**This review refers to the double 12" version of 'Afraid to Dance' which includes a new version of the track 'Deca Dance' and a previously unreleased remix of 'Roliga Timmen' by Degar.**
Hailing from Genova, Italy, Port Royal are a little known bastian of authentic beauty in a burgeoning and usually uninspiring post-rock meets electronica scene. The hour long, 8 track `Afraid to Dance' is a special double 12" version of their second album of the same name and sees the heartstring-tugging Italians make their first foray into dance-orientated electronica. Utilising a wide variety of stylistic traits can be a cumbersome responsibility and result in a messy and unfulfilling piece of work. Thankfully then, it is refreshing to hear that Port Royal have gone to great lengths to evoke truly stirring emotion from their compositions. Fusing the touching poignancy of post-rock with ethereal swathes of ambience, icy shards of electro-glitch and gentle skirmishes of melodic dance-based electronica- the group develop soundscapes which take immediate hold, vividly captivating listeners through a blend of optimistic beauty and melancholic romanticism.
From the stunning crafted opener `Bahnhof Zoo' to penultimate track `German Bigflies', Port Royal encapsulate the haunting resonance of dark and emotive post-rock at its very best. Similar to modern-day Mogwai, they tred an elongated and naturally un-urgent path; its depressed melodic motifs, drag-beats and melancholic accentuations wafting across each others paths in a drawn-out yet crystallized vein. Angelic vocal murmurs and found-sound lace the deftly crafted melodic motifs of the foreground, creating depth and realism to an already bustling soundboard. On `Putin vs Valery', these otherworldly background vocal hums hover eagle-like and ring out with a delightful high-frequency resonance whilst clusters of bustling, dredged up fuzz-beats and snippets of narrative meet with soaring melodics to stunning effect. This is what 65 Days of Static wish they could make.
The B-Side of the first 12" makes a marked move towards Port Royal's dance-music leanings. The tempo-shifting `Anya: Sehnsucht' sees sparkling melodic reverberations elongate and splinter, accentuating a busy backdrop of heavy trip-hop beats and floating ambience. Warm and throbbing, the follow-up `Deca Dance' is unashamed in its deliberations, exploring a richly textured and kaleidoscopic post-dance groove-scape which builds up and drowns out in an ocean of euphoric electro-emotion. Staying true to their A-grade influences and covering vast amounts of ground on one track, the meandering `Internet Love' on the C-Side sees Port Royal commence with a glitchy yet tranquil `Boards of Canada' ambience before dropping into deeper and darker thickset trip-hop beats that go on to morph into a lush Lindstrom-esque slice of future-disco.
`Afraid to Dance' showcases a band that are at ease with themselves and with the genres they utilise. The concatenation of complementary genres can be a turgid and unfocused affair in lesser hands but Port Royal know how to whip up a frenzy, be it subtle and expressive or pronounced and rocking. With a forthcoming third album and a remix of their debut album all in the pipeline, Port Royal are sure to cast their pulsating and emotive soundwaves across a wider audience in the coming months and years. (KS)
For fans of: Icebreaker International, Boards of Canada, Murcof, Lindstrom, late-Mogwai
I discovered Port-Royal through a recommendation from iTunes, which is rare as they seem to be a few miles behind Amazon at recommendations, however this is an outstanding album. This album is really incredible, I suppose it is somewhere between post electronica, prog electronica? What port-royal do is nothing new, they just do it incredibly well, layer after layer, it has a somewhat upbeat, melancholic feel. It could possibly be compared to a tamer, electronic version of Explosions in the Sky. If you like music that picks you up gently and carries you to a place of utter beauty and leaves you there longer than you realised this record is for you. How Flares was deleted, their debut is beyond me, as it is also a bit of a hidden gem. Try it out, it will put you in a better place than where you were yesterday. It is simply a beautiful album.