Portable ‎:: Alan Abrahams (Studio !K7)

Abrahams continues to push on, as singer, songwriter, performer, and citizen of the world. That more people may encounter his music is for the better.

Portable ‎:: Alan Abrahams (Studio !K7)

Alan Abrahams, the singer and producer behind Portable and Bodycode moves his name from the credits to the cover on his !K7 debut, hinting at a personal reveal. With the emotional tenor high on his Into Infinity album or his recent standout single “Surrender,” a more direct Portable is a curious proposition. This is doubly true as !K7 is in service to a larger audience than that of Perlon, who released his last full length and opt out of digital distribution completely. Fans of his idiosyncratic take on melancholic deep house; lush, loopy, polyrhythmic workouts frequently featuring Abrahams’ own baritone vocals, can rest assured that no major changes have occurred to the music itself.

The most notable expansion is that of instrumentation, bringing in strings, guitar, piano and flute, making for chamber music—not orchestral—levels of stately drama; decorative elegance that doesn’t sacrifice intimacy. This is best displayed on “As for Me,” where a simple set of violin swells and a piano figure set up sorrowful reflection on post-break up routines as specific as “HBO, ABC” and as universal as “Will I ever love another?” This track is immediately answered by the more upbeat “Bondage,” featuring the funkiest bassline ever associated with the Portable moniker. L_Cio’s flute, power electronics-grade zaps and a lyrical synth line all brilliantly weave around each other while Abrahams embraces the limits of his own agency, tiredly but determined.

While these two tracks emphasize his growing strengths as an instrumental arranger, “Say It’s Going to Change” marries his songwriting and singing abilities to his dancefloor command. Delivering the closest experience of his live set, where tracks are extended and modulated into hypnotic percussive workouts that feature his singing but structurally and functionally more closely resemble a DJ set. Deeply driving as his signature metallic set of percussive sounds that approximate the measure subdivisions of dancehall reggae as much as Chicago jack, raising and falling to make way for the mournful plea of the title. The lyrics criticize an increasingly nationalistic geo-political world, eerily prescience of the Brexit vote. Abrahams’ request to an unnamed subject to “say it’s going to change soon” is both a command for that change and a plea for reassurance. No other song this year has articulated the feeling of overwhelming dread and fear that comes with the current political climate. That a sense of hope shines through gives evidence to Abrahams’ strength as a nuanced producer.

Although the tempo dips throughout the album on the ballad-like tunes such as “Closer” and “Standby,” percussive density and busy arrangements keep them from being lulls in energy. These songs have the declarative weight of the most pained and romantic sections of Depeche Mode’s catalog, where world-weariness pushes against the faith of a true romantic. Abrahams continues to push on, as singer, songwriter, performer, and citizen of the world. That more people may encounter his music is for the better.

Alan Abrahams is available on Studio !K7.

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