“Between the Lines” is the third album from Portmanteaux. For the first time Portmanteaux have included two vocally-led tracks both featuring Matthew Harding’s lead and harmony vocals. The first is “Crossing the Line” driven by a horn section and complete with a crisp drum break from Mick Frawley. The second is the poppy but provocative “Pretend”. Portmanteaux’s funk theme is represented by the spacey synthesiser-driven “Inside Space”, the melodic “End of the Line” and “Everything U Wanna Know”. The latter is a New Orleans-style funk tune complete with heavy organ lead from Steve Malkin, a sax solo from guest Jeff Vague and horn riff from Matthew Harding (saxes) and guests Emily Mould (trombone) and Liam McGorry (trumpet). Rockier instrumental tracks are represented by the driving “Slomo Murphy” and “Southside Throwdown.” Jazzier sounds are to be found in the quirky “This Bass is Mine”, the laidback “Felonious” and the fast be-boppish “Flibbertigibbet”. The soprano saxophone of Matthew Harding leads the theme on “Nightcap” – the closing song of the album.
Recommended if You Like:
Medeski Martin & Wood, Steely Dan, The Meters
Where can I get a copy?
- Crossing the Line
- This Bass is Mine
- Slomo Murphy
- Inside Space
- End of the Line
- Southside Throwdown
- Everything U Wanna Know
REVIEW OF BETWEEN THE LINES by Al Hensley, Rhythms Magazine, September/October issue 2015, page 36.
“It’s been 10 years since Melbourne quintet Portmanteaux released their debut CD, General Eclectic, and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since their 2009 follow-up, Five Ways Home. Nice to know this highly skilled group is still around and cooking up their spicy musical gumbo of funk, blues, soul and jazz. Between the Lines is another all-original set of instrumentals plus, for the first time, a couple of vocal sides written by keyboardist Steve Malkin and sung by Matthew Harding who also plays saxophones and EWI (electric wind instrument). The lead track, ‘Crossing the Line’, is one that features vocals. And while it has an arrangement that would match the best you’d hear on a Motown record, the other vocal track, ‘Pretend’ sounds more like a paltry pop tune from an early Top 40 playlist, hardly representative of this group’s quality material.
The band’s strength lies in its instrumental prowess, the gushing talents of guitarist Henry Jackson, bassist Nick Allen and drummer Mick Frawley completing a stellar lineup, augmented on some cuts by additional horn players. The accent here is on funky grooves, particularly unremitting on ‘Slomo Murphy’, ‘Inside Space’, ‘End of the Line’ and ‘Everything U Wanna Know’. If they don’t coax the listener onto the dance floor, the blues shuffles ‘This Bass is Mine’ and ‘Southside Throwdown’ will. Versatility is the name of the game for this ensemble, never content to stay too long in one bag. ‘Felonious’ shows their expertise when it comes to soul/jazz, the post bop of ‘Flibbertigibbet’ and smooth jazz of ‘Nightcap’ capping off this tantalising playlist. Since the album was recorded, Allen has been replaced on bass guitar by Margaret Magalotti who also sings. It’ll be interesting to hear how the band’s sound evolves in future.”