It has been eight years since Portion Control released Pure Form, which solidified the group’s relevancy in the modern era of experimental electronica that they helped to create back in the early ‘80s. After so long a wait, this writer was concerned that the band had quietly called it quits… I should’ve known better, for Portion Control has never done anything quietly. Head Buried remains true to the irreverent punklike ethos employed by Dean Piavanni and John Whybrew since the band’s foundation, with the focus purely on sound design and rhythmic structure rather than melody.
For instance, tracks like “Regime,” “Regulation One,” and the opening “Head Buried” could be categorized as simple, straightforward EBM, the oscillations and manipulations of synthesized noise and samples creating a cybernetic atmosphere that is an almost masochistic treat for the ears. The vocals are as minimal as ever, often reduced to brief mantras and manifestos that steadily insinuate their way into the listener’s psyche; such is the case with “Ninth Child,” the repetitions of “What ever happened to the land of plenty?” and “Too little too late” proving striking in their simplicity to the point of outright catchiness. Some tracks like the appropriately titled “Claw and Scrape” and “Degrade” slow things down to allow the distorted grind of the bass to shake and even punch one’s insides, the rhythms almost funky amid gutsy vocals, while the four “DROP” tracks each introduce their own brand of industrialized sound design, sometimes taking on a monolithic, almost orchestral complexity where divergent tempos clash amid robotic and factorylike atmospheres with the intimations of klaxons and sirens. The album closes with the closest Portion Control has yet come to industrial/rock as the gyrating and roaring electronic distortions of “Cock” taking on a character not unlike that of an electric guitar, the tension heightened and the attitude belligerent as the track ends on a brilliantly abrupt note.
In some regards, Head Buried is Portion Control doing what it does best and doing little to differentiate this record from past outings, but after four decades, what do Piavanni and Whybrew have to prove to anyone, even after the last several years of absence? On top of that, this album demonstrates the duo’s strengths in sound construction and mix, so be sure to watch your volume settings lest your headphones bring about your downfall.