Portal is dense, the sort of hard-hitting LP that German-producer Vril was hinting at with his string of 12-inches and Berghain 05 cut. And while it’s not as varied as Torus, there’s plenty of depth in texture that makes the record so engrossing. Right from the start, “Portal 1” establishes the album’s serious tone via 6 minutes of unyielding, monotonous techno. There’s a slow-burning urgency and pressure that Vril creates on these tracks, and it only makes each hand clap and synth stab increase in intensity as songs lurch forward. But even more severe is when we’re denied the danceability of a 4x4 beat on “Portal 4”. Its anxiety-inducing structure finds potency in off-beat synth wobbles that never resolve. They ebb and flow alongside random electronic squelches and the result is something devilish and maddening. “Portal 7” feels the most all-consuming, however. Its aggressive synths constantly war with each other until they’re outmatched by the re-entering of a kick drum in the song’s final third. The weight of the drop is the most massive moment on the entire record and the synths that permeate from the initial reverberation allow the album to finish on a grandiose high note. Portal comes to an official close though with a postlude, a sort of disintegration of the sounds we’ve heard. It’s a nice statement: the colossal worlds that you’ve just entered, the ones that have kept you in a trance for the past 50 minutes, are the product of a talented producer who can just as easily destroy them. Some artists make music that would sound fine on headphones. Vril, however, makes music that demand speakers and a space in which it can take hold of its listeners.
[note: this mini-review originally appeared in a multi-part post recounting my ten favorite records of January]