Isla - 2010 Edition Extra tracks
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Unlike anyone in jazz, world or contemporary, Portico Quartet's music is both pleasingly familiar and thrillingly new - like World Music from the future. Like their fans, they have grown up immersed in the global jukebox of sounds available to anyone with curiosity and an internet connection. What they play can't be classified as World, Jazz, Pop, Rock or contemporary classical music, yet they draw strenght and inspiration from all those genres. Thanks to the use of the hang, a tuned percussion instrument, they have a sound that is instantly attractive, yet uncompromising individual. From a grassroots start in 2005, busking on London's South Bank, their reputation spread swiftly. Their 2007 debut, Knee Deep In The North Sea (Babel/Vortex), attracted attention from DJ's, bloggers abd critics, and was dominated for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize. Their new album, Isla, is a thoughtful and richly tuneful collection of nine pieces recorded by producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Dove, XTC, Radiohead) at Abbey Road
Top customer reviews
I couldn't wait to hear the next album after listening to their debut but it's real disappointment after the freshness and innovation of 'Knee Deep in the North Sea' . The hang, an instrument with real potential to enliven and revolutionise new music, becomes merely incidental to the 'finished sound'
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 sends tingles down the spine with some stunning (and complex) riffs - and the sax player builds exotic soundscapes for the band to play over.
This is music to relax to, music to dance to, music to listen to in smoky bars, music to enjoy - warming, happy, clever, but with an interesting harder edge underneath - whether the occasional screeches from the sax, or rumbling from the bass.
If you like (the late lamented) EST, or Keith Jarrett's Scandinavian group, or even Neil Ardley's synthesiser jazz - you will most likely enjoy this.
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.
First off, the music is great. A sort of world-jazz, as I've heard it described, with an interesting combination of instruments and sonics.
The vinyl version does not come with the bonus track that is on the CD and download versions. But don't despair, the record comes with a download coupon for a high-quality 320kps version of the album c/w the bonus track. The sleeve is made from rather thin stock and therefore prone to damage if one doesn't handle it carefully. The vinyl pressing is average. I was a bit disappointed with the quality. There is noticeable pops/clicks on my copy right out of the shrink wrap. I think if you're going to do a vinyl version of your recording, a little extra time and money would be a wise move. Otherwise there doesn't seem to be a lot of point, to me anyway.
In closing, 5 stars for the music, but 1 star deducted for an average vinyl pressing.
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I'm convinced. Isla is magical, it percolates through your brain and pushes all the happiness buttons.Read more
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