including samples of a person yelping) before drifting right into the second track of "Eros" on which the group explores some very interesting (and almost trademark for them) layered percussion while a flatulent sounding keyboard spits out some weird little gurgles over it all.

The group starts out amazingly on "Benway," with percussion that sounds like it could have come from bouncing a basketball, but eventually the track sort of drops off into something that couldn't be mistaken for any other group with it's vibraphone and lurching guitar line. It's good, but the first part of the track was much more interesting. Likewise goes for a couple more of the tracks that come in right in the middle of the album. They're technically very nice and much better than could come from most other groups, but they simply sound sort of like rehashed tracks that the group has already done. "Eden 2" takes a little different route with some really thick drums and layers of warbling feedback that give the short track about twice the spontinaety of others twice its length.

Overall, the album probably isn't going to let you down if you're a fan of Tortoise. They close things out on a very strong note with some more vibrant rhythms (with plenty of thick, live drum sounds) coupled with subtle electronics, but the album as a whole isn't quite as classic as Millions Now Living Will Never Die (which is in my opinion their best release). I'd still call it a tie for my second favorite, though, matching up with TNT (although hugely different) and it's definitely worth having.

Rating: 7.5