Alexander Tucker may have created one of the most affecting albums of the year. Halfway through 2008 Portal is definitely among the most cinematic, and on his third album in as many years for ATP Recordings Tucker takes the role of director. Each song is a scene, full of meaning and representations, and each one builds perfectly into the next and gives more gravitas to it.
Take the opening coupling of 'Poltergeists Grazing' and 'Veins To The Sky'; two serenely expansive and free-flowing country-folk pieces that glide along on sweetly plucked guitars and lightly brushed strings, bringing to mind Oneida's earthier moments on The Wedding, and see how they burn out into 'Omnibaron'.
The drone-rock of said album highlight represents the shift from equilibrium to disequilibrium; the moment of instigation, the point of conflict; the scene has been set and now the struggle begins. Violins fall in and out of tune and audibility, guitars are driven into distortion and vocals not far from sheer assonance search for answers.
Later on there is the false sense of security with the beautiful ambience of 'Energy For Dead Plants', countless layers of bowed strings and tickled percussion which resonate in a similar fashion to Charalambides and Lichens. But it isn't long before the illusion of harmony is dissolved by a barrage of minor-key white noise.
Yet without all that has happened before it, and indeed all that happens after it, it is almost without worth. You can enjoy a shoot-out or a fight to the death (et cetera) purely for the aesthetic values, but without a background and a conclusion there is no emotional attachment, which is exactly what Tucker brings on_ Portal_; an attachment, construed through what is at base nothing more than storytelling, and while he may not use the most literal or lateral methods his story is as riveting as any other.
8Jordan Dowling's Score