Review: Christopher Port, “Vetement”

The debut EP of Melbourne producer Christopher Port, Vetement expands the exploratory UK garage-leaning sound of preceding singles Bump and Heavens into a full release. Having lent his talents as a touring drummer to Airling and #1 Dads, it may not come as too much of a surprise that it’s Port’s affinity with percussion which shines through. The subtle musical cues of Port’s drum patterns work perfectly within from garage’s axis of grooves, sampling and synthesised sound to deliver an enticing balance of minimalism and entrancing repetition.

Opener Bump interweaves the mantric delivery of sampled vocals amidst the downward surge of the track’s metallic rhythms. A recurrent feature of Vetement‘s sound, pitch-shifted vocals act as something closer to additional rhythmic elements rather than sources of melodicism. Off-kilter synth washes not only provide the track’s gentle harmonic profile, but also establish an upward sense of motion. The sparse application of increasingly layered pads dissolve the rawer edge of the track’s beat skipping shuffle. Incorporating a more climatic build Heavens reasserts many of the musical ideas of Bump, while evoking some proto-house arpeggiation. Again its urgent breaks and repetitious vocals which form the sonic foundation of the track.

Featuring the guest vocals of Melbourne’s Airling and the mixing talents of Simon Lam, Before adds an additional layer of top-line vocals over the bedrock of Port’s production. This fourth track provides an ascendant progression which creates some interesting contrast with its pitch-driven predecessors. Marking his vocal debut, Port even throws some of his own vocals into the mix.

Even deploys soulful vocal elements in a sample-created call and response. These vocal interplays are embelic of the tension-release dynamic which sits at the core of the track. Providing a climactic moment, Even oscillates between heavier techno elements and lighter sonic texture. With an entrancing build and production which envelopes the listener, Even marks a point of sonic immersion which secures its status as the strongest helping on the EP. Brimming with tribalisitic intensity and hard techno rawness, Go Start closes things out with the earthly vibrations of some of the EP’s scratchiest rhythms.

Whether it’s under the visage of the bubble-gum production of Sophie‘s Lemonade or Disclosure‘s pop-orientated dance sound, garage’s sonic template seems to have resurfaced as a prominent focal point of contemporary dance music. The natural rhythmic pulse of Port’s debut proves it self well lent to this momentum. In terms of intensity and pure drive, Vetement stands as an excellent debut effort from the Melbourne producer.

Vehement is released July 15. Pre-order here.

Image source: Twnty Three