This is a review of "Waves And Echoes" recorded by Portal. The review was written by Gavin Miller in 2005.
I swear I’m dreaming... nothing this celestial and beautiful ever happens when I’m awake...
Portal’s latest sees eleven tracks bleed into one another with hazy, barely conscious waves of ambient synth drones and haunting electronic washes of sound.
If you took the most ambient moments, and I mean the most ambient moments of Sigur Rós, Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine and Orbital circa ’91, mixed them all into one another, added a few more layers of one note synth atmospheres and then added a sickly sweet vocal over some of it, then you have ‘Waves And Echoes’.
Occasionally, like on tracks ‘Trace’ and ‘Endgame’ there’s some glitchy electro ‘beats’ made up of static or minute electrical clicks. It’s dazzlingly beautiful stuff Portal has here, and it only grows and grows over time, enveloping you into a static haze.
The only thing that really comes to mind in the way of comparisons would be Fennesz, but they don’t even come close to matching the eerily gorgeous tones and drones that are going on here. Take vintage Boards of Canada, time-stretch it to fuck, and it maybe comes close.
‘Resolution’ is possibly the most beautiful thing ever committed to tape, as the melancholic piano line drifts slowly through a sea of wobbly synth, you’re suddenly awoken with a jolt when the track cuts itself off, like an astronaut gazing into space, not realising that the air is about to run out.
‘Light At The Centre’ finishes off the record with predictable beauty. It comes on like Kevin Shields remixing Orbital, with glitchy techno beats and synths bouncing over a backdrop of wall-of-noise processed guitar.
The unlisted (secret) track is actually fifteen minutes of work recorded for the Broadcast Art Group in the Midlands of all places. Another slice of droning atmospheres and bliss-like tones drifting into one another, the piece gently ebbs and flows, before quietly saying goodbye.
Like a waking dream, it’s hard to put your finger on what makes this an interesting album. There are no ‘pop’ songs, no tracks that could be used as singles, not even a video... it’s just... so... slow... and... beautiful...