- The American essayist Rebecca Solnit once wrote that "history is a continuum of innumerable facts; mythology is the pattern of origins and reasons one picks out of them." Eric Douglas Porter is an artist adept at making that transition, of taking bare facts—this happened, once—and turning them into myth, an origin story, a tradition to work his way out of. The tracks on Circuitous, Porter's third solo album, are diverse and sometimes hard to follow, often glitching out and tumbling over themselves. The album's source material is a grand pool of African-American musical history which has coalesced here in a particular way, bubbling up through the settled landscape of one's expectations.
Take "The Image": "The sound image, the image sound," says a disembodied voice. Behind it, the music is a dreamlike wash of modular bubbles and infinitely varying melody, closer to Alice Coltrane than Frankie Knuckles. The tracks feel like impressions of particular sounds—techno on "Evolved In Twists," hip-hop on "Transient Authority," jazz just about everywhere. There's even one track, "Feel," that bends into waltz time, as if we're on some uncanny fairground ride. The idea of each style as an image—that a sound can be reproduced and its meaning altered in a new context—allows Porter to throw these sounds together and to examine the possibilities that open up.
Theo Parrish said a while back that "jazz is just as rugged as hip-hop is, and hip-hop is just as elegant as classical. These things are present, but the language we're using to talk about them tends to be outdated, outmoded." It seems that Circuitous is similarly concerned with the need for new languages, more useful modes of communication. The different sounds Porter uses, the forms he folds into his own, are more than just referential. Like Parrish, he is involved in a process of collage and re-imagination. The sounds of the past are filtered through Porter's playing with them, and it's up to him to transform a communal history of music making into a personal vision of the future—one where the world might be easier to understand, where it might make more sense.
It's a particularly "American Intelligence" this, a form of sampling that goes way beyond the surface-level sounds to something deeper, more historical. Porter is making something out of what others have made, knowing that the future is always in need of re-creation, re-making. There is no blank slate; instead, the future must be dug out of the mess of all that's been. Circuitous reflects that mess.
01. Two In The Chamber
02. Reddin Off
03. Transient Authority
04. Evolved In Twists
09. The Image
10. Group Home Reality
11. Alibi II
13. I'm Asking You KB
14. Tell Me Who Like That (Bedside Manner)