Imagine that you are hanging, suspended, in dark water. Feel the ripples pressing against your skin – the weightless arch of your back – the soft, crackling water pressure.
Now imagine you are walking along a highway, in the middle of the night. Red taillights slash past. Your feet are heavy, and the sky is enormous. You hold your hands up in front of you, and can’t make out the outlines.
This is what it feels like to listen to Porterbox’s release, “Lost Angry Bells.” Unsettling, intricate, and ultimately a breath of dark magic – this is your soundtrack for every liminal space.
Roll the dice, might get what you need/Land inside a beautiful dream
Porterbox, a musical group composed of Adam Rath and Keith Luler, self-released their EP entitled Black Noise in September of 2020. The group adopts a lush, shadowy sound for “Lost Angry Bells.” Its sound profile is marked by electronic shivers, low droning synths, and a moody, driving beat. And, perhaps notably, it does not feature any particularly angry clanging bells.
The song is an exercise in rise and fall, in push and pull – it is a master of tension, to the point where the song often feels on the brink of bursting open, yet it always pulls back just in time. The chorus, at least, provides a sense of release; the transition from verse to chorus is marked by a swooshing, higher-pitched interlude, then the vocals lift into an earnest call:
Lost angry bells ring to us/Lost angry bells sing to us
The chorus has a sense of barely-contained chaos – the vocals are perfectly in control, yet they carry a dark charge, something buzzing beneath the surface. The chord progression is simple enough, the lyrics straightforward, yet there’s an ineffable sense of desperation in the execution, something near existential. Again, it seems more useful to conjure images than to attempt to quantify the wonderful strangeness of the piece: think dirt under fingernails, sleek black water, shadows prickling the back of your neck.
When the hounds of hell are coming around/Spin the wheel and lay your money down
Lyrically, the speaker seems fascinated by the idea of risk-taking; both verses reference gambling, whether that be in “rolling the dice” or “spinning the wheel.” But the song doesn’t seem interested in providing the results of the gamble – rather, it captures the roaring tension before, the white-hot seconds when the dice is in the air, the wheel is spinning, and everything is on the line.
Angry bells ring, lost/angry bells ring, lost—
The final rendition of the chorus tapers off in marvelous, calculated disintegration. The lyric delivery fractures so that the word “lost” and the phrase “angry bells” drive further and further apart, giving the listener the sense that perhaps we are no longer dealing with “lost, angry bells,” but rather simply “angry bells,” and that the “lostness” applies not to the bells, but to ourselves.
Porterbox strikes a dark, thrilling note with this release – and they are definitely a group to keep an eye on.