Wed Dec 22,
Mantra Lounge, 9:30 pm, $5 before 10:30 pm, $10 after, 21+.
I must be delirious, dreaming, or hypnotized. That thought entered my mind both times I saw Portable (South African-born Londoner Alan Abrahams) play this year, first at Montreal's Mutek, then at Seattle's Decibel Fest. These feelings rarely happen at shows nowadays, laptop or otherwise, but with Portable, they're the rule.
Portable's music possesses a stunning hypnotic quality. It sounds like Fennesz' radiant drones being processed by dub-techno pioneers Basic Channel, or if Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti were resurrected and recorded for experimental-house label Perlon. Unlike most laptop producers' music, though, Portable's translates into a sleekly organic and sexy vernacular of tonalities and beats. Check 2003's Cycling and a 2004 live disc Portable recorded in Japan for proof.
"All ethnic music possesses a trance-like quality," Abrahams says. "[It contains] something essential to liberate the mind from the mundane. All I try to do is emulate this in an electronic/digital context."
Abrahams, who moved from South Africa to London in 1996 and runs the Süd Electronic label, acknowledges his birthplace's importance to his music. "As a result of my origins, I use African or ethnic-related instruments," he says. "These I process with various software programs so as to expose an element of the sound that wasn't initially there. Once happy with it, I move on to other sounds until I get a kind of collage, and weave them together with my sequencing program."
A scrupulous sculptor of microscopic sound, Portable also excels at the physics of moving dancers. His idiosyncratically textured tracks bring a vital blast of equatorial humidity to minimal techno's often-frigid contours.
"I use [music] to express what I feel at that particular time and place, and in listening back to it, it helps me to transcend the given situation," Abrahams says. "I want to be able to offer this to the world in making [something] I love and using this creative energy toward the enrichment of society as a whole." Be grateful for his generosity.