Portable: Speak Out
Süd Electronic

Alan Abrahams recently created Bodycode as an adjunct alias to Portable, the idea being that the former would represent Abrahams' club-oriented music and the latter his more experimental explorations—a perfectly reasonable idea but one hardly borne out by the new Portable 12-inch Speak Out and its beautifully swinging house cuts. In fact, the major Portable-related development isn't its experimental flavour but the prominent role of Abrahams' vocals. Often when a techno or house artist decides to add vocals to the mix, the results underwhelm when the singing proves to be merely serviceable, but that's not the case here, as Abrahams' vocals are surprisingly strong.

The 11-minute “Take Action” opens with a minimal pulse peppered by staccato croaking accents before the vocals appear, alternating between a lower register monotone and a delicate refrain (“I don't want to / I don't want to / I don't want to lose it”) that rapidly becomes a potent hook. Despite the robotic delivery, the humanity in his singing won't be denied and Abrahams' voice takes on a Bowie-like tone in the lower register. The B-side's “Bubble World” churns hypnotically, with its infectious swing and vocal chants (“Of the future version of myself / To the future version of myself”) more explicitly referencing Abrahams' African roots. Speak Out's apparently a precursor to a 2007 Portable album on Süd Electronic; let's hope the full-length makes good on the promise of this fabulous appetizer.

January 2007