It's not saying much. I'm sure after a first review listen I should have more than just two words written on an otherwise spotless page?
It's saying everything. So, probably, is the stupefied grin on my face. Indeed, as I resurface from my hour-long reverie, I half wonder whether a wet nurse came in at any point to wipe the drool from my face.
port-royal = fraternity. Which is why I'm rapidly reaching the stage where I believe there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love and appreciate the music of port-royal and those who simply haven't heard the Italians. If there is a third kind of animal – one who knows the Royals music but doesn't appreciate it - I've yet to sight it. File these dubious people alongside Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman. Yet none of this is to suggest that I think port-royal are perfect for everyone. No band is. They just manage to find the people they're perfect for. In this sense, I'm acutely aware that 99% of you reading this already HAVE Afraid To Dance, and are merely checking in to see if I nail this one. The trouble is, I should be writing for the 1%.
port-royal have opted for a few subtle changes to distinguish this album from
its lauded predecessor Flares.
Some may claim these alterations to be semantics. In the wider picture, perhaps
yes, but in port-royal's "attention to detail" world these are important iterations.
Firstly this new album is more densely populated with beats. Where Flares made
the sunrise chill-out spot its own, these compositions are aimed more at the
preceding nights clubbing. The second and biggest difference may actually be
structural. Flares presented
itself as a whole entity. This album emphasizes certain tracks. As such, Anya:
Sehnsucht, Deca-dance, Leitmotiv I Glasnost, and Putin
Vs Valery (all pulsating examples of the new-look Royals) are each afforded
a certain prominence whilst other pieces function in a supporting capacity. Anya:
Sehnsucht has what I call that "whimsical childhood nostalgia" vibe going
on. It is almost Boards Of Canada–like in this
respect (think Rojgbiv),
and may be the most radio friendly cut here. Deca Dance is a rollicking
train ride in the tradition of Chemical Brothers, New
Order, or Kraftwerk.
It will, of course, eventually go the way of all port-royal pieces and disperse
into a swirling cloud of atmospherics.
So to the crux of it. The Royals have certainly carved a niche and perfected their own, signature sound. This is so distinctive now that, at times, Afraid To Dance sounds like its own remix album. Tracks such as Internet love push the effect closer to medley. (Anyone who knows Mogwai's Gwai on 45 will understand what I mean here.) I don't see this as any great problem. port-royal career arch will probably mirror that of someone like Ulrich
Schnauss anyway: i.e. expect them to become as prominent in the arena of remixing as they are with their own material. In the meantime, 99% of you can breathe a collective sigh of relief. If ever there was an argument for a two-word review, this might just be it because the only two words that could do justice to this music are….
They've still got it. They've added something without losing any of that dreamy melancholia and the bottom line is, you NEED Afraid To Dance. Fantastic. Viva fraternity!