For last year’s Fieldhead album, Paul Elam delivered a fine collection of experimental music that centred around tape hiss and glitchy electronica. The greatest success of it was that it managed to convey human emotions from the unpromising source material. Now Elam involves vocals to join his minimal instrumental backing, which should surely deliver even more warmth and humanity.
Yet from the outset, for ‘Planks Of Wood’, the vocals are distorted beyond recognition until they sound like an alien lifeform whereas the music is submerged in effects until it sounds like a shivering mass. The title track, meanwhile, moves along at snail’s pace like an ancient ship completing its final voyage.
In a shfit from the dense fog of noise, ‘An Arrow’ focusses on vocals with varying degrees of distortion used. It’s arguably the most arresting moment of the EP and also the most approachable. To end with, ‘Of Sorts’ seems to move in to Portishead territory whilst the chilly ‘Opened Window’ is tentative and overcome with sadness.
As it turns out then, ‘Riser’ tries so hard to be otherworldly it is hard to connect with it. Rest assured, it’s a fascinating and challenging listen but not one which is likely to draw you back in for the long term.
Portishead, The Declining Winter