The Belgian group De Portables has quietly built a reputation for enjoyable, experimental rock that plays around with a variety of styles without claiming specific allegiance to any, giving it room to carve its own path. On Topless Is More, whose slightly saucy title and cover image belies the contents to an extent, the band on its fifth album aims to bring its profile to a higher degree than before, and succeeds thanks to the quality and variety on display. If the album starts in a vein familiar to any fan of groups like Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and even Stars of the Lid -- "Col Phillins" and "Superdedubber" all display elements those groups have worked with over time -- De Portables find their own way by emphasizing slowly unfolding atmospheres, never simply ambient but avoiding huge rampages either, a surprisingly deft balance of extremes. After this singing starts cropping up on many but not all songs, matching the established style with similarly contemplative deliveries, but even on the third song, "Bulletbabe," the tension in the music results in more brawling rock sprawls. From there the band continues in an increasingly kaleidoscopic way, touching on everything from a Krautrock/shoegaze monumentalism on the huge-sounding "This Is a Song" (and indeed, it is!) to the calmer and clipped -- and downright sweet! -- "Haut Gay." It's a bit of a dark horse of an album, but one that should get more attention than it might otherwise earn.
Topless Is More Review
by Ned Raggett