Port Erin – Floating Above The City

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Port Erin – Floating Above The City

After a year or two honing their sound and musicianship on the live circuit since 2012’s Wheel Inside A Wheel, west of England festival regulars Port Erin are presenting us now with an accomplished and tightly-performed third album. Whilst the band themselves quote influences such as Talking Heads, XTC, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis, they have developed a sound that is now more or less entirely their own. With inspirations as diverse as those you could be forgiven for expecting a combination of lengthy improvisations, free-form vocalising, quirky tales of small town life and one or two sax solos.

There isn’t yet a Port Erin brass section to accompany the Tyghe brothers Reuben and Jacob and drummer Cerys Brocklehurst, although several of the songs on Floating Above The City could develop into lengthier jams (and probably do during their live shows) and one influence I can hear but isn’t getting a mention is Julian Cope. Although Port Erin aren’t going down the Arthurian Mysticism trail (although they know where it is) that influence is more to be found in the band sound than in their lyrics and visuals, which when added to the occasional folk and garage-rock elements that also make their presences felt, Port Erin begin to seem like something of a bewildering prospect. With things held together with a lot of practised skill and commitment from all three band members and some verging-on-spectacular production from Dominic Bailey, Floating Above The City is a very accomplished album, from a group that know exactly what they want to do.

So if Port Erin aren’t singing about buildings, aliens, dropping complex horn parts and going off into lengthy instrumental passages, what are they about? The album’s first and title track, with its intricate guitar and bass runs and double-timed percussion is a deceptively mellow introduction to Floating Above The City, and the hint of what is about to happen is in the song’s end, where each segment of the music echoes into fade separately. It’s a startlingly focused performance but Port Erin are only warming up, and “Makes No Difference” takes a quicker route, with its alternately frenetic riffing and changes of tempo, and if Port Erin have any post-rock influences they aren’t telling us about them, as the song crashes and reverberates with the sort of glacial splendour found in the works of Mogwai and other less well known bands, on top of their already accomplished close-to-funk rhythm chops. Casting a glance back at their acknowledged influences, it’s quite possible to hear snatches of  XTC’s classically English whimsy in “When It All Breaks Down,” the measuredly questioning songwriting of Talk Talk in “You Better Do Yourself A Favour” and a whiff of Zappaesque revelry in the almost chaotic “Just Riding My Bike, Man,” whilst all the time Port Erin keep a tight grip on their instrumentation upon going into studio improvisations that are kept within the song structures, as the mixing board adds some dubby atmospherics to some of their quieter moments.

There are a lot of competing elements in the Port Erin sound but these are held together throughout Floating Above The City, the sort of rock/funk crossover that a lot of bands have experimented with, from Talking Heads to Erase Errata to Foals. Port Erin’s own interpretation of those influences is one that is less easy to quantify, veering into hard rock just as quickly as it takes a jazz-inflected route, and by the end of final track “Go Jo” you could find yourself wondering exactly what sort of album you’ve been listening to. It says something about Port Erin that they can carry more than one style in any of their songs and keep their audience guessing about what kind of band they actually are. Floating Above The City could leave some of its listeners wondering about their own altitude.

Secret Chord Records

Comments

  1. Excellent review I’ll listen again to the album for sure:)