Patrick Porter

Die Wandaland

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It's rather refreshing, it must be said, to hear an album start with quirky music box melodies and yet not turn out to be some sort of twee post-emo rubbish, even with the rubber duckies on the cover. But Patrick Porter's been recording and performing long enough to have his own particular aesthetic going just fine without having to deal with swathing himself in fake trauma, and Die Wandaland is enjoyable because it sounds simultaneously out of time and in it equally well. There's something about Porter's ear for surprising arrangements -- wheezing, clattering percussion set against crystalline guitar, for instance, or the way that the guitar suddenly stands forward on the chorus to "Band Funeral Home" -- that calls to mind Martin Carr's work as Brave Captain. But if anything he calls to mind a bit of the more fragile side of earlier and undeservedly more obscure performers -- such as Ultra Vivid Scene's Kurt Ralske, with whom he sometimes shares a high, tender voice -- but with a dark enough undertow to prevent it all from dissolving into naïve, smiley soundtracking. Louder moments crop up -- the massive riffing on "Esso Station (Marmite Blues)" is all the more striking for its being used as background than as lead -- but there's a sly, immediately appealing kick to the quieter work that predominates. Listen to the way he sings the chorus on "Hey Lindsay," stretching out the name in a deft way that Marc Bolan would have appreciated. There's an understated range on the album too -- from the steel guitar twang of "Hayseed Highway" to the sampling cutups and collages evident on "Reality Row" and "Afraid to Die" -- that adds to this album's considerable appeal.

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