Saturday, September 14, 2013

Album Review: Porches- "Slow Dance In The Cosmos" - Blows You Into Unknown Places



When you listen to "Slow Dance In The Cosmos" by Porches in it's entirety it feels like a transformative experience. The songs that often feel like constant builds of sound, sweeping organs, sustaining guitars and vocals are moving even though the lyrics can feel like a jig saw puzzle with 20 percent of the puzzle pieces missing. They are decidedly obtuse but within their abstract poetry lie some beautifully wrought passages. There are enough to keep you emotionally satiated. In Permanent Loan, Aaron Maine sings, "How come I never see it coming? I am the meat on the fruit pit clinging flung into a black black moon." The vocal melody amidst powerful crashing waves of sound is passionate and makes you feel conflicted and sad even though the lyrics only serve as vague clues. In this way, the songs on "Slow Dance In The Cosmos" are like a musical Rorschach tests as each person who hears these songs will see them a different way.

This level of abstraction is akin to some of The Flaming Lips songs although, for the most part, Porches songs seem to come from a more folk indie place (even though they are wrapped up in a lot of dense sounds). Jesus Universe is propelled by a lovely organ sound and the vocal melody sung by Aaron and Greta Kline embraces you. Welcome to the "Church of Aaron Maine" as he seems to question his sad destiny, "kills me like my cigarettes, how pure and deeply upset my momma gets" and "well I'm idiot offspring, here is my sad offering and though I'll never know how to sing, I promise to stay glittery." Jesus Universe is not for the faint of heart. Incredibly moving and sad but beautiful at the same time. There is also an elegance in it's production. When I first listened to Jesus Universe I thought about the amazing Beach Boys song "Surfs Up" (written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks). I could hear some Beach Boys similarities in the vocals and when I heard Intimate (track 5) I felt it again. Maybe it is the sweet earnestness of the vocal melodies or the lush harmonies but the Smile / Surfs Up vibe popped in my head and heart. In Intimate- Greta Kline's vocals are a bit more up front along with Aaron's reinforcing the relationship aspect even more, "what if I'm not what you expect, what the heck, let's get intimate."  It is a slow dance of a song or maybe a slow motion jump into dark waters.

The tonal shifts on this album can be striking. Skinny Trees busts out with all the psychedelic fuzzy rock of a Crystal Antlers song while Xanny Bar pushes emotional buttons with slow acoustic guitar as Aaron seems to lament a chance encounter or maybe a one night stand. It is engaging and quite beautiful. Then there is Franklin the Flirt with it's pervasive bass line, electronic clap sound mirroring the snare, and high pitched ghostly synth, It almost has a retro feel like you stepped back in time to 1976. In the same way that Foxygen captures times gone by, Franklin the Flirt has a nostalgic underbelly. Aaron's hard and soft vocal performance sells the forlorn (and clever) lyrics, "all the beauty kids in the ugly parts of town and in the good parts we get ugly and lie down."

Fog Dog beautifully screams with Greta and Aaron trading or mirroring lines. After Glow has a funky feel and beat cemented together with a thick organ. It has dashes of arty kitch, dreaminess and whimsy and made me think of MGMT a bit. The Cosmos, starts with acoustic guitar and then erupts with rockish almost boogie woogie guitars and very cool sounding drums that sound like they were recorded from a distance. There is cool "two mic high" live sound to the recording. It has a sense of playfulness, "when you stay up late in retrograde, watch the loners gracefully get laid." The chorus strains "we all die, we all die, but not I.. I don't live here I live in the cosmos." Headsgiving has a bluesrock / Americana feel with it's plucky guitar licks. The music with all it's dramatic breaks weave in an around the lyrics, "we share a bed just like the French, just like true parents."

Porches has released 3 Ep's in 2011 and a 15 minute tape in 2012. "Slow Dance In The Cosmos" is their first full length. It may be by design or may be by chance but in terms of songs fitting a project all these songs feel right together and all the songs are amazingly good. Somehow this collection of music has one voice. One might think that this is self evident since Aaron Maine is the creative force behind the songwriting but believe you me, you often hear albums that have too many disparate styles or have various songs that just don't (or shouldn't of) made the cut. Aaron and members Greta Kline (bass / backing vocals), Kevin Farrant (guitar), Cameron Wisch (drums) and Seiya Jewell (keyboards) have crafted a stirring, lovely, wonderful piece of work. Emotional, artistic and abstract stories and sounds that take my head and heart to places unknown. "Slow Dance In The Cosmos" will clearly be on my best albums of 2013 list.
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Robb Donker

Porches- "Slow Dance in the Cosmos" released on Exploding In Sound Records


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