Port Erin – Ocean Grey

Port Erin – Ocean Grey

My second or third listen to Ocean Grey and I still can’t entirely grasp what has motivated Port Erin to make an album as unpredictable and spectacular as their second full length is. The trio of brothers Reuben and Jacob Tyghe and drummer Cerys Brockelhurst are joined by the saxophone and trumpet of Simon Williams and Pete Judge. If you were expecting mid-paced, prog-influenced songs with the addition of one or two horn breaks, then Port Erin are quite prepared to dash your expectations, as they turn in a set of developed musicality, playing songs that last eight minutes instead of three and a half and that take every and any chance available to stretch the verse and choruses as far beyond those listener expectations as Port Erin think they can.

In other hands this approach could have resulted in a sprawling, self-indulgent exercise in pretension, but Port Erin are just too experienced, too sure of themselves and with a completely defined idea of what they want to let us hear. Ocean Grey is the sound of a band whose assorted influences have merged seamlessly, and is an album that may leave you asking ‘why aren’t there so many other bands even attempting to make music like this?’

Opening track “The Fuzz And All That They Feed” is, from its barely audible flute intro to its final crashing guitar chords and abrupt ending, exactly the sort of epic songwriting that is nowadays considered a lost skill. Avoiding swathes of electronics or angular stridency, it’s by turns a post-rock epic, a jazz-inflected improvisation, ending only too suddenly. “Chaos In The Streets” takes a different route, a swirling, heavier sound that, like one or more tracks from their Floating Above The City album, shows how Port Erin could easily transform themselves into a credible alt.rock band if they chose. They seem to prefer to avoid labelling though, and “Just Like TV” is a more contained although no less effective track similar to the opener, highlighted by guitar and drum interplay that breaks the tensions with startling clarity. “Higher Higher” brings a more laid back funk approach to the sound, the sax and trumpet interweaving around the guitars and drums in a lengthy instrumental excursion. Then “Half Cut Moon” outs things back on a post-rock footing, upping the tempo and ending in a squalling, drifting guitar and horns collision. Lastly though, “Ocean Grey” itself is a more expansive, soulful sound than has been heard previously, a laid back summer groove, albeit one held together with Port Erin’s own brand of tightly controlled post-rock.

Albums such as Ocean Grey don’t just appear from nowhere. Port Erin have a decade of gigging, songwriting and recording under their collective belts and their second album is redolent of this experience, of their musicianship and their own defined ambitions finally realised. Why they have decided to make the album that Ocean Grey is, isn’t completely obvious though. Port Erin could have made a less intricate, less complicated album of four minute songs and it would probably have been every bit as worthwhile as this album actually is. It wouldn’t have been Ocean Grey though.

Burning Shed