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Music Review: Porter Ricks – Biokinetics

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I wonder if the world is ready for this album yet. Biokinetics by Porter Ricks was originally released in 1996, on the Chain Reaction label, and was immediately hailed as a classic in the dub techno genre. Of course you had to be deeply immersed in the scene to know about it, but much like the first Plastikman album Sheet One, it left a lasting impression on all who heard it.

Porter Ricks was the name of the musical duo of Thomas Koner and Andy Mellwig. As a pioneer of dark ambient music, Koner’s talents blended with Mellwig’s sound engineering skills nicely, and the pair produced a timeless artifact in Biokinetics. One of the unfortunate traits of mid-’90s electronic music is the fact that it often sounds dated now. This is not the case with Biokinetics however. The duo’s mix of seemingly organic sounds, with a stark minimalism resulted in a disc which constantly moves and surprises the listener.

There is something of an underwater theme linking the eight tracks together, beginning with the opening, burbling sounds of “Port Gentil.” The beat literally bubbles up from the depths of this 12:25 track, all the while washing us in an incredible synthesized bed of sound. The pair make it explicit during “Nautical Dub,” which follows. The grooves get deeper and deeper with both “Biokinetics 1,” and “Biokinetics 2.” These first four tracks guaranteed the album a place as a definitive Intelligent Dance Music recording, but they were not done yet.

Koner and Mellwig finally lift their heads above water during “Port of Call.” While the water theme is still evident in the title, this is the first “dance” track on the disc. It doesn’t really even qualify as a techno song though, too much other stuff is going on besides the beat. The slightly more conventional tone is continued on “Port of Nuba,” and “Nautical Nuba,” before we reach the final, incredible “Nautical Zone.” This track seals it once and for all. Everything I have ever loved about this form of music is present. The muted beat, the complex soundscapes, and the ever-changing moods combine to make “Nautical Zone” not only the best song on the album, but one of the finest examples of the music ever.

As a genre, IDM probably peaked sometime in the mid-to-late ’90s. There were some notable crossover successes, such as Aphex Twin, 777, and the soundtrack to the film Pi. Biokinetics certainly belongs among such exalted company, it is a record that is absolutely stunning in breadth and scope. Biokinetics stands as one of the best IDM records ever released, but I thought it would remain a secret lost to the ages. Thanks to this Type Records reissue though, that is not the case after all. You may have some difficulty finding this one in your local record store, if so you may wish to click here for more information.

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