Plumbiferous Media

In the Mountain, In the Cloud - Portugal. The Man

Jul 17th 2011
One Comment
In the Mountain, In the Cloud - Portugal. The ManPortugal. The Man
In the Mountain, In the Cloud
Score: 46

Port­land group Por­tu­gal. The Man (orig­i­nal­ly from Wasil­la, Alas­ka) has been pro­duc­ing its own rather unique brand of psych rock since 2004, and in that time they’ve released sev­en LPs. Their newest, In The Moun­tain, In The Cloud, com­ing out on Tues­day, cer­tain­ly car­ries on that tra­di­tion of unique­ness. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it does­n’t man­age to do so in a par­tic­u­lar­ly orga­nized man­ner, leav­ing In The Moun­tain, In The Cloud more of a mess than a well-con­struct­ed whole.

Por­tu­gal. The Man pop­u­lates In the Moun­tain, In the Cloud with a dense array of sounds that shift from almost resolved har­monies to pur­pose­ful dis­cord in ways that are often not appar­ent with­out close inspec­tion. This vari­ety of dis­cord, accom­pa­nied and ampli­fied by imper­fect­ly trained vocals and waves of syn­thet­ic manip­u­la­tion char­ac­ter­izes the album above all else. It’s cer­tain­ly unique, and often inter­est­ing. These ebbs and flows, not of vol­ume but of har­mon­ic qual­i­ty, should pro­vide the album with a force­ful base and theme. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they fall short in this regard.

As a whole, In the Moun­tain, In the Cloud sounds some­what like an art-rock album with­out any of the art. It could very well be pos­si­ble that Por­tu­gal. The Man had a clear pur­pose and plan for each track while com­pos­ing the album, but it does lit­tle to show through. While it’s pos­si­ble to excuse the first few tracks for intro­duc­ing the lis­ten­er to the sound and themes of the album, that excuse quick­ly falls apart when the rest of the tracks fol­low up with lit­tle to no mean­ing­ful con­tent. In the Moun­tain, In the Cloud has plen­ty of notes, most of which come togeth­er rel­a­tive­ly nice­ly, but none of them are real­ly arranged into songs or pieces, rather than sim­ply a set of tracks.

On the oth­er hand, it’s clear from In The Moun­tain, In The Cloud, that front­man John Gour­ley knows what he’s doing when it comes to vocals. Gour­ley’s voice is an unde­ni­able source of ener­gy that with­out a doubt goes fur­ther than any oth­er ele­ment of the album’s sound towards giv­ing In The Moun­tain, In The Cloud direc­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, how­ev­er per­fect­ly the care­ful­ly orches­trat­ed har­monies work on a track like “All Your Light (Times Like These),” the same sys­tem­at­ic fail­ure to find pur­pose plagues the music - and so how­ev­er much the vocals seem to have the pow­er to cure In The Moun­tain, In The Cloud’s ills, that nev­er quite hap­pens. Instead, it just seems a pity that Gour­ley’s voice is lost in the direc­tion­less mud­dle the album falls into.

Part of the vocals’ fail­ure to res­cue the album is thanks to the lyrics which, while occa­sion­al­ly inter­est­ing, when lines like “I’m just the shad­ow of a big­ger man” try to evoke some­thing greater than what the album ever man­ages, suf­fer from the same lack of direc­tion as much of the rest of the album. Occa­sion­al­ly heavy rep­e­ti­tion, espe­cial­ly of the least inter­est­ing lines, fails to push the album any­where but into a lull, and when new, inter­est­ing lines come up, it’s gen­er­al­ly not for long enough to make much of a difference.

In the Moun­tain in the Cloud is tech­ni­cal­ly sat­is­fy­ing, at least to a degree, but by no means a mas­ter­ful album. The lack of direc­tion dic­tates an ama­teur­ish sound, and while Por­tu­gal. The Man may have con­trol over each instru­ment and voice, it fails to con­trol the music. Worse, In the Moun­tain in the Cloud also fails to demon­strate that Por­tu­gal. The Man has the capa­bil­i­ty to take its tracks in any sort of direc­tion. Greater care and more plan­ning may yield a more sat­is­fac­to­ry sequel, but we are cer­tain­ly not count­ing on it.

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One Response

  1. Hmm says:

    Ehhh, I wish this review was focused more on aspects that weren’t almost specif­i­cal­ly sub­jec­tive. An inabil­i­ty to ful­ly under­stand or ‘like’ the lyrics is poor enough rea­son­ing to base an entire review around. I enjoyed the album, I’m look­ing for a more pol­ished opin­ion than this, though.

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