Port-Royal – 2000-2010: The Golden Age of Consumerism

Release Date 21/02/2011 (N5md)

Review by Chris Gilliver

Truly great music, be it critically acclaimed, commercially successful or both, has to fit a certain purpose at a certain time or be the best at what it does. As Port-Royal are not (to my knowledge) a fresh-faced young boy band like One Direction filling the void left in the teenage dreamboat demographic, we can  guess that they fit into the second type. If it is innovative, it does not need to be original; it just has to combine pre-existing genres into something recognisably different. Port-Royal do this sublimely, fusing post-rock with ambient and electronica. I know what you’re thinking; ambient music brings you out in hives. I once went to an ambient gig in a church where one of the “performers” stopped to check his phone for ten seconds in the middle of the music without it affecting the sound. It seems that even the musicians can’t be bothered to commit properly. On the other hand, Brian Eno has made some amazing stuff, (Ambient 1: Music For Airports for instance), and the ambient factor in Port-Royal does not dominate.

2000-2010: The Golden Age of Consumerism, as you would expect, charts the Genoa-based electro band’s progress over the last ten years. You can feel the confidence embiggen as The  Golden Age… progresses. What starts out as a rather shy stab at ambient techno on ‘Gelassenheit’, breaks into full blown emotional powerhouses in ‘Geworfenheit’ and ‘Roliga Timmen’. It’s as if Aphex Twin and Orbital teamed up with mogwai and Sigur Ros to make the world’s first techno-ambient-post-rock supergroup. The smart, shy kid in the corner of the room, standing on his own trying to look inconspicuous is suddenly able to connect with his peers with super-psychic abilities. The Golden Age… is the quietly innately beautiful manifesting itself. It’s a glorious mixture of bleeps, chips and space signals filled with oceans of distortion, melody and softly spoken, inaudible voices…and it’s fucking amazing.

If there is one criticism to be made it is that for a compilation spanning ten years there is a gaping lack of variety. But as a counter argument it seems unnecessary to mess with a template that is as fresh as it is stunningly effective. Perhaps Port-Royal’s greatest achievement, like mogwai before them, is imbuing purely instrumental music with the power to make the room go silent. This is not background music, but something that demands your utmost attention and draws you into its world. Let’s hope that the next ten years are just as positive and successful as the last.

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