A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Leeds-based sound experiment Nightport show how much can be done within the confines of a very simple premise on their second album, this time sculpted in conjunction with The Comet is Coming drummer Betamax
Living in 2020, we are spoiled for choice. You might have 1,000 movie channels at your disposal, each one with a library of 10,000 films and, yet, you can’t find anything to watch. You might have nearly the whole history of recorded music in your immediate reach, just waiting for you to press play, yet you can’t decide what to listen to. You might have food from nearly anywhere in the world, depending on where you live, when there isn’t a pandemic going on. Yet you can’t decide on what to eat.
This Paradox of choice, as put by author Barry Schwarz, has infiltrated every aspect of our daily lives, from how we love to where we live to what we do for money. It seems like there’s always another option just around the next corner. You’ll spend your life running in circles if you do nothing but turn corners, though. Eventually, you’ve got to make a choice. Eventually, you’ve got to focus.
On Nightports w/ Betamax, the second album from Leeds-based sound experiment Nightports showcases just how much can be achieved when you focus. In this instance, by restricting the sound pallet. The rules for Nightports are simple, yet offering a nearly infinite array of permutations – musician/producers Adam Martin and Mark Slater can only work with sounds produced by one musician. In this instance, that musician is Betamax, the drummer from the epic, legendary The Comet Is Coming.
Make no mistake, however, Nightports w/ Betamax is no gimmick. This is no drum solo album, not “Toad” by Creme stretched out to an album, nor freaknik Tito Puente bongo jam to transform yr hip bachelor pad. Neither it is an exercise in concept. There is nothing remotely academic-sounding about Nightports w/ Betamax. In fact, you’d have to read the liner notes to realize there were even rules in place, or that the sounds were all sourced from one player. Or from one instrument even.
It’s a little crazy that all of these sounds issued forth from Betamax’s drum set. There may be some percussion involved, as well, as there are plenty of bell-like tones on display here, as well. It’s hard to say. It’s hard to tell what exactly the producers are doing behind the faders, which is just one more thing going for Nightports w/ Betamax.
Adam Martin and Mark Slater show themselves to be accomplished musicians as well as producers, with both skillsets working in tandem to sculpt and shape Betamax’s drums and percussion into mind-boggling shapes. The pair have boundless imagination, as well, working in nearly any genre you could think, from the brass band meets bass music doominess of album opener “Ritual” to the breakneck post-rock of “Sirkel” to the ripped apart techno/dub of “I’ll Tell You What’s Happening.” It’s never disjointed, however, despite its eclecticism, which just speaks even more for Nightports’ sound sculpting and musical acumen.
Adam Martin and Mark Slater show themselves to be accomplished musicians as well as producers, with both skillsets working in tandem to sculpt and shape Betamax’s drums and percussion into mind-boggling shapes.
Nightports w/ Betamax is one of the most exciting, invigorating, inspiring, and, frankly, mind-blowing records i’ve heard so far this year. What they’ve done with sampling and arrangement boggles the mind. It’s some of the finest and most accomplished works in sample-based music i’ve heard, in over 20 years being obsessed with the genre. It’s seamless. Flawless. The source material itself is beyond exceptional. All of the recordings glow like polished gems, made resplendent with a filigreed setting of spacious delays, echoes, and reverbs, at times sounding almost like walking through a marbled museum, others like hearing doves take wing in some abandoned silo.
While Nightports w/ Betamax is consistently eclectic, certain styles do tend to take prominence over others. There is a strong feeling of drum-driven post-rock on display, for instance, along the lines of Battles, with a similar cybernetic feeling of human vs. machine. Tortoise is another example that springs to mind. Beat-heavy electronic music is the other style most commonly displayed, of various disparate genres. I’m reminded of the recent drum mutations of Jlin, for starters, while some of the more abstract fare brings to mind more subtle practitioners like Wolfgang Voigt or Monolae.
Nightports w/ Betamax showcase, once and for all, that in some circumstances, less is more. They invite us to really delve in, appreciate, and explore what is around us, to make the most of what we have and really, truly master our lives and art.
Nightports w/ Betamax is out now on The Leaf Label.
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