Powers of Ten

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Inaugurating his own Süd Electronic label, Alan Abrahams -- aka Portable -- turns in a sharp set with Powers of Ten, a fluid release that seems to simultaneously look backward, forward, and all around it much as more immediately hyped names such as M.I.A. do. "Albatros," the killer opening track, could just as easily have surfaced on some European aggro-art-funk compilation in 1983 as on a hyperactive DJ mix MP3 from 2010, its stern vocal chanting and high-speed percussion blend hitting up against almost preternaturally calm background keyboards. It's a heck of a start and Powers of Ten lives up to it well, covering a lot of ground intriguingly and entertainingly in over an hour's time. By keeping a good balance between straightforward dancing and experimentation, Abrahams ensures both his work's immediacy and its enjoyment in the details -- consider "Take Action," with its shimmering post-Cocteau Twins guitars leading into a heavily echoed beat, but which acts as a perfect contrast to the immediately preceding slam of "Shifting Sunlight," one of the album's busiest songs. Abrahams' new residence in Portugal also influences the sound in different ways, though not as overtly as might be guessed -- for instance, while Mario MPEX's guitar on "Arrabida" is definitely the melodic core of the song, it's a fairly straightforward loop that gets created, strong but unvarying, that Abrahams then proceeds to get hyperactive over, with screaming buildups and multi-rhythmic breaks that rapidly turn jaw-dropping.

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