Portable: Flicker EP
Background Records

Listeners familiar with Background Records' Futuristic Experiments #5 or last year's Cycling may know already that Portable grew up in Bonteheuwel (Bounty Valley), an impoverished Cape Town township, before moving to London in 1997. But even if you encountered Flicker with no foreknowledge of Alan Abrahams' background, you'd identify immediately the African qualities he merges so marvelously with aspects of Chicago House on these three tracks. The mid-tempo lead, “Liquid Crystal Display,” opens dreamily with syncopated patterns of skittering percussion and drums dancing about a repeating bass drum. Following this rootsy intro, ringing hi-hats transport it into familiar house territory, a chanting voice rising to the surface to become one more looping element while sprinkling chords emerge to wash over the intensifying groove. Amazingly, just as the track seems about to fade, it continues as a skeletal postlude. The other tracks are equally fine. Opening in Africa with infectious drum patterns, “60hz” adds buttery chords and a voice chant to vintage Background Records beats, until a wooden flute and shakers hijack the music back to Africa. Finally, gorgeous harp strums imbue “30hz featuring Leo Fernandes” with an affecting melancholy, its spirits raised by percussion accents, bass drum, and African voices. Portable maintains a controlled tension within his Flicker tracks by deftly maneuvering between disparate styles while ultimately integrating them into an incredibly fresh hybrid.

October 2004