Turtle Down 2018



Warm wonders from the Windy City where everyday heroes get their fair share of woe and joy.

“There’s a dearth of fresh excitement in the music world today”: the statement from one of this record’s songs rings true and sad, yet that’s exactly the reason for its merry eclecticism. Used to accompany “Psychle” – the band’s theatrical piece from 2005 – it’s also very picturesque, capturing the life of your regular Chicagoans, each with a bunch of skeletons in their closer. More so, it’s heady like a good wine which has been stored in a cellar for a dozen years until vocalist Ethan Sellers and drummer Pat Buzby, the ensemble’s creative nucleus, found the means to deliver, or recycle as its title suggests, the band’s second album and mark the collective’s 20th anniversary. Quite a milestone, rather than a millstone to be rolled down.

You never can tell what’s there, around the next melodic bend, as the solemnly reflective, strings-drenched start of opener “Loud Shoes” makes room for quirky funk, clavinet directing choruses towards the trap of fusion guitar to convey a fashionista’s griefs, weave “refinancing” into lyrics and set the scene for the riffs in “Not If But When” which render it all even more infectious. The acronym-flaunting, polyphonic pastiche “The Admiral” – introducing the first of the album’s less abstract characters – might be cinematic in noirish way, but “On Your Left” is where Caribbean rhythms bring on a colorful burst and land on a cappella delight at the end. Further down the line, “The Whistler” arrives as a sublime piece of folk-infused psychedelia many an English late-’60s groups would kill for – if only it wasn’t pro-peace.

This is also the message behind “The Gospel Lady” whose blend of jazz and chamber music is lucid and warm, and spiritual, too, bringing the record’s title back into focus. So while some may say the ensemble tried to reinvent the wheel, their circle of life is worth such a joyride.


March 21, 2018

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