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This review is from: Isla (Audio CD)
Portico Quartet play an almost indefineable concoction part minimalism, part jazz, part avant-garde, part "world-music". They create soundscapes into which I am delighted to venture, though jazz has only played a peripheral part in my own wanderings until now, and much of that has been in the form of cross-pollinations with traditional music, such as with Pentangle, Lena Willemark And Ale Moller and others.
The quartet's instrumentation is comprised of saxophone, the hang, double-bass and drums, with occasional electronics and piano. The four musicians play with a level of intuition and depth of subtlety that is a real delight to behold. The album has a feel not dissimilar to some of the Scandinavian artists on the ECM record label, whilst that curious hang adds a certain quality redolent of warmer places.
Sometimes, as with Line and Shed Song the quartet evoke images of perpetually shifting reflections on the surface of a lake, or a cascading, bubbling stream, their instruments interweaving and their music forming and reforming. At other times I am reminded of Amnesiac or In Rainbows-era Radiohead, as with Clipper, which was first contact for me and the piece that convinced me to buy this album. Some tracks move as brooding meditations borne upon sinuous undercurrents, threatening to burst forth into discordant cacophony, and then live up to their promise with passages of squawking, honking abandon. Other tracks, like Paper Scissors Stone and Subo's Mental Meltdown, bound along with a playful joie de vivre. The title track Isla is a beauty, a dynamic piece where the band are joined to wonderful effect by a string quartet. The Visitor has a slight Middle Eastern or Klezmer quality to it. Shed Song - an improvised piece named for the garden shed at the bottom of the band's garden in which they were playing, reminds me of the Rockies, vast, epic, quiet landscapes, there are even "cries" reminiscent of the bugling of elk. To me much of the jazz that I have heard elsewhere seems to be "of" the city, but this album frequently feels far removed from all of that. Isla has been intriguing and enchanting me more than any other album these past few weeks, it's a beauty.