Review Summary: Portugal. The Man attempt to channel Kid A...
...And succeed! For the most part that is. Firstly, think about that statement again, how many records can one compare to Kid A
? Not many I would wager. Radiohead managed to revolutionize themselves and music as a whole by bringing electronic beats and fuzz to alternative rock. What made Kid A
such a brilliant album is the human element Radiohead somehow kept amidst all the computerized noise. Alaskan indie band Portugal. The Man gave a shot at this approach on their fourth release (third EP) It's Complicated Being a Wizard
The 23 minute EP (23
being Michael Jordan's iconic number, former player for the Washington Wizards
, get it?) consisting of one track is a roller coaster ride of electronic fuzz, crooning vocals and waves of different moods. The EP also contains 9 more tracks, but don't get excited, the extra tracks are just the 23 minute track broken up into smaller tracks for those with ADHD or obsessive Last.fm users. It's Complicated
is a turn in a completely new direction for the band. On their debut, Waiter, "You Vultures!"
, Portugal. displayed a strong knack for composing solid indie songs with a progressive rock edge. Just one release later Portugal. tosses away their instruments for electronic beats and puts forth their most experimental record yet.
Right from the opening minutes it is apparent this is not your typical Portugal. album. Electronic bleeps and fuzz wash over the soundscape as John's vocals enter buried beneath the noise. Just like Kid A
the computerized component of the music is overwhelming, but unlike Kid A
, Portugal. embraces the noise instead of trying to humanize it. However, somehow the band manages to form a perfect harmony between the electronic and human element. The EP flows from slow trip-hop style beats to upbeat electronica type jams. At times the band will employ their hard instruments, either by sampling a guitar line, spraying out some moog synth or incorporating live drumming. It's at those times when the EP shines the most. 'Sapphire Magic' calls upon a sampled guitar line and layered vocals, 'Amber Magic' brings the bass to the front and 'Gold Magic' almost throws away the electronic beats entirely. A majority of the EP focuses on purely instrumental sections that repeat throughout the EP, something the band has never done in the past or since. The pacing of the album between the drawn out instrumentals and energetic band based material works perfectly in its favor. On multiple listens more instruments and vocal lines will pop out at the listener, rewarding those who give the album time.
Not many bands can claim to have captured the soul of Kid A
in their work, but Portugal. The Man can. It's Complicated Being a Wizard
is a daring expirment of an album that works surprisingly well. Electronic beats replace guitars and drums, throwing focus on the vocals and noise the band produces. At a brief 23 minutes long, Portugal. brings the listener on an unforgettable ride filled with surprises. Ranging from slow and sexy to upbeat and energetic there is something for everyone here. It's Complicated Being a Wizard
is an interesting journey that should not be missed.