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4.4 out of 5 stars21
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 January 2008
I picked this up after reading about the group in Jazzwise and I'm glad I did. Then "Jazz line up's" reviewer canned them as a one trick pony - why? Because they introduce a relatively new instrument called a "Hang" (think cross between steel drums and vibes). So I listened again. The appreciation remained. Its a fresh take on the usual sax-piano-bass-drums quartet, not just because of the hang but because of the musicianship and originality too. Brit Jazz meets Scandinavia, perhaps, if that helps, but they won me over without comparisons.
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2011
"Knee Deep in the North Sea" originally came out a few years ago and was correctly lauded as a contemporary jazz classic. This re-release is essentially the same set of tunes but they have been remixed to sonic perfection by Mr John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead...)

The production here is excellent - there is now more space and depth in the sound. The haunting tones of the hang drum shimmer like an amber sunset. Not a single pluck of the bass is lost. Crisp drums skitter and scatter. The saxophone is bruised and aching. Many of the songs evoke travel and reflective journeys (Steve Reich definitely an influence). There is much blissful repetition to be heard. Tunes such as the title track, "Steps in the Wrong Direction", "Pompidou" and "Prickly Pear" are wonderfully catchy and melodious and occasionally playful. A joy to listen to.

The bonus tracks here are also more than welcome - cosmic and loopy live renditions that give a good flavour of what the band are like in concert.

Here's hoping that this re-release will introduce Portico Quartet to a wider audience. Their music is both experimental and accessible and demands repeated listening.
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on 31 October 2008
Heard one of the tunes from this album on the radio (it probably got the airplay courtesy of the Mercury Music Prize nomination) and was immediately hooked.
The truth is, the word 'jazz' is normally enough to send a shiver of terror down my spine - but 'Knee Deep In The North Sea' is about as accessible an album as you will buy this year.
Indeed, the Portico Quartet appear to have more in common with the likes of Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Ellis Island Sound than the traditional self-indulgent trillings that most will associate with the genre.
This is a joyous, uplifting record that makes me want to skip about in smiley abandon, and there really aren't enough of those about. Great melodies, sunshine vibes and a 'hidden' track at the end that is one of the best on a pretty wonderful collection.
Well worthy of purchase and a genuine highlight of 2008.
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I have just seen this jazz group live at the Brighton festival. Who do they think they are? These four young lads have been wasting their time developing extraordinary skills in composition, instrumental dexterity, and general musical excellence when they should have been on their play-stations, or hanging around in Kevin mode, or couch-potatoing. Duh?

But the rest of us will benefit from this glorious sound. This is exciting and original jazz with nods to a wide range of musical eras. I am sure I heard bits of "Islands"-era King Crimson (when KC was a jazz band) along with the more exotic fuzzy bits of the late lamented EST.

The focus of the group is the Hang, a sort of inverted steel-drum which plays like a marimba - and provides a beautiful, hypnotic rhythm over which the sax and bass weave delicious harmonies. The drummer switches effortlessly between soft swishing brushes, to sudden bursts of hard-rock thunder. The bass-player sent tingles down the spine with some stunning (and complex) riffs - and the sax player used tape loops to build up yet more soundscapes for the band to play over.

As my "elderly" daughter (she's 27) said - "But they're only 20!".
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on 2 December 2008
Seen them on stage, where the saxophonist forgot his instrument and played on a borrowed one, A real impressive performance, each musician as good as the other. Bought the CD which was even better (better saxaphone!). The music stays with you, fills you, lifts you up.
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on 16 December 2008
One of the best albums in years. Every track warms the soul... and it just gets better every time you listen to it. Its quite chilled music but the songs arte very upbeat (I cant desribe it, just listen to the sample snippets) Go see them live in a small venue and they'll be your new favouite group. :)
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on 8 February 2010
If you like jazz or even if you don't you will most likely find many tracks to like on this album. Make sure to listen for "prickly pear" at the end of the disc. Every track could be a highlight.
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on 4 August 2013
Imaginative, subtle and it makes me happy. These are young men, i am an old woman - this is timeless music.
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on 11 May 2013
I'm so glad I took the time to listen to the cd on my hifi, rather than straight to the Ipod. There's a bit of Michael Nyman in there, lovely bass, perfect recording. Brilliant album. I hope to see these guys live soon. Much more accessible than Polar Bear, up there with Get the blessing and trichotomy.
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on 11 November 2013
In the last few years I've become interested in jazz particularly anything a lttle different and funky. This album qualifies on both counts. At times it can get a little too experimental even for me but overall I really enjoy it and I'd reccomend it to older listeners with more developed tastes.
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