Emilio Portal was born in New Westminster in British Columbia in 1982, and eventually landed in Sudbury, Ontario where his mother was born. He started playing drums at the age of 13, and has been creating electronic music since 2000.
His father immigrated to Canada from Peru in 1969. Spanish wasn’t spoken at home, but many Peruvian records were played, and his father (an accomplished singer and wordsmith) sang along to every song played. These were formative years. The intoxicating and passionate rhythms played on the cajon, castanets and through clapping forged Emilio’s love for music rooted in Indigenous Andean and West African cultures. The foundations of a syncretic way of thinking
and of seeing the world was laid: his musical practice has always revolved around the merging of the analog and digital, the rhythmic and chaotic, the composed and improvised, which is all an expression of their mixed identity, and an embracing of vulnerability and precarity.
Portal is also a lifelong student of the history of colonization and philosophy, and both have deeply impacted their sense of self, his political & philosophical stance, and their experimental musical and visual expressions. His work is pensive, ambient and gritty. Portal loves beats, organic tempos, and field recordings. Often, Emilio creates custom musical instruments from everyday sounds (influenced by electroacoustic methods). Portal is also a practitioner of indeterminacy, chance operations and improvisation. The sounds of the 70s, specifically funk, jazz and fusion, and 90s hip hop always find a way in.
Along with being a musician and composer, Emilio also produces, mixes and masters soundtracks, albums, and singles for other artists, musicians, and film. The most recent co-production (2021) was with artist Jessica Karuhanga. The co-produced album will be featured as the soundtrack for Karuhanga’s contemporary interdisciplinary production entitled you feel me.
To date, Emilio has released 8 full length albums, 2 EPs, and 13 singles.
From the artist: Every rustling leaf, foot step or helicopter. Every laughing child, flowing creek or philosophical debate. Every news broadcast, frying eggs, or dog barking has a sonic signature that is ingrained in our memories and psyche. That is why we can recognize the various soundscapes that envelop us. Every sonic signature taps into our memory banks, and immediately creates a visual, material and emotional flashback.
My work delves into this entangled sonic mesh, and intentionally recontextualizes regular sounds into rhythmic, psychedelic and ethereal compositions. I am continuously surprised and inspired by the act of exploring sound, by deeply listening. It is my hope to share this excitement with anyone who listens to my work.
During the Play Smelter Festival, I will create multiple compositions based on field recordings of the festival itself – of conversations, noises, random soundscapes, and so forth. Collaboration is a major aspect of how I work, and I welcome working with other artists in any discipline throughout the Festival.
POP-UP MAY 11-14