Your eyes close and you float off. Somewhere dark but comforting. A strange glow surrounds, keeping you from disappearing into the abyss of space. Or time. Or both. Buzzes and blips of analog origin keep you company on this journey of self-exploration. A journey that feels deep, meaningful, and significant to finding the answers we desire. What does it all mean? What’s my role in it? Where do we go after this journey ends? Is the universe infinite? Portals: A Komische Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space may not answer those questions, but it’s a hell of a trip trying to find them.
Portals, presented and curated by the California-based record label Behind the Sky Music, is the kind of compilation that opens the door to long expanses of inner exploration. It plays like a series of tracks made for space travel, transcendent inner work, and something to play in the headphones whist floating in the sensory deprivation tank when you start to peak. Portals is filled with amazing analog and modular synth artists reaching into themselves and putting forth their best mind-expanding vibes. It’s the ultimate musical trip. Grab a good pair of headphones, an oversized bean bag, and take to the basement for one hell of a ride.
When you think of analog and modular synths, Komische, and early 70s electronic music, there’s a very specific sonic flavor you’re wanting. There’s a light-headedness to it, with a coppery aftertaste. Something aged with a slight dankness in the surrounding air. Like an unfinished basement with shag carpet remnants laid haphazardly, a Tangerine Dream tapestry on the wall, and the pungent smoke hanging in the air. It’s what’s expected when Komische and Berlin School is on the menu. Anything less feels inadequate. It feels like posing. Portals is everything it’s advertised as, and so much more. Right down to the exquisite, super 70s sci fi album art courtesy of the incredible Eric Adrian Lee.
There’s not a miss on here. Tungsten Mountain’s “Twilight Flights” is the equivalent of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…” as the album opens. You step out of the lunar buggy and take your first gravity-free steps and feel infinity lapping at your soul. Then we fall into the black hole of Lisa Bella Donna’s “Rahmenerzählung” a dizzying display of notes flung from a synth like sonic throwing stars into the abyss of space. Pulling from some serious Phaedra vibes, it’s an epic ten minute tour-de-force of electronic music that seems to dissolve into light particles by the end. Pure genius. Polypores’ “Foil” is mysterious and slow-moving. It seems to morph and shift like a cloud in-between atmospheres.
There isn’t an insignificant note or unneeded moment of music here. Each track builds and expands on the next, especially tricky given that there are 13 tracks from 13 different artists. While each brings their own magic to the compilation, they continually compliment each other’s work here. Bridging the gaps of silence in-between. From Ian Boddy’s “Omicron” to Steve Roach’s ‘Escher Sketch” to Steve Moore’s “Datavision” to Nigel Mullaney’s “Kessel Run”, the stage is set for deep diving into the soul and the mind.
One of my favorites here(among many) is Listening Center’s “Horizon Mirror Tape”, a beautifully-constructed electronic piece that creates a galactic state of melancholy and melodrama. Eschewing the gauzy expanse of just swaths of synth, Listening Center create a hypnotic rhythm here that combines the electro beats of early OMD with the grandeur of Jean Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze, and even elements of Boards of Canada to give us an oasis of sad and content among the heady vibes.
You can’t go wrong here, people. Portals: A Kosmiche Journey through Outer Worlds and Inner Space is the kind of record you sink into and let it absorb into your skin. You drop the needle and take the ride for as long as your mind allows. Eventually your psyche will snap back. Until it does, though, enjoy getting lost for a bit.
9.5 out of 10
Portals: A Komische Journey the Outer Worlds and Inner Space is available now via Behind The Sky Music. Buy it here.