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Port-Royal – Dying in Time

Label – n5MD (CATMD169)

Format – CD

Country – US

Released – 2009

Genre – IDM, Shoegaze, Glitch, Electronica, Post-Rock

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OK, time for the Corruption Sunday album review once again… I make no excuses for choosing some slightly eclectic records and this one is no exception. I don’t have any strong memory of where I first heard of Port-Royal, but as soon as I had listened to a few of their tracks I knew that this was another band that I was hooked on, and would be trying to get hold of all of their back catalogue as soon as possible. Hailing from Italy, the band comprises 3 current members (all playing a variety of instruments) plus a dedicated production chap who is not a musician but who directs their (weird but excellent) videos.

Dying in Time is Port-Royal’s most recent album, having been preceded by the also-excellent Flares in 2005 and Afraid to Dance in 2007.  The style of music has been fairly consistent across all of the releases, spanning the Post-Rock, Electronica/IDM and Shoegaze genres to great effect. Each track is built up with layers of guitars, electronic effects and some nice basslines to complement the more energetic sections of the songs. There are few vocals on the album, but the sparse nature of the vocal effects means that they do not tend to detract from the overall feel and atmosphere of the record as a whole.

The tracks on the album vary from 4 to 1o minutes, and are all solid numbers – with a couple of real standout tracks that make you go “wow”. The first of these is Nights in Kiev which builds up the synths and glitches in front of a solid backing bass track. Whilst I wouldn’t categorise any of the songs on the album as “dance” numbers, they do have basslines reminiscent of some techno and house songs from recent times. The bassline on Nights in Kiev fades in and out at different points of the song, making its presence felt when necessary and receding into the background to let the strings take over, changing the focus regularly to stop any feeling of repetition.

Moving back to the opener, hva (failed revolutions) is more of a typical IDM/glitch track which wouldn’t feel out of place on an album by any of the band’s n5MD stablemates. It’s not a bad song to open the album with, and sets the scene nicely for what is to follow. Ana Ustinova introduces more staccato drums and swirly synths to the mix, along with a stronger vocal presence. This is the shortest track on the album, although this doesn’t make it any weaker.

Exhausted muse – Europe is a rollercoaster ride of a track, swinging from lush ambient-style synths and strings in the first half to full-on glitch-and-bass hardness in the middle, before collapsing back into more soothing tones to end with. I used to be sad is a more formulaic track with a nice beat but slightly distracting vocals which don’t really add anything to the song, this is one of the weaker tracks on the album. Susy Blue East Fading employs a house-style beat to keep things ticking over, but again this is a slightly weaker track which picks up a bit near the end, but could do with being a couple of minutes shorter.

The Photoshopped Prince feels slightly out of place, in that the vocals are a lot more prominent here than throughout the rest of the album. The beat on this track is quite insistent, it is one of the more driving numbers on the album.

To follow we are treated to the undoubted highlight of the album – Balding Generation (losing hope as we lose hair). Silly title aside, this superbly-crafted song is reason alone to buy the album. Building slowly from soft synths and barely-heard vocals, it becomes the most wonderfully uplifting song from the moment the drums break in at the 3-minute mark. It then fades to a more ambient tone in the middle of the track, before building again to an emphatic finish.

The final three tracks, Hermitage parts 1, 2 and 3 comprise a trilogy of more relaxed, ambient-style tunes. Of these, part 3 is the most rousing with a middle section that hints back at the more dance-oriented drum sections of the previous songs. Having worked itself up, it then deliberately runs down to a quiet, contemplative ending.

I mentioned before that this isn’t a “dance” album, but listening to is can still leave you feeling exhilarated but exhausted too, in the way that the best dance music does. This album can fit many moods, it is both soaring and uplifting but at times also quietly melancholy.

I would give this a heartfelt recommendation to anyone who is interested in music which speaks to their heart and soul, without needing to have vocals and lyrics to point them in the obvious direction of how they should feel. This is music which strikes deep at my core in the way the best Post-Rock and Electronic music does, and makes me glad to be human – it’s not perfect; but then neither am I.

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