port-royal :: Where Are You Now (n5MD)

Where Are You Know is an audacious and masterful return for port-royal, who have demonstrated their ability to expertly utilize and combine a variety of influences while never losing their voice in the mix.

port-royal :: Where Are You Now (n5MD)

Where Are You Now is the latest, much anticipated, release by Genoa-based electronica and post-rock band, port-royal. It’s been a tense lull since their last release in 2011, titled 2000-2010: The Golden Age of Consumerism, which represented a re-issuing of rares and other assorted works. A breathing space. In this light, Where Are You Now is not just a rhetorical question; it represents a taking stock of their back-catalog, of their momentum and trajectory. It is a statement of things to come.

Where Are You Know opens in a way that has become characteristic of that identifiable n5MD sound, and also of port-royal; of the atmospheric construction of fields of wavering, digital synths and expansive soundscapes, a rushing ambient backdrop of overlapping and almost architectural contours structured around a tight framework of beats; these are “big” sounds which, in tracks such as “Death of a Manifesto,” slowly swoop and rise until dropping in a thudding bass backed by a modulated voice, which is cut across with delays and digital tears. This is an unexpected move, and adds a fair amount of Daft Punk populism into the usual port-royal mix. Unexpected, but interesting. Things get yet more diverse, and even more surprising, from this point forward.

The following tracks make sustained use of sharp arpeggiators, whispering synths, textured samples, and thudding bass. These are complex and heavily constructed textures which have a real momentum and energy to them, making the most of the “largeness” of that sound to work up to some spectacular crescendos. Behind this wall of sound are echoing, manipulated vocals, fed-in as a theme that will appear and reappear across the album’s tracks. These are long, sustained tracks which envelope and swell into massive, looping structures. They draw confidently from the toolkit of electronic music, from trance and house to ambient, demonstrating a mastery of sounds both large and small, dense and sparse. As a whole they are immensely appealing if not always reaching for innovation or disruption. But what they do they do very, very well.

In this sense, while Where Are You Now is clearly the work of a single group of musicians, it continually addresses itself in different registers and tones. Each track is a surprise, and you have no idea, on listening, where they will head, or how they’ll get there. “The Last Big Imprezzo” is a rich, dynamic collage of textures demonstrating phenomenal control as it blends rock percussion into massive walls of synth and wavering keys. It is an absolute cornerstone to the album, and seems—in some senses—to be offering a very conscious montage of distinct genres and attitudes, where the brilliance stems from how they are coordinated and overlapped.

Similarly good is the darker, sweeping “The Man Who Stole the Hype,” as it rushes like an ocean and smashes itself against a headland of snapping and tacking sharp percussion and lazy vocals, dropping references to sources as diverse as New Order and (ghost). On display is their ability to fuse and transform a completely unique experience out of diversely symphonic materials. Tracks such as “Karl Marx Song,” with its juddering, non-synchronized beats and dark synth, contrasts with the choral music and field recording samples and strings of “Whispering in the Dark.”

While extremely diverse, even contradictory, in their attitudes and inspirations, this “collage” of styles works phenomenally well as a whole, and rewards your listening and re-listening. Where Are You Know is an audacious and masterful return for port-royal, who have demonstrated their ability to expertly utilize and combine a variety of influences while never losing their voice in the mix.

Where Are You Now is available on n5MD.

The remix album—You Ware Nowhere—is also available now and features remixes by HatGuy, Ambidextrous, Ocoeur, Gustaf Fjelstrom, Arovane, Aaron Molyneaux, Nseven, John Tejada, Tonik Ensemble, Northcape, To Destroy A City, The Sight Below and Attilo Novellino.

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