Having made a stylish return to the electronic underground with the album Wellcome  in 2004, industrial act Portion Control now delivers a timely retrospective box set for collectors. Here we find 5 CDs of which appears to be the vast majority of their vinyl back catalogue work - plus extras - for the first time available in digital format. The material includes the bands early albums and EPs spread over the first 4 discs, with a limited edition bonus CD including high quality MP3s of everything included on the initial 4 discs, plus a remix of the track Refugee Rebuild by Rhys Fulber and 135 past & present related images of the band. Disc one focuses on the 1982 album I Staggered Mentally, accompanied by the EP Hit The Pulse, which was released the following year. This is the rough template from which many industrial bands were influenced, and to some extent copied – notably two of the genres most successful and original protaganists, Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy, alongside the hard rhythmic electronics of Depeche Mode. I Staggered Mentally is as raw an electronic album as you could possibly find,  focusing around Dean Piavani’s anguished vocals set to an urban-industrial backing track of creaking metal, maudlin drones, primitive beats and alienating analogue flickers.It also is considered the first album  to feature the legendary roland bass line TB-303 On the Hit The Pulse EP, Portion Control’s sound becomes more refined and sophisticated, although still completely out on a ledge for its time. This is the band’s first movement towards critical acceptance – with tracks like Thrust Angle showing innovation through its primitive sampling and sequencing methods – the music shaped by much cleaner beats and bass lines, although the heavily rhythmic bruise of the excellent Abbodabbo retained their leanings towards intense musical masochism.
Disc Two, titled Code002, features Portion Control’s final albums of the eighties before their lengthy semester, Step Forward (1984) and Psycho-Bod Saves The World (1986). Personally, this is where I find Portion Control at the peak of their powers – an amalgamation of purist industrial music, now shaped into songs rather than atmospheres – with marching rhythms and melodic passages. On Step Forward, we find classic tracks such as Havoc Man, with its edgy sequenced bass line and New Order-style synth-stabs, Piavani is on top form here vocally. There is also a number of creaking instrumental atmospheric numbers here – Eno antidotes I call them. The song Tex Mex is another blinder – I’m leaning towards the more melodic tracks – but you can see how easy and perhaps tempting it would have been for Portion Control to drop their principles and enter the synthpop mainstream fray – Depeche Mode for one said “thanks very much” – took what they could then amalgamated it into their synthpop universe. On Psycho-Bod Saves The World, you can see the clear influence Portion Control had on industrial purists Front Line Assembly – with its reams of multi-layered film samples and moody soundscapes. The album embraces live drumming and more fluid song writing ethics, the basslines powering the songs forward, moving further away from the static, motoric robotisism of previous works. Fistful Of Creds, with its tribal rhythms and wailing siren synth sounds is a brooding standout. Code003, meanwhile, features the 1986 EP Purge and the 1983 compilation album Simulate Sensual. Purge saw Portion Control refining their sound further, everything is tighter here – I believe this EP represented the band’s first real stab at entering the alternative commercial mainstream at least – with Piavani’s vocal toned down somewhat, and high pitched melodic motifs increasingly apparent on tracks such as Raise The Pulse and The Great Divide. Finally, we come to the fourth disc in the collective, which features the EP Surface And Be Seen (1982) the singles Raise The Pulse (1982), Rough Justice and Go Talk (1984), and The Great Divide (1985). This harks back to the band’s most experimental and fragmented cuts; critically acclaimed, but leagues away from what your everyday synth pundit was clamouring for at the time – and sometimes hard to swallow. Portion Control is highly active now, and some might think better than ever, however, not only is this box set a completists dream, but it also goes some way to help map out the history of the industrial genre and other associated styles of electronic music. For that alone it’s a key body of work – well packaged and put together, despite some of the material being admittedly difficult to assimilate In 1987 Portion Control signed to London Records and promptly vanished. They reformed a few years later as Solar Enemy which existed from 1990 to 1993. Portion Control weren't seen again until 2002 when fansite 319 Online announced a resumption of activities by the band resulting not long after in a free downloadable software demo, code 11,  featuring graphics, a rare remix of an old track – suck and blow, and samples of new material. Nothing else was released by them, however, until early 2004 with the release of the critically acclaimed double album Wellcome (the title inspired by the work of Sir Henry Wellcome) The more recent output stays true to portion controls refusal to compromise, and can be tracked via this website
construction/destruction: bitwig, serum, omnisphere, reaktor, audio damage, sony a6000 resolume, the British Museum
electronic dissonance for techno industrial pilgrims