[Promise sleeve]

"Promise" (Album, 2003) !DSO Recommended!

Make Mine Music

This latest from Portal is an absolutely terrific addition to the fledgling Make Mine Music label that really gives it a massive boost. Chilled or ambient music faces an (often unconscious) challenge to sustain the interest without breaking out of the soothing atmosphere it creates around itself. Portal's Promise manages to do hold this fine balance to remarkable effect. Never distant enough to become merely audio wallpaper, and yet never too intrusive, it nevertheless strikes you with a series of outstandingly beautiful compositions.

Now, I love my ambient as much as the next guy, but its the more assertive songs here that make this a recommended purchase. The magnificent combination of Scott Sinfield's composition and Rachel Hughes beautiful voice on Into the Light is a signature vocal track. Its mesmerising effect reflected in songs like Hold (2) and Safe. An Open Sky reminds me of Acceleradeck, whilst A Day Before July sounds like an extract from a forgotten Philip Glass score. With its glorious blend of pianos, organs, rainfall and emotive keyboards, this establishes itself as the best release yet on Make Mine Music - and that a label of impressive quality in its own right. I've been impressed by Portal before, but Promise places them firmly at the centre of the awareness radar, and means I'll be tracking their progress more closely in future. I suggest you do the same. 8/10

Rob Dyer (November 2004)

[EP sleeve]"EP" (EP, 2003)

Make Mine Music

This five-track EP billed as by Shengen + Portal is like the label's first release Split - which was also a collaboration only that time it was between Jon Attwood's Yellow6 and Scott Sinfield's Portal project. This second catalogue entry gives four of the label's artists a chance to share ideas and a platform.

In keeping with the core label character, all are instrumental. First two tracks Capitol and B'Leaf were jointly written by Portal and electronic duo Schengen (aka Ian MacKenzie and Nick Varney). The first is a remarkably immediate piece of ambient electronica that rapidly weaves its way into you head making all subsequent visits seem like instantly recognising a long lost friend; whilst B-Leaf has all the best qualities of classic Harold Budd.

Tarl Broad-Ashman records with a variety of different vocalists under the guise of former Enraptured and Endorphin artist Innerise, but here he takes on the solo role of remixer to Schengen's Seti serving up a suitably alien sounding chilled beats. Schengen return alone on the brief pulsing ambience of Grace. Finally newcomers Weyland make their debut with the second remix of Seti on Seti on Safari. If Innerise's mix was alien sounding then Weyland's unsettling glitching could be a close encounter of the third kind. 7/10

Rob Dyer (May 2009)