Geography is a liar. It tells us for instance that Town Portal are from Denmark when it would be much easier for our narratives were they from Switzerland or the UK. This is because their brand of meaty post-rock fits right in with the resurgence of such groove based antics from the likes of Hubris., Talons, Rumour Cubes, VASA, Poly-math, and their ilk. Although, to be fair, Town Portal have their won sound to them, perhaps only very similar to the latter Poly-math and even then, not really. However, by overlooking this annoying bit of realism and geography, we can safely gain a sense for what Town Portal work with when they come to make an album like Of Violence, their fourth in number. This is firstly a guitar centric approach, augmented by prominent and chromatic bass and punchy drums, all revolving around a soundscape that’s sometimes anxious, sometimes feverish, often dreamlike, and always groovy.
On Of Violence, the band seem more content to let their proverbial leash hang even looser, flirting with instrumentation and ideas way heavier than they have in the past. That’s how you get tracks like “Veyshnorians”, whose guitars are louder than they’ve been in the past not by virtue of a simple decibel increase but rather a more direct and vibrant approach to composition than the band has displayed before. Likewise, “Roko’s Basilisk”, which we premiered on the blog, channels a Meshuggah-esque riff that steams with its cheekiness, an obvious product of Town Portal’s desire to wink at the listener and challenge genre norms. Elsewhere, an almost post-punk like influence dominates the bass, making it even thicker, almost like a line from a Daughters release or a Glassjaw album.
Over all of this is layered the trademark intricacy of the guitars; Town Portal leads and riffs sound almost nothing like any other band in operation today because of the odd ways in which they are strung together. “Soil to Own” is a good example. While the majority of the track is filled with those thick bass tones that we alluded to above and the drums approach blast-beat levels of presence and intensity, it is the guitar which ends up dominating the track. It does so through the outro, which comes after those heavier moments where the bass and drums lead the way, by spitting out an intriguing set of notes, intriguing in the ways in which it flows together, alluring with a certain something which feels out of place and yet, so right.
That could be used to describe the album as a whole. Like previous releases, Of Violence is not something you’d catalog as experimental or avant-garde. And yet, it has such an inescapable allure, something about it that’s unique and personal. This something comes from the unique blend of Town Portal’s powerful groove section, more powerful and pronounced than many bands in their genre can pull off, and their special approach to guitar composition and track flow in general. These things mean that Of Violence, true to its name, both hits hard and intrigues, capable of visceral appeal while leaving plenty of room for more intellectual contemplation. In short, like the other bands listened within the conceptual, if not geographical, group to which Town Portal belong, it throws up the preconceptions of what post-rock is and what it’s capable of.
Of Violence releases on April 5th via the excellent Small Pond Records. Head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to pre-order and have a look at their merch section while you’re there; they’ve got some cool stuff on offer!