Portable Morla - The Void That Exists
By: Angie Mack
Portable Morla is a one-woman minimal electro-dub project emanating from outer space – or, more correctly, Seattle, Washington. As the cover art might suggest, however, The Void That Exists is one of those rare little pearls that successfully uses themes you might find in old school, kitschy sci-fi and translates them into the world we experience everyday right here on earth, and from an entirely unique perspective too.
The six tracks are a fusion of smooth, jazzy dub, with downtempo beats and a trip-hop sensibility, tweaked with all manner of subtle sound effects that would be at home in an Atari 2600 space shooter, but are very much in their element here. Add to this a voice that’s fluid, dulcet and seductive enough to be worthy of comparison to Beth Gibbons yet utterly distinctive, and you’ve got a recipe for some classy grooves indeed.
If that’s not enough, underlying the immediately obvious subject matter (space, aliens, technology) is an intelligence and depth to be appreciated, rather more speaking of alienation than aliens themselves. The lyrics frequently allude to, or outright speak of, differences that often lead those that exhibit them in to feeling outcast by average society. The refreshing thing is these are not merely lamented, but given a sense of empowerment through being acknowledged and affirmed as worthy attributes to have.
This gets a little more subversive on the track ‘Straight Lines’ – a slightly spooked-out slice of cool acid funk. The lyrics “I put a scar on my face, give myself a physical change, now every one knows what I stand for”, is at the very least an interesting statement on the superficial differences by which we judge a person, as well as the occasionally self-detrimental lengths one can go to in striving for uniqueness. Other tracks, like ‘Keep It Underground’, speak of the solace and comfort to be found in another world – one that is self-created through music.
Portable Morla’s particular world is a place where being a little different isn’t cause for being a social outcast, nor even the reason you can be considered ‘kinda cool‘. It’s more a place where self-confessed ‘mutants’ are professed to be downright groovy, and a bemused eye is cast on the rest of society who simply don’t see it.
Thus, The Void That Exists might well be referring to the unknown space between who others think you are, and who you know yourself to be, with Portable Morla adding in a few dots to join and make that connection by way of music as common ground.
The Void That Exists is out now on cassette with free poster via Skrot Up.