[sic] Magazine

port-royal – Dying In Time

All the talk amongst port-royal fans, aficionados and critics alike, ahead of this, one of the more significant releases of the year, has concerned whether or not the Genoa boys are about to go ‘pop’? My own feeling is that they just might be, but why would that even matter? Think of the perfect pop song, any perfect pop song, giddying and unforgettable. Your humble servant/writer was still in short trousers the first time a radio song utterly floored him. It was Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’ – fantastic, feverish and the ideal soundtrack to a very hot summer. Punk? I didn’t have a clue it was even happening. I was ten.

The meat in the sandwich of p-r’s third album proper comes a long way toward evoking the spirit of 1977. It is a sequence of tracks beginning with ‘i used to be sad’ and ending with ‘balding generation’ – a set of music that really belongs together. In a way, they couldn’t be apart. They are all variations on a theme.

And it all has something to do with Giorgio Moroder.
Yes, the Italian maestro who influenced the likes of Human League, Japan and New Order, and who of course produced the lovely Miss Summer’s aforementioned europop classic. It’s all here. (Gay) disco stomping beats, mesmerising sequencers. Naturally it’s all given the ‘royal’ treatment as songs fade beautifully into and out of swirling ambient effects.

Here’s how good Dying In Time is: Somewhere (around track 2) you think ‘this is my favourite track’. By the next track, you’re changing your mind, or at least you are…until the next track. It goes on like that pretty much for the entire album. Yet it isn’t all plain sailing, as the album has to overcome the slightest of uncertain beginnings. ‘hva (failed Revolutions)’ gags and splutters like a mouthful of something dubious. The opening track and the band are searching for their rhythm. In a way they are stretching. Warming up. It’s like witnessing a great champion, a Roger Federer, knocking up before a match. He’ll try a few ball-tosses and serves, he’ll offer up a few lobs for his opponent to practice smashing. He hasn’t quite clicked into express mode. He’s fettered and yet you still know he’ll annihilate the other guy. It’s the same with p-r on this first track. They’re stretching, reaching for something. It is, perhaps, their most IDM track to date. They’re trying something different then and arguably not quite succeeding. And they named it ‘failed revolutions’. Clever boys, the Royals.

So we go from failed revolutions to successful revelations. ‘nights in kiev’ is a glorious example of p-r 2009. This is where they’re at, right now. This is the true appetizer for the album. This is game one of the match proper and Federer holding his serve to love. How to describe ‘nights in kiev’? The beats (from Afraid to dance) are still evident. Here they’ve been married up with the things that I think made p-r great to begin with, namely playful, child-like melodies and a gorgeous wash of effects noise. ‘nights in kiev’ could be ‘Anna Sehnsucht’ if ‘Anna Sehnsucht’ had been on ‘Flares’. I guess that’s really just a knowing way of saying the best of both worlds. The best of both previous albums, rolled into one.

What follows is more excellence. One cannot overstate the influence of Mogwai with p-r. I sometimes think that the pearls of genius that p-r have offered up in their brief career to date would have served as the perfect follow-ups to the Glaswegians first album proper, ‘Young Team’. ‘exhausted muse’ is a perfect example of this. It is gorgeous and it outshines anything on Come On Die Young. Other moments venture into William Orbit, trance territory. Give it a year and Madonna will beg to work with them.

And so the royals crank it up, track after track until, with ‘balding generation’, you wonder if it can go any further. It’s as though we’re in the closing sequence of Close Encounters Of the Third Kind. We’ve seen the Mothership. We’ve seen its inhabitants. Top that! Except….we’re going inside. It’s wonderful. It’s even more wonderful because it’s the special, extended edition with a further half hour of twinkly lights and Dreyfuss rapture. It’s even more wonderful because we’re taking off. We’re leaving the Earth. We’re passing the other planets and still it isn’t over. You see, before you leave our solar system, you have to pass the three gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. Or in this case, the ‘Hermitage’ suite, parts 1, 2, and 3.

So you see, if we’re saying this isn’t their best album I’m fine with that. Then I ask you this. How good must the others be?