[27 October 2009]
Dying in Time enters with only some hesitation and leads to cinema-sized-scene changeovers that sound as if they’ve been blended by a veteran DJ. Its frosty cover art conveys distance and signals one might find a lengthy dub-techno endeavor tucked within its 72 minutes. While the Italian four-piece Port-Royal won’t shy from slowing the pace of its post-rock/electronic work with serene, still segments, the band’s latest, Dying in Time, is more urgent than the premature judgments that the album sleeve encourages. Port-Royal’s third LP (but first at n5MD, the band’s new home) is luminous—a guitar-and-programmed-beats-strewn outing that is as hazy as it is chaotic and digitally pattering—and it gets going immediately.
A generous interplay of musical elements (shoegaze, ambient, and techno) lends marvelous diversity to Dying in Time. It’s a much louder record than Dntel would make, or than labelmate Near the Parenthesis ever gets on his artful L’Eixample, but Dying‘s rushes of sound and meticulous segues probably make for such comparisons. While no particular track here best represents the whole, “Anna Ustinova” is a highlight, lifting off like a piece or two from Ulrich Schnauss’s A Strangely Isolated Place (the German techno producer added an edit to Flared Up, a remix comp of tracks from Port-Royal’s 2005 debut, Flares). Processed vocals from guest Natalia Fiedorczuk are buried partly in a swirl of pristine synth lines and reverberating guitars on “Anna”, and a volley of hard-clipped beats thundering through the center do nothing to disturb the vocalist’s contribution. “Nights in Kiev” makes up a small part of Dying‘s shimmering dance music portion, or what eventually becomes dance music after periods of beatless shoegaze. This frequent mutation is the record’s most admirable trait, and when the closing suite, “Hermitage”, morphs from gently knocking electro-pop to vigorous rock in under 20 minutes, it proves to be the kind of exercise Port-Royal demonstrates masterfully in the studio.