Glen Porter: The Open Road and The Smell of Blood
The Content (L)abel

From the start, Glen Porter's music has oozed a palpable Spaghetti Western vibe, but that quality is even more pronounced on his latest release than it's ever been before. If anything, rather than downplay that oft-noted aspect, the California-based beatmaker has embraced it to the fullest degree possible on the The Open Road and The Smell of Blood (available in twelve-inch vinyl and digital download formats). On this forty-one-minute set (thirty-five minus the digital bonus), the basic template—thunderous hip-hop-styled instrumentals powered by breakbeats and twanging guitars—remains firmly in place, though one imagines that won't be objectionable to Porter fans.

The skies break open about a minute into “The Open Road,” as Porter atmospherically augments his trademark boom-bap with sounds of campfire insect thrum, martial snare patterns, and shuddering electric guitars. There's an episodic nature to the composition that also enhances its soundtrack character, with musical sequences of varying design appearing in rapid succession as if mirroring scene changes in the film narrative.

At times, acoustic guitar picking lends the material a dusty, Old West feel that nicely complements the Dick Dale-like twang of the electric (see “Devil's Chariot”); that Western feel is also strengthened during “The Smell of Blood” when Porter adds snake-rattling tambourine accents to the track's arrangement. The Open Road and The Smell of Blood is a solo Porter affair with two exceptions: D Horne (of Long Beach quartet Los Mysteriosos) contributes a strong acoustic guitar solo to “Planet Munderscore,” while Yppah (Ninja Tune) plays bass guitar on “Withdrawal.” The latter's more memorable, though, for its deliciously twanging guitar playing and punchy rhythm attack. Reminiscent of the drumming style on Amon Tobin's Permutation, the drum playing in particular, on this track and the album in general, stands out for being so high energy-charged. Though “Death Mask” opts for a downtempo plod, only once does the tempo truly slow, specifically during “Hang Em High,” perhaps as a way to encourage the listener to contemplate the lifeless bodies hanging in the breeze.

Listening to the release's seven tracks, one wonders why a director such as Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez hasn't tapped Porter to handle soundtrack duties on a given film. It's not hard to imagine parts of The Open Road and The Smell of Blood worked into the sound design of El Mariachi or Django Unchained, and were Sergio Leone still with us, Porter's music would be a natural fit for one of his projects, too.

October 2014