I took a couple of days off from reviewing and I have to admit, it felt weird. But I’m back now and am so far behind on my list at this point that it’s not funny so let’s waste no more time and jump into a random album. How about Chris Portka’s ‘Hey buddy, can you spare $74k/ year?’

“Echo in the Desert” starts off this album in a super intriguing way. More ambient than anything else, there are so many interesting sounds that come into this track creating a giant soundscape that is truly larger than life. There’s something extraterrestrial feeling about this opening track that absolutely captivated me but also had me a bit worried. Although I love music of all types, Ambient just has never been my thing. I don’t find peace in it like most people do because I’m constantly waiting for something to happen. That being said, there are so many elements in this opening track alone that I am optimistic that I will find something throughout this album that I truly enjoy.

I was right and I was in love as soon as “Dry Guitar Beat” hit my speakers. Although still spacey, there’s a drumbeat in this that is upbeat and fresh feeling, It fades in and out while muffled yet grainy vocals speak ontop of it. The guitar work is minimal in this track but it’s interesting. Again, a soundscape unlike anything I’ve heard before, the intrigue continued as the album rolled into “OP-1+Anxiety”. This track is quick at under two minutes and seems to expand on the beat rolled out in “Dry Guitar Beat” while bringing something a bit more noise to the table. There’s just a lot more happening in this track and, although it didn’t quite make sense to me, I liked the cacophony of sound that had taken over my house with this track.

The vocals heard in “Dry Guitar Beat” come back for “Make a Lot of Money (and Never Come Back)”. I almost wish I could hear them a bit more clearly so I could talk to them but this album isn’t about the vocals and, as hard as that is for me to understand (you, know, being a lyrics lady and all), I’m trying my best to respect that and focus in on everything else going on in this album. “Pad” made it super easy for me to really focus on the instrumentation. There’s an almost drone sound that kicks this track off while a lot of other more intricate things are happening on other instruments. Again, not quite my thing with the ambient and drone nature of the track but I found the overall vibe of this track to be interesting in all of the right ways. Although, at face value, it doesn’t sound like much going on, when you really listen in, you realize that there is a whole world going on in this track.

Obviously, I was intrigued by the title of “Ambient Jazz Metal”. I’ll be honest, I was hoping for slamming guitars and blast beats but that’s not quite what I got. That being said, what I did get was actually a perfect representation of the name. There’s an undeniable energy in this track and more guitars than I had heard on previous tracks on this album. Although I’ll never claim ambient or even noise to be my thing, this track had me thinking that maybe it’s not all half bad. 

“Thank You, Television” was an instant favorite of mine just because I felt like it had a bit more structure to it. There’s just a more classic “song” vibe to this track than the previous ones and, being so unknowledgeable about ambient music, I just felt like I could grasp this track a bit better than the others. It’s still a very distinct sound, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t something you would hear on the main radio stations or throw on at a party (at least not the type of party that I go to) but the humming mixed with the captivating guitar work had me drifting off into a dreamland that I honestly never wanted to leave.

This eight-song album closes out with “Don’t Talk to Me, I’m Directly Communicating with the Screen”. This track seems to take a little bit from all of the previous songs and wrap it all up into one song. You get a little bit of the ET vibe of the opening song, a little bit more of the classic song structure of “Thank You, Television” while getting all of the odd and interesting ambient tones and drones from the rest of the album. This song is actually a perfect way to close out this super intriguing and interesting album.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never written about ambient music before (can you tell?) and I don’t know that this will be a scene I really dive deep into but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed checking out this new album from Chris Portka and I so appreciate him sending it my way!

My Favorite Track(s): “Thank You, Television”

For Fans Of: Ambient Music; Soundscapes; Noise

Daydream-ability: 7 out of 10

What My Cats Thought Of It: Artie laid right next to my desk; Autumn slept upstairs

How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 3 out of 10

My Overall Rating: 5 out of 10 (this is purely because I truly just don’t understand ambient music)

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