29 Apr 2021 - Simon
experimental/chamber/post-rock | Ripcord Records | Release date: 15 Sep 2020
A challenging, exciting album which will appeal to everyone with an open mind
What say you to a little musical originality? Now, there is a case to be made for the fact that there hasn’t been anything truly original since the 50’s. But still, today’s album by Salt Lake City natives Portal To The God Damn Blood Dimension and their album Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard really does dip its toe into originality, not so much due to the sounds themselves, but the way in which they are constructed. Here we have two songs, coming in at just over 34 minutes in length with each one playing like a suite containing various movements in it.
First song “Want” starts with a gorgeous cello which introduces spoken word elements before exploding with screamed vocals over what sounds like a massive ensemble band experience where each of them tries to prove a point, it’s extraordinary and unexpected. This calms down before some menacing ambience takes over which sounds eerily like you would imagine creeping out the speakers standing in an express elevator to the blood dimension. It slowly builds into a rapturous trumpet melody over which the lead singer screams his tortured howls. The juxtaposition takes some getting used to but once you lean into it, it becomes beguiling. The calmer ambient spoken word exists to accentuate the explosions of noise akin to GY!BE at their most raucous. The whole thing builds to a chaotic explosion.
The lyrics deal with loss, regret and growing old, and you really can hear the anguish in the singers voice when he shouts “because there is nothing, that you or I can ever scribble down on a piece of paper which will make a difference”. I’ve made the review so far sound like this is all very bleak, and indeed it is, but if you look for it, through the cracks there shines an optimism which is refreshing and invigorating.
Second song “Ashes” is a much more sombre affair with plucked strings and spoken word poetry for the first half of the song which is a lament to modern life and things slipping away. Lyrics like “one eternity later, and we’ve reached the top, trying to breathe easy, trying to force this to be fun” are rage-inducing but oddly beautiful in the way they force you to confront your own mortality, it’s heady stuff and you certainly have to be in the mood for it, but if you are, then it’s enchanting. But you didn’t expect the whole song to be this conventional, did you? No of course not. Around the half-way mark the guitars become more pronounced with a marked sense of urgency and the vocals becoming more agitated, screaming “But I hate these fucking people, and I hate this fucking band” The instruments gradually coalesce around the lyrics to form a coat of protection from his distress, then everything collapses into a brief but beautiful cello section before a full-band, full-blown cathartic release at the end.
This is an album which you most certainly do not put on for a little light music in the background whilst doing the crossword on a Sunday (is that still a thing?) it demands your attention, but on the flipside, it rewards you for it. This album is challenging, confrontational, serene and most certainly not for everyone as it almost wallows in its obliqueness at times. Yet saying that, if you are open to experimentation and even slightly openminded in your musical tastes then this is an outstanding examination of what happens on the fringes of musicality - very highly recommended.