Portable Alan Abrahams
The South African-born artist drops an album of melancholic beauty.
As both Portable and Bodycode, Alan Abrahams’ work over recent years evidences a knack for crafting emotionally resonant and, more often than not, danceable releases. Even at its most downtempo and ethereal, his music has rhythmic sensibilities that will move most bodies and minds as well. His singular sound is personal soul music rooted in house and techno, and over the years his releases have found their way on to more than a handful of labels that share his idiosyncratic ethos—most notably Perlon, Spectral Sound, and Live At Robert Johnson.
Abrahams’ latest album lands under his Portable moniker and is his most personal piece of work to date. Taking his birth name, Alan Abrahams was reportedly recorded over the last two years following an emotional breakup and the formation of a new relationship; and because of this personally testing time, bittersweet melancholia is painted all over the LP. From poignant opener, “Your Warrior” to the last few bars of glitchy closer, “Standby,” Abrahams rarely lets go of the heartstrings, which is no surprise given that he has built his career on emotionally-driven, slightly-somber electronics.
Like most of his releases as Portable, Abrahams places his vocals front and center—and, despite a pensive mood throughout, he still manages to produce some magical dancefloor-focused moments. “Say It’s Gonna Change” is a tripped-out break-up song for club kids, while breaks-led “More Than” satisfies those looking for Abrahams’ insatiable grooves.
Towards the end of the record, as Abrahams conveys a change to positive thinking—presumably, based on the track title “The Year My Dreams Came True”—he does away with vocals altogether and lets his synth work shine through, resulting in perhaps the album’s standout track. That cut, the hallucinogenic mid-way outing “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Drinker,” and the peculiar “Seraphin” show that Abrahams is just as adept at conjuring emotion from his machines as he is his voice—although it does leave more room for interpretation from the listener.
Somewhere within each cut is a sentiment connected with the hurt and loss of a breakup. But this, as it turns out, is both a blessing and a curse for the LP because it limits the time and places where you can listen to it. Indeed, if there is one clear fault it’s that the album does begin to weigh down on you. All in all, it’s a release carved from a piece of Abrahams, like a sonic snapshot of this period of his life. Although painful, it’s one that has resulted in a body of work full of melancholic beauty.