Portal: Gone but not Forgiven (Make Mine Music, 2006)

by Jason

Portal Gone But NotWell, it’s the end of an era. Portal, Scott Sinfield’s brilliant experimental music project, is no more. Yup, you read me right. With the release of Gone but not Forgiven, Sinfield has decided to stop making music as Portal in it’s present form, whatever that may mean. Gone but not Forgiven is eleven tracks of rarities from 3 vinyl 7”s and a variety of tracks that have never been released before. Spanning almost a decade, 1998-2006, these tracks give a wonderful glimpse into the world of Portal. This disc is limited to 520 copies and will not be re-pressed.

“July” begins with glittering guitar full of reverb. Originally released in 1999 on a duel a-side 7” with “Lost,” this track is subtle and patient as Sinfield adds touches such as fuzz and brings that fuzz up in the mix about halfway through the track. This is followed by another 7” single, “Series 1.” This is an ethereal, ambient track mixed with danceable drumbeats. The layers are subtle and mixed perfectly. Sinfield proves the mastery of his craft as early as the year 2000. This track is just beautiful and infectious. “Sometimes I’m Lost” is the third of the 7” releases and is a remix by label-mate Schengen of the track “Lost.” It is a subtle ambient piece with what sounds like rain blending into the mix. This track is very relaxing and brings the listener into a quiet, warm sense of being. Eventually, a drum track enters the mix and brings another dimension to the drones.

“Even the Sun” has an epic feel that recalls lush forests and Scottish highlands. Rachel Hughes contributes her lovely and light vocals to the mix and really complements the music. “An Open Sky” is a live track recorded in 2004 in Oxford. The keys soar and caress the listener’s ears as other notes enter the mix and add depth. This is followed by “Shifting,” another live track recorded in Oxford in 2004. This is an impressive mix and I really like these live recordings. They are very clear and the quality is excellent. I would love to hear an entire disc of live tracks. “Breathless” is slow in tempo and has a strong drumbeat along with Hughes’ vocals adding accents to the music. Her vox are embedded in the mix and are haunting and ethereal. “Sometimes” is a radio session track that makes one want to move. Hughes contributes once again to the beautiful and haunting feel of the track.

“Bloodlines” is one of my favorite Portal tracks and the version on this disc is also from a radio session. It’s haunting and perfect, as is to be expected. “Trace” is remixed by Epic45 with a playful use of echoing vocals and throbbing percussion. This remix is a great electronic tour de force worthy of a hypnotic dance number blasting over a club’s speakers. “Waves and Echoes” is an alternative version off of Portal’s 2005 disc. A minimal drone lays down a perfect bed for Hughes to make the audience swoon under her hypnotic power.

This disc is superb, especially considering that it is a smattering of tracks from different times in the band’s history. It hangs together well in spite of the disparate times of recording. The sadness that comes with this album is that it may be the last for Portal. A sound legacy of great art has come from Scott Sinfield and I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next!

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