Portable, This Life of Illusion


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Alan Abrahams needs little introduction at this point, having over the last decade carved a wholly distinct niche in the spectrum of house music as both Portable and Bodycode. This Life of Illusion, his latest 12″ as Portable for the Perlon label, is not dissimilar to most of his back catalog. Both sides present lengthy, perpetually shifting compositions led by kinetic kicks and (on the B-side, at least) Abrahams’ baritone croon. For all their merits, though, his tracks have never been very compromising — motifs are set out early and repeated often; you have to decide if you’re along for the ride. This Life of Illusion exemplifies this, a record effectively split by its vocals.

A pitched-down monologue runs throughout the A-side, “Life Magically Is.” The voice, potentially (but probably not, unless he’s hiding his South African accent) Abrahams, sleepily slurs a disjointed lecture on mindfulness, “living while you’re alive,” and some related life-affirming topics. Used sparingly, this sort of vocal wouldn’t be too bothersome. But at over twelve minutes, one ends up wishing he would shut up for a bit for the sake of all the tweaked percussion fidgeting underneath, yearning to breathe. Still, “Life Magically Is” probably works wonders in those druggy club situations, a pseudo-profound vocal breakthrough after an hour of instrumentals. “Find Me,” however, is a textbook house anthem, impossibly hooky and also totally poignant, with Abrahams spilling his soul all over the track. Most of the base elements — a hyperactive, swirling jack, placid pads, a looping piano melody — stay put throughout, with Abrahams singing on top. The track is propelled forward by the smallest touches. Midway through, a yearning wail appears in the background, and on top, the producer’s pleas somehow become so much heavier. It’s a concrete rebuttal to the corny self-help advice from the A-side, heartfelt honesty triumphing over cerebral mumbo-jumbo.

Chris Burkhalter  on December 1, 2010 at 11:17 AM

“Find Me” FTW!!!

keith  on December 1, 2010 at 1:09 PM

the words of ben okri are magnifique. one of the greatest writers on planet earth. corny ? i think not.

littlewhiteearbuds  on December 1, 2010 at 1:11 PM

Maybe not on the written page but in a dance track?

steve k  on December 1, 2010 at 2:07 PM

it works “used sparingly” as i said…shackleton uses some “your life is your own” type monologues too but he generally knows when to cut them off, rather than smothering the track with them.

Spons  on December 1, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Epic release. both a and b for me. I feel the vocals work really well.

Chris Burkhalter  on December 2, 2010 at 4:17 AM

I agree with you, Steves, on sparing use of these sort of tract/lecture spoken word clips. Even with Shackleton, I often find them off-putting. They’re just a little too ‘on the nose.’

Pete  on December 2, 2010 at 8:58 AM


Chris Miller  on December 2, 2010 at 10:09 AM

find me is so incredible. nice review steve.

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