To The Black Sea is a stellar depiction of what Portrayal is capable of. We are hit with a fervent energy right from the start with Departures, that never dissipates until the final moments of the record. Putting the two singles at the beginning of the record really allows the listener to become familiar with the encapsulating electro-shoegaze sound unique to Portrayal, before diving into more complex and diverse sounds. Never Adjusted sets us up for the intriguing sonic paradoxes in this album: interestingly, the sound is both chill and chilling. I attribute this with their gloomy coastal-rock aesthetic which allows for textured layering and dynamic production throughout.
Each song combines edgy guitar riffage with dark ambience, drifting vocals, and a brood, prolific tone. There is thought and craft in every track, which creates this very ruminating experience for the listener. On Wire contrasts menacing guitars--reminiscent of The Strokes--against a very dreamy and easing overarching vocal melody. Black Water starts off pensively forlorn and winding, later turning into a pulsing, arpeggiated and cerebral atmosphere, ending with a very worldly rhythmic outro, connoting a Bombay Bicycle Club type-essence. Universal Libraries is a liberating melancholy, Struttgart transports you into a grooving dawn, Out of Light gives out a twisted sense of gliding euphoria, while Slow Wait is very complex and atmospheric track with rhythmic patterns comparable to those of Incubus. The album closes with an alluring aural landscape in You and Everyone, showcasing the subtle yet inventive vocal, background and guitar elements that makes Portrayal uniquely themselves.
Overall it’s a haunting yet captivating record filled with impeccable artistry, a stunning display of talent in a self-produced debut. Be sure to get yourself a copy on Friday, March 27th.