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Port Of Est – Onyx Moon – Album Review

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Onyx Moon CD Cover

With the best duos, one would never know there’s only two people behind their massive sound, and Maine’s Port Of Est uses synth pop to push their sound far beyond that of a duo. On their latest record, the self-produced Onyx Moon, the band crafts a strong album, both impressive and catchy with hints of Broken Bells, Lorde and a bit of Hinds.

Onyx Moon opens on the vicious “Lupine,” which mixes frantic electronic elements with fantasy-based lyrics. The bass and rhythm section on the track are intense and the attitude behind each vocal line makes the fantasy all the more real. “Valentine In My Headphones” mixes Broken Bells with some shoegaze style to craft a synth-heavy track with a bright side to it. The ending of the track finds the vocals playing with the drums until the latter breaks into a freestyle to stop the track.

Creamy harmonies pull listeners in to “Onyx Crazy Eyes” but it’s the powerful and deep arrangement that make this track one of the album’s best. The dramatic vocal lines that end each verse are affecting and the way the band massages the bass into the track is oddly satisfying. There’s an iconic hint to the synth-line that opens “Transparent” and the drum section adds a hint of Lorde to the sound. The vocals on this track are at their most finessed and versatile, which becomes apparent in the piano and freestyling drums-driven bridge.

Collide” has a strange gospel feeling to its keys, and reverb, making the song feel more hopefully prophetic than the gloomy bass line that continues through it. The chorus’ vocal hooks have a natural flow and repeat to them that makes their catchy sound more continuous. Drums drive the ambient “Skin To Skin” where vocals are spread thin and synths used less than the delay that extends them. The drums in this track start off much more excited than earlier tracks and eventually go on to take the track out on their own.

The duet of vocals on “Clash” really makes the fight-tinged lyrics come alive. Despite a powerfully heavy opening-half of the song, it shifts over time to be a minimalist, angry experimental electro-pop track that once again ends on an overpowering set of drums. The rich harmonies that permeate “Sister Wolves” drive the bond the lyrics emphasize between the singer and her sisters. The synth in the song builds from bright to ethereal creating a track that completely envelopes you by the time you’re halfway through.

Kamikaze” closes the album on its brightest and most hectic note with ambient keys, frantic harmonies and an out of control rhythm section creating a controlled chaos within the song. By the end of the song all the parts are fighting for the light and the band decides to fade the track back into darkness, ending the album like a sunset.

Onyx Moon is a strong release for Port of Est, combining great, sometime brilliant song writing for an album that mixes synth-pop with moody indie tones, topped-off with excellent instrumentation that keeps each song interesting in one way if one part grows dull. The vocals on the album are powerful and versatile, changing to fit the mood of each song, even if they wouldn’t seem to fit a mood before being heard. With tracks like “Onyx Crazy Eyes” the band only has but to wait for their big break.


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