The Catastrophist

Tortoise - The Catastrophist
Critic Score
Based on 21 reviews
2016 Ratings: #476 / 775
User Score
Based on 74 ratings
2016 Ratings: #677
January 22, 2016 / Release Date
LP / Format
Thrill Jockey / Label
Post-Rock, Math Rock / Genres
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Loud and Quiet

While large sections of ‘The Catastrophist’ deliver what Tortoise albums are supposed to – dense, polyrhythmic experiments into texture, timbre and dynamics played with an addictive, virtuoso level of restraint – there are also hints the band are as investigatively restless and playful as ever.

The Skinny

Although still more cerebral pleasure than triumphalist pop breakthrough, this uniquely accessible record is a subtle delight.

The 405

Certainly their best record since 2001's Standards, here Tortoise sound revitalised - concise, playful and sharp. They may move slowly, but when they do, it is always with renewed purpose.

NOW Magazine

The Catastrophist is another shining example of the band’s ability to forge multitudes of different sounds into something new – something singular, that can really only be described as, well, sounding like Tortoise. Rarely do a band’s individual elements work so perfectly together.


The Catastrophist feels like a microcosm of the band's body of work; even though they don't repeat themselves, it all comes together in some of their most immediate music to date.

A.V. Club
About a quarter of the record is fairly neglible. But the rest shows an energy and purpose that’s refreshing to hear, especially for anyone who’s been following Tortoise from the start.

The Catastrophist is not the over-confident reinvention or the rote revision of outmoded past albums that one might expect after a band’s seven year recording hiatus; it’s simply the next Tortoise record, and a rather good one at that.

Although there’s a lot to enjoy here, with the band on something like the crisp, playful form of TNT, the best moments seem out of place and the rest a bit meandering.
This is business as (un)usual for one of indie rock's greatest experimental institutions, to be sure.
Drowned in Sound

Tortoise manage that weirdness, that jazz infused strangeness, and that downright groove that they’ve always traded in, but re-mould it for 2016.

Rolling Stone
The Tortoise mix of pelvic trance grooves and jazzy changes remains distinctive.

The enjoyability of The Catastrophist is in this leap of faith, the idea that no mold is beautiful enough to remain unbroken, even if its new shape may be foreign and strange. In this case, the risk pays off.

Resident Advisor

The twists and turns can be compelling, but they make The Catastrophist feel somewhat lopsided, with scattered ideas too disparate to congeal as a cohesive listen.

Consequence of Sound

Each of Tortoise’s meticulous albums has advanced the conversation of modern indie rock, and The Catastrophist, while not their best or most consistent record, again refuses to take the easy way out.

Under The Radar

The Catastrophist makes for a befuddling, though quite enjoyable, listen.

Slant Magazine

Too often, The Catastrophist leaves its themes in the lurch, spinning its wheels when it should be charging forward.

No Ripcord

The Catastrophist is an odd record — an album that was probably more interesting to perform than to listen to.

The Line of Best Fit
As a band of talented multi-instrumentalists, Tortoise have always ploughed an impressive swath through a myriad of genres in search of a rich furrow of abstract musical delights. Until now.
Tiny Mix Tapes

Tortoise are so self-conscious about both the material and their own methods that they can’t help but sound self-unconscious on The Catastophist.

I understand Tortoise vibe is minimalistic and kinda ambient but that doesn't mean that it has to be boring and unidimensional. At first, The Catastrophist seems promising, however after 4 tracks you notice the whole album is going to be a pain in the ass. Some songs like "Shake Hands with Danger" and "The Clearing Fills" have little to no difference, others like "Ox Duke" and "Hot Coffee" are just this loop that ends up giving you a headache. In the end, ... read more
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Track List

  1. The Catastrophist
  2. Ox Duke
  3. Rock On (Feat. Todd Rittman)
  4. Gopher Island
  5. Shake Hands With Danger
  6. The Clearing Fills
  7. Gesceap
  8. Hot Coffee
  9. Yonder Blue (Feat. Georgia Hubley)
  10. Tesseract
  11. At Odds With Logic
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Added on: October 6, 2015