When Alan Abrahams aka Portable drops his vocals in the midst of his live sets, the skin tingling reaction is undeniably instantaneous. It’s Portable’s s hauntingly deep lyrics that are the hallmark of his artistry, performed with his typical flamboyance they hinge on a rhythm section that seems to permeate from the most intimate part of his soul. It's not hard to see why house and techno pioneers such as Perlon founder and fabric67's Zip are such huge fans of his, racing to release true Portable wax such as 'Find Me' and 'Into Infinity' - his latest LP release to date.
Growing up in South Africa, Abrahams has kept an explicit connection to his musical background heritage in his contemporary production. Fusing Afro-European music and culture together whilst transcending the waves of electronic music he took himself to London as his first new and musical base at the turn of the century where he founded the Süd Electronic label with his partner Lerato in 2002. Releasing a string of his 12" releases and is still riding strong today. Since he’s found himself based in Lisbon and currently Berlin, where he’s enlisted none other than Tama Sumo to join in on the A&R of the label as their latest addition to the Süd Electronic fam.
We also can't mention Portable without giving a nod to his dance floor focussed alias Bodycode - a body moving dance project backed by a repertoire of dance-floor essentials including the 'A Document Of An African Past' EP on Yore Records and 'Immune' LP on Spectral Sound. While it's also a great feeling to hear a Portable/Bodycode release in the mix on a club system, what's even better is to experience the full live show from the man himself, which is exactly what we're looking forward to as he prepares to play live through our Martin Audio system this Saturday.
To understand the natural energy of Alan Abrahams listen to this special live recording he's exclusively put together for us and read on for our interview with him below.
Hi Alan. Let’s start with the New Year. What are your hopes, dreams and fears for 2013?
Like everyone I am hoping for the continual strife for peace and equality.
Reading your biography, it explains how the birth of your dancefloor alias, 'Bodycode' arrived after you moved to Lisbon. Can you fill us in on this transitional time in your life?
Currently I am living in Berlin. I moved to Lisbon after spending ten years in London and as I grew up near the ocean I wanted to live close to the sea again and incorporate those natural elements into my music. My general lifestyle at the time would be to have gigs in other parts of Europe on the weekend and during the week take time out at the ocean and conceptualize and compose and this is how Bodycode came about.
You regularly speak about your South African heritage and how it plays a great influence on your sound. We strongly felt it on Mary Boyoi -Zooz- (Tama Sumo / Portable Remixes) late last year. Can you tell us more on your approach?
I listen to a lot of traditional African music from all over the continent. In this way I try to soak in these multiple rhythms and textures. As I grew up in South Africa, this was always in my blood and my heritage. With each new release I am constantly trying to get back in touch with my ancestors and to somehow reinterpret what lies deep within my Psyche.
We were graced by the wonderfully talented, Tama Sumo in Room One last November. She told us how much she is enjoying co-running Süd Electronic with Lakuti and yourself. It’s warming to hear her passion in telling us you are all “fostering a change in the world through music..." Do you ever have to pinch yourself to realise what you’ve achieved together so far?
Actually you nailed it, I do sometimes have to do that and just be continually grateful for what we have achieved so far.
The vocal and rhythm section of your live set builds up some serious dancefloor drama. Can you explain to those who haven’t seen you yet what your live show is all about?
My live set is totally live! I have all my ingredients of the track and then cook it up into a stew of sounds. Then add my voice which is my most personal possession and offer it to the audience. I have a range of controllers and some vocal effects and end up using my voice and just another instrument in the track. Each live set is new, I might decide on playing some core releases one every occasion but each time they will come out differently depending on what the audience is responding to and how much.
There are too many to mention so we picked out just a couple of records that we know you best for. Can you explain some of the inspiration behind each one?
Body To Body - Featuring – Lerato - A Document of An American Past- Yore Records
Lerato and I grew up in South Africa and we wanted to lay down a document of what it meant to grow up during that era, somehow Body to Body was the perfect answer.
Albatros - Portable – Powers Of Ten
This album and track I made in Portugal, it was a period in my life when I had to make a lot of personal decisions and I often spent time at the ocean to work things out, hence albatross
Bodycode - Immune - Spectral Sound
The title track refers to a personal moment as I had just decided to move from Lisbon to Berlin and though it was a painful decision, '' nothing in this world is immune from change ''
Find Me–Into Infinity- Perlon
This ended up being a classic of sorts for my career, as being released earlier on a 12" on Perlon, Zip insisted that we release it on the album too. We also just released a remix of it as part of the album remixes.
How have you found your release schedule and priorities have changed over the years?
Yes, I am not as rushed to finish things but let things take their time. I allow myself time to work, to play, to have fun. And I’m taking more care of my body, we only have one!
So what can we look forward next from both Portable and Bodycode?
I am working on a new EP for our label Südelectronic and also for Perlon for this year. I have a track also featuring Lcio which will be out on a compilation on Live @ Robert Johnson.
Just for fun- pick one of your favourite?
Albums of all time?
Brian Eno - Music for Airports
Sequence Cat waistcoat!
Memory of your career?
Live at Südelectronic, London
Joining Portable live in Room One is San Proper, Craig Richards and Terry Francis. Trus'Me has his album launch in Room Two and Delusions Of Grandeur take on Room Three. For more info and tickets go here.