Trying to place the half audible conversations and delayed guitar lines in context with their place in the port-royal time-line is enough to engage one half of the brains’ hemisphere, and when the characteristic and cathartic bottom end synth drones drop in, the other side is drawn into the conversation also.
[Listen | Purchase] Italian post-millenial electronic ambienteers port-royal have been defined by the continual evolutionary arc they have traveled over the last ten years, and the release of 2000-2010: The Golden Age Of Consumerism is a fascinating window into their development over that time. The almost three hour long exercise collects all previous work released under different banners on one double album – two EP’s, Kraken from 2002 and Honvéd from 2007, tracks from compilations, alternate versions, unreleased songs and a separate collection of remixes for other artists.
For the obsessive fan (of which this writer is one) this is something of an event; even if only to see how the band present and collate all material not associated with previous album releases. Thankfully, the overall flow is not as disjointed as you might expect it to be, given that the threads involved are many – consideration has clearly been given to how the body of songs is presented, and the first CD plays evenly with a themed dynamic best of compilations often lack.
In saying that, the band are at pains to point out that this is not a best of – the stated aim of the release is to present something of a parallel recorded history, and that aim is achieved. All the tropes deployed in their other releases are present here in differing guises, and reconciling the different approaches taken to their material over time is half the fun for the keen listener. Trying to place the half audible conversations and delayed guitar lines in context with their place in the port-royal time-line is enough to engage one half of the brains’ hemisphere, and when the characteristic and cathartic bottom end synth drones drop in, the other side is drawn into the conversation also.
Downsides? Some of the early work does display less production value than later work, but this is part of the charm – the 2003 version of “Roliga Timmen” is certainly less polished than the version on Afraid to Dance, but the energy in the track gives it a weight that justifies its inclusion. All material appears to have been remastered, as the overall volume and width is consistent across the board – if this is the case, some purists may be upset but for the most part many won’t notice.
Occasionally incongruous elements like the Casiotone opener of “The Beat Of The Tiger” do make sense when placed next to the decidedly synth and beat inspired work of later album Dying In Time, and when mixed with the trademark delayed guitar and electronic work of ‘Flares’ and ‘Afraid To Dance’ the overall effect on the listener is to make them feel as though they’ve fallen into a lost album recorded in between these pieces – which is essentially the entire point of the exercise.
The second disc is a collection of remixes undertaken by the band on other artists, and sits then as the companion or sibling piece to 2008’s ‘Flared Up’ – a collection of other artists’ reinterpretations of their work from ‘Flares’. This second side of the project is less cohesive, as the material remixed is by nature considerably varied. There are certainly identifiable traits in each track that link them, and all are solid pieces of work, but the immersive arc of the first disc is not as strong here. Taken separately, the tracks are enjoyable, and present the artists involved in a favourable light.
In summary, for a physical release it is a staggering listen – more than two hours of music – well and truly value for money in an age where the price paid for CDs is at a premium but the content is often pretty minimal, often marked by filler. For the casual fan or first time listener the value of all of this may not be apparent, but to anyone that has connected closely with one or more of their records before it’s close to an essential purchase. For trainspotters, or obsessive fans of Flares, something like the slamming beats or kinetic choral synth work in the tail end of “Ernest Bloch” will be pretty close to a religious experience.
Read Alex Gibson’s interview with Attilio Bruzzone here.