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4.2 out of 5 stars
20
4.2 out of 5 stars
Portico Quartet
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on 6 February 2012
So after 2 albums of Jazz-influenced acoustic music, the Portico Quartet change their line-up and shift their direction. The question of course, is where to? But it's difficult to pin down and I still detect an element of improvisation, although it's a million miles from straight ahead Jazz.

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.
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on 11 February 2012
This is an outstanding record, one of the few that should be denoted a classic of the british music scene in the last few years. High praise indeed, given that I've only had it for a few days to absorb. It's pertinently the first record to prompt me to actually write a review about it on Amazon.

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.
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on 29 January 2013
I had the pleasure of seeing Portico Quartet on stage in Edinburgh a little while ago now, and their music persuaded me to pick up their available studio albums. I enjoyed them, so when the new, self-titled album came out, I immediately bought it, and was surprised to find it was very different - but not necessarily in a bad way. The "post-jazz instrumental" labelling of Portico Quartet seems most appropriate to this album than any other; this is more experimental, specifically more electronic, with synthesised sounds complementing the acoustic ones. Although I liked that, that might ruin this album for those less ready to embrace the "post" part of post-jazz. That said, "Ruins" is an amazing, hypnotic track which does remind me of "Prickly Pear" and "Cittágazze", which were among my favourites from their previous albums. Tracks like "Lacker Boo" and "Steepless" foray further into electronic territory (and the latter has guest vocals!) but they never lose their jazz foundations. To sum up: a bit more adventurous and experimental than what they've released before, but the right audience will like it all the more for that.
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on 9 February 2012
Being a jazz fan in the 21st century is a curious position to find yourself in. I'd imagine it's not quite synonymous with being one in say the late 1960's when rock music had almost completely replaced jazz as the dominant form of western music (which wasn't completely disimilar to what jazz had done to classical). At that point artists such as weather report, herbie hancock and of course Miles Davis, had attempted to claw a few listeners back perhaps questioning whether a paradigm shift had completely taken place yet. In 2012 thinking in those terms is ridiculous! Rock conclusively won that battle along time ago and being a fan of one particular genre over another is a much less isolated place to find yourself in now. People actively look to broaden their listening habits, taking full advantage of the variety of choice and accessibility available through the internet and utilising the capacity of devices such as ipods and other MP3 players.

The reason i say it's a little strange to vehemently champion jazz in this decade is predicated around the claim that i can scarcely name new artists that are pushing the genre forward whilst achieving any representation or popularity. Enter Portico Quartet a band who i've only just become acquianted with today, even though i've heard of them since they were nominated for the mercury in 2008. If these guys are or were ever a "jazz group" they are certainly moving beyond trumpet solos, delicate cymbal strokes and improvistaion, the sounds on this album sound more studied and deliberate than anything your likely to expect form a jazz record. Sonically they are much more in line with say experimental or art rock bands who dabble in electronics say post ok computer radiohead. "4096 colours" immediately sounds like a reinterpretation of "motion picture soundtrack" with some juxtaposed moody atmospherics and found sounds. And then theirs "City Of Glass" which could of easily made the cut on TKOL RMX 1234567 as Portico Quartets answer to "Lotus Flower". The band also brings to mind elements of sigur ros and laughing stock era Talk Talk, with it's use of beautifully melancholic horns and it's reliance on space and minimalism. The sort of jazz this quartet brings to mind is the glitchy by way of microhouse jazz that herbert brilliantly mastered with his "bodily Functions" album, particularly with there use of clicks and electronic beats that are scattered all throughout the duration of this record.

As you've probably worked out i liked this record and love the music it's been inspired by (or sonically resembles). But it's biggest strengh is also it's achilles heel for me. The music present here is distinctive if you only concern yourself with jazz but if you are an electronic and avant rock fan (of which i consider myself) you'll probably find the ideas and innovations on display here a little too familiar. However it's not beyond the realms of possibility that this talented group of musicians might be able to produce something that is more unique and individual in the future. The group has shown the ambition to move beyond the usual jazz cliches lets hope next time they transcend the rest too.
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on 11 April 2013
Criminally underrated group of musicians, whose music, at its peak, conjures transcendent and inspiring passages via groundbreaking jazz-fusion.

Hopefully history will be kinder to them.
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VINE VOICEon 7 October 2014
This album is something of a departure from the earlier albums which were more identifiable as 'jazz'. Here, trip-hoppy electronic soundscapes predominate, with repetitive, pulsing synthetic figures providing the anchor for what may, or may not, be improvised overlaid music. I say that because it's difficult on this offering to distinguish between what might have been determined in advance from that which is truly spontaneous. That is not to say that this is a bad album, it most certainly is not. It's just that I'm not sure if it's jazz as most people know it. Jazz inflected -certainly, but to describe it as jazz as most people understand the term is stretching it a bit in my book. If you appreciate the likes of EST, the Cinematic Orchestra and Massive Attack you will probably like this but if you prefer your jazz to be more straightahead in form, then you may wish to sample before you buy.
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on 7 March 2012
This is Portico Quartet's third studio album and it is so good on so many levels. It is refreshing to find a band which gets more experimental and takes more risks with each new release. There are elements....on some tracks...that you will recognise as Portico if you know he first two albums. But the overall effect is of a band that isn't happy to mark out a small bit of musical territory, set up camp and the remain there for the next 20 years. New sounds, new rhythms, new instruments..... If you liked Knee Deep and are lexpectng Knee Deep 3 then you may be disappointed. If you like Portico because they keep experimenting and taking risks (live and in the studio) then you will find this album exhilarating.
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on 1 February 2012
Once again The Portico Quartet take us on a Journey of music beyond our spheres,this is their third album followingIslaKnee-Deep in the North Sea and this is impressive stuff,this weaves a spell between electronica and jazz,that one title from the album truly sums them up"Export to hot climates" for they prove here that electronic music does have depth and soul.
The one thing that strikes me about this album is the production,it is supreme and brings all sides of this eclectic bands musical sounds together brilliantly,
There are some more reflective parts to this album,which successfully demonstrate the flexability of the band,"laker boo" being a case in point,with its electronic beat and steel band tone.
There is however one complaint,the vocals on "Sleepless"
they are appallingly daft(in a lily Allan sort of way),but this is only a minor point as the rest of the album is reminiscent of the excellent Nils Petter Molvaer sound.
It is no wonder that this is on Real World for this is inventive and listenable in equal doses.
JACK WYLIE.....SAXOPHONES,ELECTRONICS,PIANO SYNTHESIZERS
DUNCAN BELLAMY.....DRUMS,ELECTRONICS,VOCALS
MILO FITZPATRICK......DOUBLE BASS,ELECTRONICS
KIER VINE.....HANG SYNTHESIZER.
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on 6 August 2013
this is a great progression from earlier stuff, have seen them live twice , but this had developed their sound textures, and a song in there as well, great stuff
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on 20 February 2013
great album,what a find,just looking through jazz listings,and found this gem,will be looking for more!worth every penny,keep up the good work,
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