With their vintage drum sounds, layers of vinyl crackle and polished songwriting, Maribou State seem keen to assert a sense of history and authenticity in their music. They are seeking, imaginably, to deliver something more deep and meaningful than the average club track. However, like their much-vaunted soulfulness, that concept feels nebulous. On the sub-Portishead "Steal" and "Say More," or in the retro R&B of "Midas," Maribou State deploy the familiar signifiers of pain—doleful bass, plangent keys, smouldering vocals—but fail to convey any real emotional anguish.
Portraits resonates at a level of button-pushing sentimentality, but Maribou State are such deft directors of their sound, and so melodically gifted, that they still create moments of magic. "Natural Fools" channels The xx, while "The Clown" (Chicago house pianos, heart-tugging vocals, disruptive dubstep synths) is a great melancholy pop track. They can go big, too. "Wallflowers" and "Rituals" are cinematic slabs of electronica, all soaring peaks and minor-key vulnerability, and could both trigger huge festival moments or soundtrack thousands of comedown sessions. In such enigmatic pieces, Maribou State shrug off the weight of history.