A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Label: The Death Of Rave
Release Date: 4.13
riyl: Hacker Farm, Lustmord, Ekoplekz, Basic Channel, Conrad Schnitzler, Tarkovsky, walking.
Porto Ronco takes you to a desolate space-station; an anti-gravity ballet of expansive ruin from Patrick Sottrop, aka Kareem.
This is Kareem’s first outing into Eno-esque instrumental ambiance (Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks would be an obvious reference point for this work), the producer is better known for his oil-slicked hip-hop in the early 2000s. Kareem was lulled into silence for the latter half of the first decade, unsure of where or how to proceed, but was pulled back into action following some personal toil. He has returned refreshed and renewed, with something to say, as this is his third release in a year-and-a-half, for the blossoming THE DEATH OF RAVE label.
Porto Ronco has the decaying gothic ambiance most sought-after and prized, here at ForestPunk. Music for urban exploration, for getting lost amidst the concrete and rubble. I’m not sure if it’s just the synths he is using, obvious touchstone of vintage sci-fi, but Porto Ronco reminds me of the run-down space station in Solaris, suffused in green, grainy light. It has a similar sci-fi humanism, like moving images of a lost loved one, splashed unexpectedly across a surveillance screen. It’s uncanny, it gives you chills; its hard to put yr finger on, elusive, like the phantoms in Solaris. Constantly darting around corners.
Khareem is coming from a dubspace. Your ears are filled with echoes; it gives a feeling of eternity, of time running slowed-down, which just helps to reinforce the sensation of floating in dark-matter outer space, reflecting, remembering. This is maybe the soundtrack for the automaton in William Gibson’s Count Zero – a machine wondering what it is like to be human. Perhaps this is Patrick Sottrop’s dealing with death, processing through his machines.
In the boomkat press release, there was talk of Berlin’s steely gothic futurism: “an elusive Berlin spirit which has been lost with successive tides of weekending dunces in the Easyjet age; a metaphysical feeling or spectral presence that has long lain brooding in the city since Conrad Schnitzler’s earliest invocations and since percolated everywhere from Christina Kubisch’s radiant electromagnetic recordings to the gothic industrialism of Einstürzende Neubauten, thru the monotone ecstasy of Basic Channel and the etheric romance of Leyland Kirby in his Friedrichshain period.” It brings to mind the specter of Krautrock, a generation haunted by its’ parents past, and forced to move on, look forward. The buried emotions and repressed thoughts coming out through synthesizers and drum machines, there is a subconscious mourning beneath the polished chrome and sleek automobiles, a grieving machine, a soul in the code.
I would not precisely say, however, that Porto Ronco is an elegy, its more like a soundtrack to a sci-fi psychodrama. Khareem’s machines summon black wind, hissing radiator drones, knocking rhythms, rootless melodies. It contains some of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works II; also reminds me of an obscure Jefre Cantu-Ledesma cassette from a couple of years ago, Floating Weeds, in its underwater atmosphere and masterful use of reverb and space. The overall effect is bent, blurred, rippling, except Kareem’s distortion is more like flickering static, degraded and destroyed, like its been run through a million circuit-boards. Porto Ronco is one 45-minute long soundscape to get lost in. It’s a slow, gradual metamorphosis, like a dream in a Ridley Scott film. It builds a weird, surreal world in yr mind.
That’s the thing with amorphous electronic music, it is not necessarily referencing things found on Earth, in every day life. You have nothing to relate it to, and the brain struggles to concoct visualizations. It forces you to be creative, to think of new things. It’s also part of why movie imagery is used so often, in that films using this type of music are some of the only way we have to relate to it; electronic music and sci-fi are interlinked, probably unable to be separated. But music happens within you, around you, doesn’t tell you what to think; its a subjective, introverted experience. Music also seems to have more of a direct link to the emotions, as well, which is part of what makes this record seem like the beating heart of sci-fi. It seems like things that are encountered visually are more analyzed, deconstructed; they can have an emotional impact, but its usually mediated by the brain, by the part of the mind that makes decisions. There’s more judgement, whereas sounds seem to link to more of a reptile, instinctive part of the mind: intuition.
Porto Ronco was my introduction to the world of Kareem, the soundtrack to many insomniac rambles through urban jungle, lending my nights a grimey, cyberpunk sheen that i find most intriguing. It led me backwards to check out his material from the early 2000s, with his own Zhark International imprint, revealing an extensive underworld of European underground grit to explore. You can expect to hear more about this.
Ultimately, Porto Ronco does Dark Ambient better than dark ambient, without the hamfisted horrortropes that let you know when something is trying to be spooky. Instead, Kareem’s music is subtle and heartfelt, his machines dripping with emotionality. Patrick Sottrop is one of the most visionary musicians working in any genre, at the moment, constructing a nocturnal otherworld, with its own serene visions and infernal justice.
Porto Ronco is available from The Death Of Rave, on vinyl or download.