Album: ALEXANDER TUCKER – Portal (ATP Recordings ATPRCD30 2008)

What on earth is that weird sea monster on the cover supposed to be? Frustratingly the CD notes reveal nothing. Portal is Alexander Tucker’s third long player for ATP in as many years. Once again, all the songs are constructed using loops and samples, all played by Tucker himself. Opener “Poltergeists Grazing” is typical, with a looped acoustic guitar figure underpinning the whole track whilst more and more stuff is bunged on top to create a neo-psychedelic soup of sound. This is then shaped into a song, with the result, as with a few of the cuts, redolent of those Virgin bands of yore, such as Hatfield and the North, Gong and Henry Cow.

Tucker certainly has a way with a tune, as “Veins To The Sky” proves, but his high, reedy vocals are an acquired taste (although when he sings in a lower register, as on “Husks”, he sounds uncannily like Brian Eno). The tracks that work best for me are the harder, darker cuts such as the exceptional “Omni-Baron” which uses controlled feedback and guitar drone over a raga rhythm. Instrumental “Energy For Dead Parts”, with its John Cale-like screechy viola, is also excellent. Best of all is the epic finale, “Here”, which seems to encapsulate the entire album in microcosm. Starting out with an acoustic intro it gradually builds in intensity before culminating in a furious storm of loops, with the vocals chiming like a mantra.

I saw Alexander Tucker for the first (and so far only time) around 18 months ago at Mono in Glasgow. At the time I was more captivated by the process than the result, as he layered loop upon loop to build up epic psychedelic tapestries of sound. On cold, hard silver disc, though, it’s the end product that is paramount, rather than the way it’s arrived at. Portal completely delivers sonically, but I have to admit that I find Tucker’s voice a bit mannered and off-putting.

1 Poltergeists Grazing 6:37
2 Veins To The Sky 4:56
3 Omni-Baron 5:20
4 Husks 4:28
5 Belljars 5:50
6 Energy For Dead Parts 4:40
7 Another World 2:56
8 Here 8:36




One response to “Album: ALEXANDER TUCKER – Portal (ATP Recordings ATPRCD30 2008)

  1. He did a session for us on Resonance FM last week, and it was a joy to see him from a couple of feet away building up some long, noisy. improvised pieces with loops of guitar, cello and (low-pitched!) moans and howls.

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