by Andrew Garrison
Frontman Phillip Ekström calls his bands’ fourth release, Portico: “A silent hunt for something else. We always end up seeing our albums as small films. And Portico: would definitely be our little space saga. It’s a bit of a spiritual album. I want to get connected to nothingness.” With this goal in mind, I can confidently say that the Swedish four piece, The Mary Onettes have accomplished it. When listening to the seven track album you can tell there is some sort of definitive arc to it, with reoccurring themes and sounds uniting it as one complete work.
One of the more common motifs, and an odd one for an album at that is the notion of Silence. Leading off with “Silence is a Gun” a dreamy, mellow, hazy yet purposeful track seems to be prepping us for our little space journey. In “Naïve Dream” it seems like we have lift off. While equally hazy and dreamy, as well as frequent references to silence, we have a much more confident guitar notes and blissful vocals. Towards the end of the song we get a futuristic sounding guitar fade out and we are into the great unknown and there is no turning back. “Ritual Mind” has for lack of a better term, spaced out vocals with very cool deep, plunging production elements, providing an all-around exploratory vibe. “Everything Everything” seems to be the high point of the album, being more up tempo than the previous songs with little snippets of some broadcast coming in and out, like some far off signal. Here we have the vocals taking a backseat with guitars piloting and motivated drums riding shotgun. “Your Place” keeps our tempo up with some outstanding drum progressions and some pretty neat layering. In a normal arc, we would expect to be coming back down to Earth sometime soon, but that isn’t the case with Portico:. While we are definitely nearing the end of our journey, “Bells for Stranger” doesn’t seem to be bringing us closer. While the lyrics suggest we are “Closer than ever before,” instead, it seems as if we are drifting away with a much slower song. We are again provided with the silence theme and words cut out with about a minute left in the song and opt for a futuristic fade out. This fade rolls right into “Portico: 2014” a wordless song that progresses this notion of drifting away in space. Deliberate piano keys are the only thing anchoring us, which ultimately cuts into, you guessed it, silence.
The Mary Onettes without a doubt take us on a journey through their newest album Portico: however, for me, I was kind of wishing it ultimately went somewhere, instead of leaving us floating. While it is an ambitious album that has all of its musical elements there and executed quite well, I still found myself longing for some sort of closure. Something. Maybe that is the point. Maybe they intended to leave us with the emptiness and silence, wanting more. If that was indeed the purpose or lack thereof then: Mission Accomplished.