Knee-Deep In The North Sea

Portico Quartet, 2011

In 2007 Portico Quartet moved from busking on the South Bank in London to a recording studio and, with the remains of the money from their student grants, created their first album, 'Knee Deep In The North Sea' (released on Babel/Vortex). This was a turning point for the band, the album attracted attention from DJs, bloggers and critics of every stripe, and was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize.

Now, re-released on Real World Records, 'Knee Deep In The North Sea' has been remixed by John Leckie (The Stone Roses, Radiohead, Muse and producer of Isla) and features three new tracks.


  • Time Out's Gig Of The Week...It's the hottest ticket in town this week Portico fans should brace themselves for impact....witness the transition from the simple, slinky soundscapes of debut 'Knee Deep in the North Sea' to the more intricate, tricky and adventurous mood of follow-up 'lsla'. ...the band's new direction, which is still anchored in an affection for Steve Reich's dynamics and jazzy improv, but is now, we hear, supplemented by dance mechanics, psychedelic loops and distoded effects...if anyone can pull off a combo like that, it's Portico Quartet. This tiny gig is the first show the band play with their new line-up and sound, and for that leason it's the hottest ticket in town this week, lf you've missed out, we'd advise you to start queuing now for their November shows at the London Jazz Festival. Time Out (UK)
  • ..captivating melodies... Portico's warm soothing sound stems from an instrument that has been around fro only 11 years. ...captivating melodies, dramatic momentum changes and numerous snappy percussive passages. Limelight Magazine (Australia)
  • ... magical sound in abundance. If you've never heard of a hang drum, then this is a great place to start. This reissue of the debut album by the Portico Quartet features its magical sound in abundance. The band play saxophone, double bass, hang drum and drum kit. The simplicity of such a small ensemble is deceptive - there is a lot going on here. Southsonic (UK)
  • They are seductively absorbing live... some live tracks on this album demonstrate, and it's those that make this more than a makeover (via the input of celeb producer John Leckie) of their 2007 debut album of the same name. Portico fans will undoubtedly want this update for the subtle sonic tweaking, and the live recordings...The title track remains the most absorbing Portico melody, and Jack Wyllie's soprano sax...eloquent, voice-like tremor...Prickly Pear...trad-jazziest feel, sprung on Milo Fitzpatrick's bouyant acoustic bassline; Cittàgazze is an invitation to handclapping and chanting from the audience... The Guardian (UK)
  • ...palpable coolness. It's always a delight to discover an album that captivates despite belonging to an unfamiliar genre, and anybody who missed this jazz-fusion masterclass last time around would be well advised to pick up the freshly remixed reissue... approaching 'Knee-Deep in the North Sea' with fresh ears is as rewarding now as it was four years ago. Portico Quartet re-imagined classical and jazz motifs to deliver a genuinely original finished article. The final product is enough to appeal to purists and doubters alike and defy any kind of comparison; ...palpable coolness. They are producing something genuinely original - the inimitable sound of their unique influences and interpretations, both traditional and otherwise. Despite all of this, the hooks are unmistakably jazz...offering atmosphere and ingenuity in bucketloads. Artrocker (UK)
  • ...mesmerising sound. ...these are the 2008 Mercury-nominated modern jazz quartet's distinctive "hang drums". Their sublime, balm-like melodies - despite being played with sticks, like percussion - form a core ingredient of the mesmerising sound. Around them, busy drums and bass whip up an urgent undercurrent, while Jack Wylie's soprano sax floats hauntingly on top. Somewhere between Swedish piano jazz trio EST, and Radiohead, Portico's sound seems aware of music from rock to dubstep without referencing any of it: the stunning Life Mask makes oriental melodies sound as catchy as a boyband. The Guardian (Live review from Bridgewater Hall, Manchester) (UK)
  • ...lapping, gently rising... "Knee-Deep In The North Sea"...lapping, gently rising tide....for 2011 the Portico Quartet are diving deep into electronics, looping and distorting as they play. At the end of "Isla" Duncan Bellamy played a xylophone melody, tiny as a pebble dropped onto a pond, and then looped it under "Line" as Jack Wyllie's Nordic saxophone lines swelled upwards. Financial Times (Live review from Anvil, Basingstoke) (UK)
  • Live review from Bridgewater Hall Manchester Somewhere between Swedish piano jazz trio EST, and Radiohead, Portico's sound seems aware of music from rock to dubstep without referencing any of it: the stunning Life Mask makes oriental melodies sound as catchy as a boyband. The Guardian (UK)
  • Knee-Deep In The North Sea makes Number 1 in's Jazz pre-order download chart! Also, Knee-Deep is's Jazz Editors Choice! "Nominated for the Mercury Prize and rightly considered a modern masterpiece, Knee-Deep In The North Sea is the breathtaking debut from Portico Quartet. Fusing modern jazz with a psychedelic twist, the Londoners continually push the boundaries, resulting in a thrilling listen." (UK)
  • ...this is an accomplished and extremely satisfying listen... The ensuing (Knee-Deeep In The North Sea) album really does underline their talents as a contemporary jazz act with dibs on other genres. It's relaxing, inspiring, chilled out and a great listen, whether as the backdrop for a Sunday afternoon appreciation listen on the sofa, or the backdrop of a dinner party. The live tracks, meanwhile, show just how expansive and enjoyable they are live… assured, ambitious and growing in stature with each new show. indieLONDON Online (UK)
  • ...a work of genuine grace and innovation... ...nuanced and extremely charming work, the record, remixed (by none other than John Leckie) and re-released here with a smattering of live tracks, is that most precious of things...well-versed in the art of melody and so able to garner mainstream attention, but also pioneering and complex, a fusion of avant-garde jazz and modern classical that avoids unwarranted noodling in favour of solid composition and a resolutely non-elitist feel. For musicians in their early twenties this is a remarkably mature debut, and one that serves as a great companion to 2009's follow up, the more troubling, but just as impressive 'Isla'. 8/10 Subba-Cultcha Online (UK)
  • Remodelled version of 2007 Mercury-shortlisted debut... John Leckie...has added depth and detail to lend a more complexly wrought studio texture to the original record's more austere charm. Uncut (UK)
  • Knee-Deep In The North Sea Review John Leckie, who produced their second album, has subtly tweaked the mix, turning down the saxophone in places, pumping up the bass. The tunes are just fine: the stately waltz of Pompidou, the reggae shuffle of Prickly Pear. But it is the 20 minutes of added live tracks that make this a potential repurchase. Best is a version of the title track, recorded in Copenhagen, which builds the drama with a long, trippy opening and free-form sax climax. It shows how the quartet's confidence to let the music breathe on-stage has grown. MOJO (UK)