Porches - Pool
by Finn Dickinson
I don’t know what the name Porches usually conjures up in the minds of those who hear it, but whatever it is, it’s probably not accurate. The band’s 2013 debut album Slow Dance In The Cosmos was predominantly an eclectic mix of laid-back alt-rock and astral electronic textures, rounded out with some intimate, acoustic explorations. It was this first release that helped establish Porches a little more in the underground music scene. Two and a half years later, and we have Porches’ second LP at our feet – Pool. A sophomore effort which the group claim they poured “everything into” should certainly be interesting to say the least. If their debut put Porches on the map, this album should certainly lead to increased tourism, so to speak.
The LP succeeds in establishing an undercurrent of calm within its first few moments. Opening track Underwater could easily find its way onto many chill-out compilation playlists. This atmosphere spills out into the rest of the LP – no matter how ominous or dark a track may sound, a feeling of serenity permeates every song. From the whirring robotics of Be Apart to the rainy day feel of Shaver, there’s an underlying sense of calm. As is the case with Porches’ debut album, there’s a pretty diverse repertoire being showcased here. The band emulate a sort of indie-rock sensibility, yet without being afraid to delve into deep, dark electronic motifs. A good example of the latter is album highlight Shape, whose dark pulses and post-dubstep leanings nicely complement the track’s vocals. The vocal harmonies coupled with refreshing synth revs provide a very nice touch before the track’s culmination.
Yet it’s not all great. Even the Shadow displays some clear IDM influence, and whilst this clearly isn’t a fault per se, the pitch-shifted background flourishes really begin to become tiresome at this point. The ubiquity of these is unfortunately one of the album’s weak points. The singing here (and elsewhere) is also weak, failing even to convey a sense of vulnerability in the process. “I get defeated” is a lyric that sums up the track nicely, as does the painfully clumsy keyboard solo which blemishes the main body of the song. Most of the record’s auto-tune segments feel entirely unnecessary, and the overt influence of other artists, which Porches so readily display, hinders the manifestation of their own musical individuality. The album’s blend of different influences is admirable, but not truly original.
Fortunately, the album increases in quality towards its end. Glow sounds a little like some kind of late 80s slow-dance track, yet is modernised by its sharp electronic motifs. Its combination of old-school groove and contemporary electronics makes for a great listen. Car is another album highlight; its post-punk inspired style lends it a certain nostalgia, and the result is a well-written song that is both satisfyingly energetic and surprisingly moving.
It seems fitting that Pool is ultimately summarised by its title track. The opening deep house bounce and awkward auto-tuned vocals reek of all the less admirable qualities of James Blake, yet the song is admittedly saved by its fortunate metamorphosis into a pretty lively and danceable tune near the end. Ultimately, Pool is hit and miss, wears too much external influence on its sleeve, and holds back most of its best offerings until near its conclusion. If Porches can be a little more selective and a little less trite, their future offerings should yield great things indeed.