East Portal: East Portal

Set of beguiling electro-acoustic improv from US coastal duo has echoes of Fred Frith, the Hubro label and ECM New Series


The publicity material calls it a “collaboration connecting the experimental New York DIY scene and the pop music industry of Los Angeles”, but the description barely hints at the sophistication of the seven pieces that comprise East Portal’s self-titled debut.

Los Angeles-based Taylor is no stranger to session work in the worlds of indie rock and pop, while Atkinson (Aa) has longstanding pedigree in Brooklyn’s experimental music scene. Taking both to new and unexpected places, this extraordinary collaboration results in some of the most beguiling electro-acoustic improv I’ve heard for a long long time.

Opening in slightly unsettling style, Untitled #I has a ghostly aura which reminds me of Fred Frith’s Death Ambient project with Ikue Mori and Kato Hideki. Skittering string harmonics are anchored by deep resonant bass pilings, and there’s a sense of movement and harmonic cohesion that is more implied than explicit.

Swords Reverse is altogether grittier, an aggressive maelstrom of arco bass timbres eventually dissipating into a more serene electro-acoustic drift. Atkinson’s deconstruction of Rut’s chamber-like sonorities strikes a wonderful balance between electric and acoustic sounds, a synergy that only seems to deepen during the mesmerising ambient undertow of Sub Nest.

Bass, strings and woodwinds are ascendant during Untitled #3, Atkinson supplying a harmonium-like drone as Taylor’s bass arpeggios tip an unexpected nod to Mark Egan. Tendo is another delicate chamber piece, clarinet suggesting a melodic outline atop a repeating minimalist pulse. Reaching its end all too quickly, the album’s many sonic threads coalesce during the shapeshifting mass of the closing Breakfast On Ground.

Beautifully mastered by the renowned Taylor Deupree (12k), East Portal’s adventurous music should appeal to listeners schooled on the sounds of Hubro, ECM New Series, AKP mainstays Arthur King, and New Albion Records alike.

Untitled #I; Sounds Reverse; Rut; Sub Nest; Untitled #3; Tendo; Breakfast On Ground (45.00)
Patrick Taylor (b, elb, g, pedal steel, ukulele, cl, pc); John Atkinson (elec). Add Nick Podgurski (d) on Untitled #1. April 2020 to February 2021, Los Angeles and New York.
AKP Recordings AKP007