Port Erin’s unique feature is their ability to weave a path through a variety of broad genres; space-rock, jazz, avant-garde, funk, psychedelia, ambient, progressive and more besides, without being fully associated with any or tarred with a particular generic brush. What’s even more astounding is that they can steer a course through these oft challenging marginal musical genres and still arrive at a destination that has commercial appeal. Surely the sign of a band doing something truly creative?
For a three-piece there is a lot going on, musically speaking, but like all good three-piece bands it is due to their technical abilities as musicians rather than running wild with what the studio has to offer. The result is a solid and interlocking core sound rather than layer upon layer of gossamer thin musical veneers that only become substantial when applied en mass. No, this is the sound of the live band in the studio rather than the sound of a band becoming just one more tool in the hands of a producer, something that happens far too often.
Past releases have seen them move through light and shade, chilled and heavy, simple to byzantine complexity and “Floating Above the City” seems to draw on all of their past moods to really present all the potential of the Port Erin sound. The ambience and luscious harmonies of ‘When It All Breaks Down’ evokes warm, hazy summer days whilst simultaneously reflecting on the intimacy and support of relationships through hard times. By contrast, ‘Just Riding My Bike, Man’ channels a funky, pop groove which is going to be an instant live favourite and their experimental and progressive rock leanings come out in bite sized form with ‘Makes No Difference.’
Not many bands could throw all these influences and strands together and still come out with their own unique sound. It reminds me of a more commercial Zappa or a less obtuse Beefheart and I suspect such artists feature highly in the musicians record collections. Nothing wrong with that, especially when you are being influenced by form and structure rather than just plundering sounds and that is what Port Erin plays with so well. Anyone who can work with unusual musical form to produce something weird …and yet at the same time weirdly accessible, really are breaking new ground.