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Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

In these hurried times of taking showers, burning our tongues on Espresso, and panic when we mislay the remote control, it is all too easy to forget the simple pleasure of taking time. Italians live long lives. An Italian meal can last the whole evening. Olives, pizza, salad, wine, pasta, desert, coffee…lazy conversation. An Italian lover can last the whole night. Or so I'm told. I'm guessing. I'm English. We're supposed to keep our socks on.

Flares is a masterpiece and a rarity too in the massed arena of ambient guitars and electronics, in that it is unswervingly compelling. Genoa-based Port-Royal have structured their debut with loving attention. Wordless, save for occasional vocal samples, there are two central movements, each consisting of three exploratory tracks. Title piece Flares pt 1 to 3, all haze and tranquility, is situated near the end of the album. Meanwhile, the earlier Zobione suite explores territory familiar to Mogwai and M83 fans alike.

Guitars are the stars, certainly, but Port-Royal also make excellent use of electronics, cut-ups, loops and drum sequences. The beats, for example, in the breathtaking Spetsnaz/Paul Leni are wholly satisfying because they don't quite loop, lending the track an abrasive urgency. The opening of Zobione pt3 is the closest Port-Royal sail to WARP territory with lunatic bleeps and squeaks reminiscent of cult 80s band Pink Industry. I love its distorted mania.

Yet Flares is too chilled to be classified IDM. Almost like a classical composition, the album contains recurrent themes, each time refined and re-explored. The Braindance set, clubbers, and afterparty-goers alike would adore Port-Royal, if only they ever found their way to them. An azure blue sunrise would be the perfect backdrop to these majestic swathes. The track Karola Bloch alone could level the chill-out market with consummate ease. Coming down has never been so uplifting.

So many bands in the swelling post-rock market feel the need to punctuate their beautiful guitar doodling with loud, angry crescendos. There is a place for that, naturally but overused, the effect can wear predictably thin. Don't approach Flares expecting any such rage. You will not be spoonfed by Port-Royal. The unimaginative need not apply. Instead, Flares is a lush, beautifully textured canvas. Like imaginary fireworks on a Rothko horizon, splashes of prettiness and joy are already there but there are spaces between the brushstrokes to allow a dreamers mind to wander.

Another one for full immersion then. Say 'no' to remote controls. Say 'yes' to headphones and refreshment of your choice. In fact, if you do jack the phones in, you'll be treated to one of the best production mixes I've heard in a while. Guitars float around you like a shoal of fish in gently moving waters. The album concludes with the ambient Stimmung. Regretful piano slowly giving way to a wordless hymn, Stimmung would not be out of place on Sigur Ros ( ) album. I cannot think of higher praise.

Moby's God moved "over the face of the waters".

Maybe ours harboured at Port Royal?

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