- Audio CD (30 Jan. 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Real World Records
- ASIN: B0062XH7PK
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,089 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Portico Quartet CD
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Portico Quartet still sound like nothing you ever heard before. The Mercury nominated East London based outfit's unique music has expanded to embrace new sonic territories. Drawing on the inspiration of electronica, ambient, classical and dance music as they take their strange, beautiful, cinematic, future music to exciting new vistas where the inspiration of Burial, Mount Kimbie and Flying Lotus rubs shoulders with the textures of Arve Henriksen and Bon Iver and echoes of Steve Reich and Max Richter. But all underpinned by a shared joy in collective music making as the band push their inimitable music into the future.
Portico Quartet remain famous for two things: busking lucratively on London’s South Bank and employing the lilting gong of their UFO-like hang drum. But things have changed for this four-piece. The band’s wages are no longer thrown into open instrument cases, thanks in part to a profile-raising Mercury nomination in 2008 for their debut Knee-Deep in the North Sea. And last year their man on the hang departed: "I’ve always felt like a fraud at the hang drum," said Nick Mulvey.
It’s no biggie, though. This time out, the pretty, steely sound of the hang – taken up by new keysman Kier Vine – is set further back than on 2009’s Isla, just one sound among many. What this band should be acclaimed for instead is barrelling through time and genres to make bewitching mood music that’s on a par with Jaga Jazzist. Much like that Norwegian ensemble’s last effort, Portico Quartet (the album) is a mazy, fluid, ethereal suite of chamber jazz to get properly lost in.
Whereas Portico’s previous (second) album Isla was in thrall to Steve Reich and his ripple-effect minimalism, it seems Brian Eno, Four Tet and the Brainfeeder crew are touchstones on songs inspired by train journeys, on-tour blues and the soul-quieting effect of dramatic architecture. Jack Wylie’s sax and Vine’s keys weave dark, mournful tapestries around electronic drums and gadget-enabled bleeps and twitches, while the hang presents itself in ghostly samples and squawks and squeaks serve as on-the-road sound effects.
Everything still sounds familiarly Portico Quartet, only fresh, forward-thinking and a little bit tougher. Their arrangements and wide-open ambience remain sparse, but, on InterRailing-inspired Window Seat, are paired with the sort of drifting synths Oneohtrix Point Never is adored for. Ruins and Steepless – the latter featuring London-based Swedish singer Cornelia – carry the Radiohead gene always present in their improbably tuneful experiments. Ravey nightsongs such as Lacker Boo crackle with the electric, ominous energy of Flying Lotus, while Rubidium and 4096 Colours are bleary-eyed, melancholy and shot through with wintry mid-morning light. As journeys go, this one’s endlessly absorbing.
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Top customer reviews
The first 4 or 5 tracks embrace electronics, sampling and sequencing. The Jazzy elements are disguised, with less prominence to Soprano Sax and the sound of plucked Double Bass.
There is a tendency to set up a repetitive sequenced "hang" or other keyboard sample - this is synchronised with synthetic drum sounds, that were completely absent on the first two albums. After all - if you have a really good virtuoso drummer in the band - why do you need programmed drums? This gives the casual listener something to hang onto, but may deter Jazz fans.
The suspicion is that the band are turning their back on Jazz audiences and looking to attract people who would prefer DJ music in clubs. The sounds are intriguing and hypnotic. They could provide the soundtrack to an up-market, atmospheric thriller - but I suspect the real test will be seeing how the group approach this music live on stage. Will they veer into Free improv. territory or look to get the audience dancing to their programmed beats?
This is a direction that has been taken in European Jazz circles with artists like Nils Petter Molvaer and the sound has a quality that comes from an understanding of real instruments and a lot of playing. There is more interest than in most repetitive dance music.
"Sleepless" is where we veer most markedly away from Jazz and into trip-hop territory and could have appeared on a Massive Attack album, with no incongruity. In fact, the most apt description I could think of was that this album is like Massive Attack meets a European Jazz group - which is not altogether an unpleasant thought - for myself especially, being a fan of both that band and European Jazz.
All in all, this is interesting stuff and I will be fascinated to see how they progress - maybe a "work in progress" - but worth checking out, none the less.
I cannot recommend this more highly, no matter what previous listening experience you have had. The musical innovation on the record is outstanding, particularly when you consider that this is a mostly performed record (see them perform material from this live and you'll understand what I mean, they have complete mastery of the raw materials). Anything that sounds even remotely similar to this, of which actually I don't think there is much, will more often than not be produced by one person in front of a computer screen. To be able to create this variety and complexity of rhythm and texture through a 4 piece live instrumental band is sheer musicianship and virtuosity, and to render it on record in such a perfectly produced manner is even more mind-blowing. It's refreshing to hear a record so cleverly crafted, one that takes the listener on a narrative journey, a rarity in these days of fragmented listening and single mp3s.
Ok, time to stop gushing. In short, this is a phenomenally insightful reflection on the myriad interactions between the varied uk dance genres of the last 5 years and a achingly beautiful minimalist instrumental aesthetic - you should buy this.
Hopefully history will be kinder to them.
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Most recent customer reviews
Don't bother buying this on vinyl or if you do be prepared to return.Read more