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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Speak Out
Sud Electronic

Rating: 8/10 ?

January 16, 2007
Portable is the moniker of Alan Abrahams, who also goes by Bodycode and last year released The Conservation of Electric Charge [review] under the latter title via the Spectral Sound label. With Speak Out Abrams finds himself reunited with German label Sud Electronic and back to his bread and butter, straightforward house.

With the return Abrahams has resumed the presenting of an active voice, a rarity in the world of electronic and especially dance music. Not only is this 'active voice' a literal description of Abrahams' vocal performance but it is also a way of describing the attitude of his words and ideas. Even the LP's title Speak Out is an indication of the consciousness that this artist hopes to establish. The overall lyrical effectiveness is a wash if the music itself isn't something noteworthy, but in Portable's case it is.

The A-side of the vinyl-only LP is "Take Action," a track run at a middling tempo (122-126 bpm) with a four-on-the-floor bass drum rhythm that naturally makes it danceable. Additional drum programming comes in the form of synthetic tom-toms and tambourine hits on the offbeat and hustling hi-hats, all welcome creative decisions to the standard house set. Giving the initial color to "Take Action" are the melodic elements of alternating octave digital burps and a subtle repetitive progression of choral bell chords. Some of these elements last the length of the 11-minute track, others punch in and out with the growing intensity of the song, and all of them are crucial to a sleak attitude and profound layering structure.

For the first minute and a half of the song, Portable is a mostly stylish and innovative house venture. However when Abrahams' vocals come into play the dynamic changes and lyrical content and perspective become the defining focal points.

Abrahams begins with monotone half-speaking: "Ice in Greenland like weeping are melting, and seas reclaiming lost life start counting," then later sings in full range "I don't wanna, I don't wanna, I don't wanna lose it." Relatively speaking, this is pretty deep stuff. Usually in electronic music, lyrics are represented in short, repetitive stanzas of oversexed or nonsensical words. The most natural practice is to use no vocals at all, and many times the inclusion of words receives a fair amount of criticism. For "Take Action" it is impossible to imagine the effectiveness of the overall idea and song without words and Abrahams' unvarying, echo-y Al Gore-esqe speech.

On the B-side of the LP "Bubble World" is a good complement to the first; more musically attractive but far less thought-provoking in its aim. A stutter-step bass drum pattern offers variation and the experimenting with shrill, high-pitched tones shows that Portable is as much tinkering as he is set-in-stone method. The lyrics ("I'm the future version of myself, to the future version of myself, keep goin'") seem to be focused with fitting into the music rather than opening up eyes. "Bubble World," although similar to "Take Action," is less patterned and more narrow-minded than the longer-running A-side cut. The important aspect is that Speak Out attempts to focus on issues that few other electronic releases have.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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