I have to start off by saying that I kind of feel like a dick for reviewing this album as I may be the only person in North America with access to the six tracks that comprise Tortuga’s self-titled debut album. When I found out that Julio “Ñaca” Almeida of Reino Ermitaño—a band who incidentally released one of the best albums of 2012—had teamed up with Christian Van Lacke of the now defunct psychedelic doomsters Tlön, I knew I had to investigate further. With the help of Marcos Coifman, also of Reino Ermitaño, I was able to touch base with Julio who, in turn, was kind enough to get me a copy of Tortuga’s debut. While the band only has one song available to stream via their Bandcamp page, the stunning ten minute tripped-out opus “Flores Líquidas”, it serves as a more than adequate barometer for measuring the lysergic depth and groove of the remaining five tracks of ‘Tortuga’.
The band’s overall sound isn’t too far removed from either Reino Ermitaño or Tlön as there is still an unwavering focus on both songcraft and groove, but Tortuga has more in common with vintage, psychedelic hard rock opposed to the heavier doom sound of the members’ other bands. While listening to Tortuga greats such as Cream, Blue Cheer, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience come to mind, as well as bands past and present from the desert rock scene.
The one-two punch of opening tracks “Flores Líquidas” and “Las estrellas y los planetas” is nothing short of stunning. “Flores Líquidas” opens with a seismic, nod-inducing bassline that is joined in unison with a thick guitar riff and Van Lacke’s ghostly vocals which, for a lack of a better comparison, are reminiscent of Jack Bruce’s vocals as sung on the chorus of “White Room”. The track twists, turns, and ultimately shifts from a groovy bliss-out to a sprawling, extended jam replete with blistering guitar leads and in-the-pocket rhythm section swing. “Las estrellas y los planetas” is perhaps the “heaviest” tune to be had on ‘Tortuga’, and it is the sonic equivalent of licking a sheet of blotter after imbibing a cocktail that is equal parts of funk and doom.
The rest of the album continues down a similar cosmic path where hard rock, blues, and psychedelia collide with contemporary stoner-rock. Each track is a journey in and of itself and the variety to be found on even the shortest songs is staggering. The fifth track, “Arbol, cielo, vida”, is the clear outlier on the album. It is a soothing, acoustic number that has more in common with the folk stylings of Cat Stevens than the mind-altering freak-out psychedelia of the 60’s and 70’s.
Tortuga’s debut is a killer release that is, seemingly, not widely or currently available outside of South America. Hopefully a distributor in either Europe or the US picks this up so that fans of groove-laden, blues-based hard rock can enjoy the heavy psychedelic experience of Tortuga. Perhaps more interest will encourage the band to make the entire available to stream and download via their Bandcamp page. Here’s to hoping…
Words: Steve Miller