portal (uk) Options (4-track CD, £7.50)label: Make Mine Music
After a prolonged hiatus, Portal return with an EP which sees their sound moving into new and perhaps somewhat unexpected territories. “Options” is, without doubt, Portal’s most melodic, accomplished and confident release to date. The EP also sees for the first time Portal songwriter/instrumentalist Scott Sinfield collaborating with a variety of singers. In the sleeve notes to the 2006 retrospective collection “Gone But Not Forgiven”, Scott stated that the compilation marked the end of a chapter and that if Portal returned, things would be different. There is, he noted, no point in repeating what has gone before. The music of Portal has always been evolutionary, having its origins in fuzzy lo-fi home recordings, a sound that progressed into lush, guitar-based ambience and, from there, into the sample-based minimal electronic pop of the last studio album “Waves & Echoes” in 2005. “Options” marks another bold step in this evolution. The title track, co-written and performed with Glen Johnson of Piano Magic and Future Conditional, wears its influences on its sleeve, nodding intentionally towards the pioneering post-punk electronics of New Order and Section 25. It also boasts a far more commercial sound than fans of Portal might expect. The second track, the up-tempo “You’re Building Over My Childhood”, features Ben Holton of labelmates Epic45, who provides his strongest vocal performance yet, over a backdrop of chiming guitars, driving drums and staccato synth. “Slow Burner”, the EP’s third track, co-written and performed with Lorraine Lelis (ex-Mahogany), matches a stunningly beautiful vocal with swirling synthesizers, softly picked guitar and vintage drum machine. The EP is completed by a remix of “Options” by Future Conditional that recalls the halcyon days of 12” extended dance mixes, inspired by Soft Cell’s “Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing” and the Human League’s “Love & Dancing”. The remixed version also features additional vocals by Klima’s Angèle David-Guillou. “Options” is a stunning return for Portal, one that will surprise and delight in equal measure, and bring many new fans to the band.
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