Wonderfully abstract house trips.
If the early swell of Afrikan Sciences material felt rooted in angular deviations, the circuitous path Porter has travelled since, via a small clutch of low-key self-released albums and EPs on Bandcamp, leads to his latest LP, Centered. The clue may yet again be in the title. He hasn't abandoned his wayward instincts and conformed to any kind of stylistic convention. By any average artist's measure, this is still boldly "out there" music, but there's a grounded sense of rhythm and groove buried at its heart. Inherent strangeness meshes with focused ideas and structures that invite you in more willingly.
A sampled vocal saying "the sun god" skirts around a stuttering kick falling in what sounds like 3/4 time, all within the very first seconds of opening track "S Of 7." "We would discuss rhythm, that's it. Rhythm makes everything move. It doesn't need a swing," the unidentified voice continues. The drums leap, shudder and swerve, but they're still orbiting a central point, no matter how polyrhythmic they get. But this is more than a percussive workout, as Porter casts chorus-soaked piano keys against noirish strings and swooning polyphonic pads. It's as loose and free as any past Afrikan Sciences material, but clear-sighted in its execution where once there was often chaos.
Rarely is a trick repeated twice from track to track, but this combination of needlepoint control and flamboyant expression remains a constant. "Tuco's Revenge" leans on a broken beat and soundtrack refrain underpinned by a writhing bed of synth freakery. "Humanistic Center" is a tightly compressed machine-funk jam that lands somewhere between Fairlight CMI boogie like Art Of Noise, Amiga video game soundtracks and hyphy trance stabs. No matter the direction Porter heads in, the ideas land with immediacy. There are no head scratching moments to be found, even when things get more swampy and hypnotic on "aRuema" or the dust piles down on low-slung closer "Back To Scratch."
Circuitous and its predecessors, Theta Wave Brain Sync and Means And Ways, were impressive because of their subversion, but they weren't the first records you reach to for repeat trips. That Centered can still be so unusual without losing its footing is remarkable. In anyone else's hands, a track like "The 45 King Is A Mark" would be a head-turning break from the pack. For Porter, it feels like the honing of a style that could never play by the rules.