Melbourne-based MC Elf Tranzporter (real name Marlon Porter) certainly occupies something of a pivotal position amongst the vanguard of hip-hop’ early development within this country. After originally relocating to Australia from his native LA fifteen years ago, Porter was one of the founding members of early underground Australian hip-hop collective MetaBass “n’ Breath (famously namedropped on DJ Shadow’ Private Press sleeve art), responsible for releasing the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Life And Times Of A Beatboxer album back in 1995. While MetaBass even managed to perform at the renowned Rock Steady Reunion in NYC, since their dissolution Porter has certainly kept himself prolifically busy as a member of both politically-edged collective Combat Wombat and as an “offshore’ member of San Francisco group Heavyweight Dub Champion. In addition to the above duties, he’ also somehow found time to share the stage with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jurassic 5 and Grand Wizard Theodore, whilst also playing a crucial role in the development of Melbourne-based acts such as True Live and Red Eyes. All of which certainly goes a long way to explaining why it’s taken until now for Porter to deliver his debut solo album proper, the somewhat surrealistically-titled Ethereal Lotus Fleet. From almost the very outsret, it’s dub/dancehall that shines through as perhaps the most dominant influence here, with fellow Combat Wombat collaborator DJ Wasabi responsible for production here alongside TZU’ Count Bounce, with occasional melodic keyboard interjections from Melbourne dubmeister Mista Savona.
If opening track “Keep On Moving’ begins things on a moody, jazz-infused tip that smoothly balances Porter’ rapid-fire syllables with noir-stained horn samples and low-slung beat programming, it soon proves to be one of this album’ more “straight out’s hip-hop moments, though Porter’ vocal segue down into ragga-chat styles during the track’ outro certainly hints at the perceptible backbone of dub / ragga that lurks beneath much of this collection. First single “I Awoke’ easily provides one of the most immediately arresting moments here, the slightly hackneyed-by-now sampling of Dubya that underpins the intro taking on a decidedly eerie edge, courtesy of Savona’ retro horror-movie styled organs, before Wasabi and Bounce target the bassbins with plenty of satisfying rhythmic snap and Porter unleashes his eloquently outraged ragga-tinged flow on a wide range of targets.
Maya Jupiter collaboration “How We Roll’ manages to easily provide one of this album’ most infectious party bangers with an atypical slide towards Baltimore electro styles that sends fluttering breakbeats and buzzing bass synths crashing beneath Porter and Jupiter’ rapid mic swaps and some furious turntablist cuts from Wasabi. By comparison, “Custom Religion’ sees guest producer Custom taking things out into eerie Middle Eastern-meets-Indian instrumental samples, the ghostly rhythmic backing providing a suitably apocalyptic-sounding counterpoint to Porter’ lyrical examination of religious fundamentalism that vaguely suggests Asian Dub Foundation, before the Vida Sunshyne-fronted “Blessed Up’ pushes things towards more robust electro-dancehall rhythms, a trajectory smoothly followed by “Path Stretch’ sojourn down into laidback reggae / lovers’ rock rhythms. An extremely impressive and consistently engaging debut album from Elf Tranzporter – in this case, the extended wait was definitely worth it.