- When Vex'd broke up and each member went solo, it became clear who was responsible for their aggressive edge. In the time since those heady dubstep days, Roly Porter has reinvented himself as an experimentalist indebted to modern classical. His work so far has ranged from live improvisation to dark ambient with a Max Richter-like melodicism, all of it delivered with sci-fi flair. Those impulses came together beautifully on his last record, a 36-minute journey that charted the life cycle of a star, from birth to explosive death, using the classical sensibilities of his first solo album, Aftertime. With Third Law, Porter takes his music into the avant-garde. The music consists of his familiar elements, but Porter now uses them to disorient, surround and overwhelm. It's an aggressive record in a much different way than the straight bludgeoning of Vex'd, but one that puts his music in an equally visceral context.
Third Law marries the soundsystem influence of Porter's older work with the symphonic approach of his new solo sound. The intention is to eliminate any genre allegiances whatsoever, and he's nearly successful: this hefty, 53-minute record is rarely easy to follow, nor does it toss many recognizable ideas at you. Instead, it'll hit you with lightning strikes and then plunge you into eerie calm, pushing Porter's strong melodies further into the background. Sounds snag and stutter like some immense stuck turbine, while new melodic motifs appear and disappear seemingly at random. The more epic moments on Life Cycle Of A Massive Star might have felt huge, but they were earned, expected. Here, they burst out in sudden eruptions, blaring in your face and shaking the ground around you. It's a trick that starts on the operatically grand opener, "4101," and then repeats throughout the album in increasingly pulverizing fashion.
Porter's less tractable approach means Third Law is a bumpy ride, but that's what makes it interesting: the quiet passages are more eerie, and the loud passages more frightening. What Third Law lacks in narrative it gains in intrigue. It's also deceptively percussive, from the punishment of "Mass" and "Departure Stage" to the lumbering cacophony of "Blind Blackening." Porter piles on drums, choral vocals, strings and other electronic drones in intricate layers, which is how he develops his songs. This is music that doesn't move from one point to another so much as it slowly spreads outward and then snaps back inward.
Third Law's second half is especially harrowing. On "High Places," sudden blasts of noise rip through the fabric of the recording while chunks of shrapnel fly across the soundstage like faint memories of Vex'd's Degenerate. This is Porter once again finding his way around the impulses and ideas that have fascinated him since the beginning. Third Law is the most unforgiving album Porter has released, and it's also the one that relates back to Vex'd the most. Like that duo's records, Third Law trades emotion for physical power and presence. Porter has figured out how to channel the aggression of his early material into the maturity and otherworldliness of his solo work, and it's as breathtaking as it is bruising.
02. In System
04. Blind Blackening
05. High Places
06. In Flight
07. Departure Stage
08. Known Space