Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dying in Time - port-royal

Dying in Time

n5MD Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

First thing’s first: ‘Hva (Failed Revolutions)’ absolutely kills. Layers of beats – some fuzzy, some as clear as a knuckle knocking for attention from deep within your speakers – percolate over growing vocal haunts, eventually stuttering into an enticing breakbeat of BPM-morphing proportions. Over the course of this opening track’s eight-plus minutes, several different beat-genomes are tested out and while each races in and putters out like a dry run, its final quarter is dedicated to a patient build-up that feeds right into the trance ambition of following ‘Nights in Kiev’. That being said, it’s fair to ask one of the following two questions: (1) “so after eight minutes, the opening track never actually delivers…?”, and (2) “wait, aren’t these guys supposed to be post-rock?”.

In short, the answer to both inquiries is “yes” but black and white answers really blindside the beauty behind Dying in Time. ‘Hva (Failed Revolutions)’ is not only an album highlight but an unstable template as well, as many of these tracks breach the seven-minute mark by undergoing sporadic structural shifts. ‘Susy: Blue East Fading’ is a virtual three-song suite, stretching its gloomy loops for nearly three minutes before a 4/4 beat pops in and leads to a tantalizing dancefloor of the mind, borrowing early Depeche Mode’s temper and trance’s androgynous energy. Slightly less straightforward is ‘Exhausted Muse/Europe’ which buzzes and echoes like the neon afterglow of a Saturday night when industrial beat-programming jumps into the mix and robs the listener of his/her senses. It’s a jarring minute that’s lost amid the other nine and a prime example of how port-royal’s seamless compositions can tease one’s patience. By the time ‘Balding Generation (Losing Hair as We Lose Hope)’ trickles in like M83’s take on a techno anthem, Dying in Time begins to make sense. An impressive split between post-rock determination and electronic aesthetics, this mammoth collection resembles the sound of running back and forth between a late-night dance club and the frigid, spaceous winter outside. Despite the album’s cover-art, remember: there are no black and whites here. This is truly an album of grays, shifting and folding over one another.

To keep momentum, port-royal include a few shorter compositions (the tragic to ecstatic ‘I Used to Be Sad’, the super-retro ‘The Photoshopped Prince’) but these tracks generally segue into lengthier pieces. As if I haven’t mentioned the term “mammoth” already, it’s notable that at seventy-two minutes long, Dying in Time asks a lot of its audience. All of these songs are committed to a near-gothic moodiness that can sometimes give the record a one-note feel… and while it’s an added challenge, I can’t deny how often port-royal’s latest reminds me of Disintegration. Equally confrontational and absurdly one-note, The Cure’s 1989 masterwork has all the draws and repulsions that Dying in Time subscribes to: how each track warms up slowly and devotes itself to references of aging and death, not to mention how mercilessly dark the whole affair is. port-royal may overstress their point in a few cases but there’s no refuting how instinctive and all-encompassing Dying in Time sounds.

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