0314: “Dot/Eyes” by Tortoise

On Brian Eno’s 1975 seminal masterpiece Another Green World, the fourth track is a song called “In Dark Trees” which aims to make you feel like you are walking through a dark forest (but in a more cinematic way, rather than an ultra-realistic one; Eno was such a master of making a fictitious soundscape feel more real than expected that he basically created the ambient genre). Fast-forward about twenty years and a Chicago-based band named Tortoise modernized Eno’s ambient sound into what was packaged as post-rock, which was really just shorthand for combining instrumental, progressive, and experimental rock. Tortoise’s first two albums had a crisp and refined simplicity to them; its experimental qualities had more to do with the fact that their music existed. In a sea of the alternative rock of the mid ’90s something like their debut album stood out, but taken as it is years later it’s pretty standard progressive instrumental rock. Their later albums are where you find the experimental stuff and on their 2004 release It’s All Around You you will find “Dot/Eyes,” the sixth track, a visual representation of the album cover. The track explodes from the first second and evokes a surreal soundscape; it feels like walking in a strange world but the heavy beat anchors it in some form of reality (like the drawers or clocks that appear in Dali’s works). It’s dreamlike but also really vivid. It’s the logical advancement of Eno’s early artful masterworks, congruent with the technological advancements that have happened along the way.

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