Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet, 2012

Mercury nominated East Londoners release their third, self-titled, album.

Portico Quartet have 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.

It's a change that was brewing for some time. As anyone who saw Portico Quartet live throughout 2010 knew, the band had added a heady brew of live samples and loops to their arsenal, exploring a harder-edged sound that brought a more contemporary edge to their previously wholly acoustic music. It was a metamorphosis that was accelerated when the band's original hang player, Nick Mulvey, left to explore his own musical muse earlier this year and the remaining members drummer Duncan Bellamy, bassist Milo Fitzpatrick and saxophonist Jack Wyllie started exploring the possibilities of sampling the hang and triggering it's sounds from electronic pads, opening up a whole new way of utilising the instrument's unique sound. It accelerated further when they invited keyboard player, and now hang player, Keir Vine (an old friend of Milo's from Goldsmith's University) to come on board. Keir who brings his own unconventional keyboard methods and love of synth music to the band has also developed his own take on the hang style pioneered by Mulvey and his erstwhile band mates. But it is Keir's keyboard playing (a sound Portico Quartet had always wanted to use) that has been instrumental in allowing the band to explore a new sonic world, as has drummer Duncan Bellamy's shift to playing a hybrid electronic/acoustic drum set-up and his and his band mates organic use of live sampling and loops alongside their more traditional instruments.

Produced by the band themselves and brilliantly engineered by Greg Freeman at the Fish Market studios and Real World, Portico Quartet's eponymous third album is the sound of a band that refuses to stand still. But there are no shortcuts here, the music is played live, not pre-recorded, and the hard won collective empathy that is at the heart of their sound remains their primary touchstone.

Full of mystery and drama Portico Quartet still take the listener on an unparalleled journey but where their previous album Isla was the sound of a band looking inwards, Portico Quartet find the band looking defiantly into the future.

Portico Quartet opens with Window Seat, a cinematic tune that conjures the idea of a train journey, the bands favoured way to tour Europe, watching the world race by as the speeding images allow your thoughts to unravel. It's the perfect album opener, introducing the band's new sound and running seamlessly to Ruins, an upbeat head nodder that features the hang both live and sampled. Jack throws in some waling saxophone choruses to release the tension.

Spinner comes in hard and heavy, featuring a disorientating time signature it is the first tune the band wrote that mixes, Isla's melodic style with the new electronic pounding drum rhythms and driving bass. The swirling keyboard section especially sums of the title.

Rubidium was born from Portico Quartet's desire to revisit some of the ideas explored on 'Line' on the previous album, Isla. A rhapsodic, introspective piece that transports the listener to many places, Keir comes into his own here, with a hypnotic hang pattern and Jack electronically manipulates his saxophone to create an eerie new timbre . The track features a 'free' drum solo by Duncan as well as orchestral sheets of strings from Milo's double bass.

Export to Hot Climates, an enigmatic piano piece performed by Wyllie acts as a still moment at the heart of the album before we meet Lacker Boo. A dark, tense, hypnotic motif with a laid back, dance bass-drum drive. One of the first pieces the band wrote after Mulvey left the band, Lacker Boo, features the hang in sampled form with the band changing the pitch from glokenspiel to steel-drum bass-barrel tones and features some brooding, paranoid field recordings with high strings and vocal chords from Duncan to show the light at the end of the tunnel.

4096 Colours was inspired by a stop off at Cologne train staion. The band had half an hour to spare on an interchange and decided to drop into the monstrous Cologne Cathedral. Inside, the gigantic vault of pillars and monuments gives way to Gerhard Richter's explosive stained glass window ('4096 Colours'). With the multi-coloured light spilling onto the floor and the huge, but hushed murmur of voices and foot-shuffle escalating up into the cavernous space results in an effect quite mesmerising for when you are in transit. Grand and euphoric.

City of Glass is a dance tune at heart. Mixing acoustic and electric drums, with driving bass patterns creates a busy texture for the ethereal, effected saxophone solo to float over. This piece also offers a sense of release at the end of the tune and for the end of the album.

Uniquely for Portico Quartet, the album also features a vocal collaboration, with the East London based Swedish singer, Cornelia, someone the band met through their friend Jamie Woon. Cornelia had been working with the likes of Kwes who remixed Cittegaze from the band's first album, Knee-Deep In The North Sea, and the band were drawn to her unique voice and songs. Cornelia who opened for the band at a recent London show has also collaborated on Jack and Duncan's Circle Traps project with producer Will Ward and the track Steepless which started as a more conventional song, was created live in the studio by the band and Cornelia as singer and band created a powerful new dialogue together that provides one of the albums many stand out moments.

Reviews

  • ...Portico Quartet's new disc, which marks a shift in sound. ...this new disc succeeds by breaking new ground while keeping new to the group's unique soundscape. Without losing focus on the hang... through the looped beats and sonic shudders there is still a grounding in the distinctive Portico sound. It's hard to predict where they might go next - as the sonic journey is already in its outer reaches. 5 Stars for Performance - 5 stars for Recording BBC Music Magazine (UK)
  • ..hypnotic, liberating and danceable... City of Glass, with its Latin American rhythms, is the disc's most immediate track, hypnotic, liberating and danceable...established minimalism gets up and running, the group is undoubtedly at their best. Lira (Sweden)
  • A driving force in a scene at the crossroad of club music, electronics and jazz. Sonomagazine.de (Germany)
  • Portico Quartet is an absolute masterpiece. An album that will be of great influence on all music being recorded from here on... Writteninmusic.com (The Netherlands)
  • ...trancey and electrified, with a strong stage presence and pulsing anthems... ...Portico Quartet stake claims to territory occupied by Radiohead, Cinematic Orchestra and Efterklang. But if you label them as, say, "electro-ambient-improv", it doesn't do justice to their mesmerising melange of rhythms, timbres and tunes. ...they make a soundworld that is original and inviting, played with flair and commitment. The sold-out gig marked a significant shift in their career, for which they have shown confidence and courage at every phase...it is the group's unforced instinct for compositional structure and catchy hooks - planned and improvised - that gives them the edge and warmth to appeal to a wide audience. Great live sound, too. The Guardian (Live review from York Hall, London) (UK)
  • ...Portico Quartet aren't just knocking on the door of experimental dance music, they are leading it in new and exciting directions. The minimal, brooding of '4096 Colours' from the new album is transformed live into a stunning exercise in mesmeric IDM, its intricate arrangement forming the fulcrum of a set that manages to fit in contemplative ambience... It's a faultless set: a proficient expansion of the group's recent studio work. Portico Quartet aren't just knocking on the door of experimental dance music, they are leading it in new and exciting directions. ...fully matured into a frightening live beast ready to deliver their progressive new sound to a capacity crowd. The Stool Pigeon.co.uk (Live review from York Hall, London) (UK)
  • ...these are exciting times for Portico Quartet. Proof of their change of direction comes later in the set with Rubidium, as bubbling electronic pulses battle with loose, freeform percussion before both gradually fizzle away. It demonstrates that the relegation of the instrument that helped define their early sound has arguably made them a more interesting musical proposition. ...these are exciting times for Portico Quartet. Tonight they sold out the 1,100 capacity York Hall, with a bigger date at the Roundhouse to follow in October. Not bad going for a band that once passed time by busking on London's Southbank. MusicOMH.com (Live review from York Hall, London)
  • glorious… awe-inspiring… Portico Quartet is a band striding out from the underground on their terms, and the admiration awaiting them is there for all to see. Clashmusic.com (Live review from York Hall, London)
  • ...rhythm guitar work, stabbing horns and plenty of echo. The music is very much in the lineage of the beautifully crafted albums from the UK's very own dub master Dennis Bovell (aka Blackbeard) with hints of the Mighty Two, Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson, in the use of sound effects." ukvibe.org
  • Portico Quartet, Mercury nomination-garnering four-piece, who've produced their best album yet. ...combining the best elements from their own ingenuity and faculty help make Portico Quartet not just a more accomplished record than the two that came before it, but a better one. Bearded Magazine (UK)
  • Hypnotic and Spellbinding Le Journal du Dimanche (Sunday Newspaper) (France)
  • Portico skilfully mixes acoustic and electronic sounds... Telerama (France)
  • A wonderful album, subtle and inventive... L'Alsace Newspaper (France)
  • A magnificent album... wegofunk.com (France)
  • Deep and original... musicdaily.fr (France)
  • A wonderful album... Haut Parleur (France)
  • A beautiful album... Demorfarm.de (Belgium)
  • Portico Quartet is a fascinatingly diverse piece of work. 7 out of 10 thedigitalfix.com
  • A bold statement of intent. Portico Quartet remain one of the most forward looking groups around -in any genre. The Jazz Mann
  • ...and not a moment too soon. thestoolpigeon.co.uk (UK)
  • ...an epic journey, a fabulously sequenced aural experience... ...Initial reactions of open-mouthed astonishment soon give way to another kind of awe: Never mind the shock of the new, it's the shock of the excellence which keeps you coming back for more. Emusic.com
  • Highly recommended It's records like this one that are opening doors for the next generation of jazz musicians, and for generations after that. nextbop.com
  • ...it is very clear how talented the band is. Entertainmentfocus.com
  • ...the journey is the prize and you'll find yourself in a pensive state, hitting play again when you reach the end. At times the band float serenely, at others they jostle and fight - always with an organic sense of development and progression to somewhere. Vanguard-online.co.uk (UK)
  • This is a deeply impressive body of work... indielondon.co.uk (UK)
  • ...beautiful...groundbreaking...stunning... 19 out of 20 This should be the album that sees Portico Quartet become one of the defining acts of this generation. Effortlessly minimal, but achingly haunting and beautiful...Groundbreaking, potentially game-changing, Portico Quartet's subtle musical intricacies combined with production values heralding unrivalled clarity have been meshed in a very modern way to create an album of wonderful proportions and balanced minimalism. Stunning. Crack (UK)
  • The groups' ability to expand their horizons... ...to offer an even more modern and contemporary feel to their music is what makes Portico Quartet so exciting. eastsidefm.org (Australia)
  • ...Portico has miraculously done it again. It was hard to imagine that Isla could top Knee Deep, but it did. Now, another three years on, few could have predicted an album incrementally better than Isla, but despite a major personnel shift-or, perhaps, because of it-and with a greatly expanded sonic palette and stylistic purview, Portico has miraculously done it again. Allaboutjazz.com (UK)
  • It's a lovely record altogether. Even though the rhythms are anything but rigid, there are textures here that could only have come from the dance palette. It's a lovely record altogether. The Word (UK)
  • A deeply atmospheric affair... ...it ventures from moody instrumentals to cool dance tracks with taut loops and synths. Diva (UK)
  • It all amounts to the foursome's most involving album yet... ...densely rhythmic pieces. Grooves and textures build into moody dreamscapes on which electronica mixes with the hypnotic churn of systems music. It all amounts to the foursome's most involving album yet... The Times (UK)
  • Portico have found a contemporary sound to thrill their fans and attract new listeners. Portico's message is clear from the pulsating opener, Window Seat, with its lazy, swerving long notes for bowed bass and electronic strings...The smoky melody to the ensuing Ruins makes Jack Wyllie's sax more like a stringed instrument crossed with a trumpet, its quivering vibrato spooky... Snappy groovers with chattery percussion patterns underpin cinematic sax themes. With its simple stick-clicking and sombre piano turning to foreboding electronic patterns around Dahlgren's childlike tones, Sleepless is a triumph. Portico have found a contemporary sound to thrill their fans and attract new listeners. The Guardian (UK)
  • ...a mood-tingling collection ...that sits comfortably alongside such electronic contemporaries such as Burial, Four Tet, Bonobo....an ethereal, nuanced and truly unique album Buzz (UK)
  • ...this is the sound of a group building a new kind of sonic architecture. ...as mesmerising as anything they have previously done. Sunday Star Times (New Zealand)
  • This is a positively dangerous album. The moves further into ambient and electronic based music have taken the fascinating half-classical/half-jazz sound of the band into deeply hypnotic and completely enveloping new territory. ...I simply could not put it away. It is brilliant, in the same way that a diamond is brilliant - it shines and shimmers and your brain pulsates trying to follow all the different musical lights. Music-news.com
  • Although transitional and more about texture than ever, it's still possible to get lost in Portico Quartet. ..there's a greater reliance on loops and a keyboard wash, giving the whole a floating quality, placing them alongside current kings-of-drift like Walls. theartsdesk.com
  • ...from natural to electronic sounds, as if the synthetic fabric of the universe were tearing apart. ...throbbing, cyclical rhythms, shivering string and synth parts... The Independent (UK)
  • This album is incredible. It would not be excessive to state that within their short existence, Portico Quartet have produced some of the most genre defying and exciting instrumental music of this, or of any generation....This album is incredible. An aggressive blend of electronic ambience, swirling riff based melodic sequences and eye watering percussive effects, balanced surreptitiously by a quintessentially thunderous double bass. The album doesn't so much wash over you as engulf you, and is a definite headphone listen! One thing's for sure, anyone that didn't class them as jazz before, themselves included, sure as hell won't associate them with the genre now. Britishjazzblog.com (UK)
  • ...Portico Quartet is a superb release... ...each track roaming freely. Across six minutes, 'City Of Glass' builds a churning mid-tempo post-rock minuet, before spinning into refrains so cold and graceful it's the closest you'll get to hearing alchemy; music changing into something that feels tactile. It's truly great, filled with big drops and the slow, soft descents of an Angelo Badalamenti crescendo. drownedinsound.com
  • ...an album that is otherwise an exercise in sheer musical abandonment. The brooding, fuzzy glitch-jazz of opener Window Seat sets the mood for the nine tracks that follow, one that is in turns soothing and deeply unsettling. Ruins sounds like a progressive version of The XX, further confirming Portico's assimilation of electronic influences...Rubidium is an eight-minutes and more mini-epic that builds from its seductive Afrobeat-cum-horn intro into a scuttling, euphoric noise. Equally uplifting is the hypnotic, beat-filled Lacker Boo and the rich, evocative City of Glass. Steepless...offers a moment of genuine pop accessibility on an album that is otherwise an exercise in sheer musical abandonment. Listen without prejudice. Mojo (UK)
  • An endlessly absorbing third LP... Everything still sounds familiarly Portico Quartet, only fresh, forward-thinking and a little bit tougher. BBC Online (UK)
  • 8.5 out of 10... ...the kinetic rhythms of bass music and the atmosphere of indie/electronic experimentalists like Radiohead. It's a new look that suits them well. Free from categorisation, this is subtle, lush instrumental music... DJ Mag (UK)
  • The hottest ticket in town Time Out Magazine (UK)
  • ...magnificently unclassifiable music. The Word Magazine (UK)
  • ...come out on top all the more impressive. …based purely on its own merits it's a marvel. The human condition is primed to believe change is a bad thing, making the fact that the group have grappled with it and seemingly come out on top all the more impressive. Music OMH (UK)
  • This is an exceptional album, demonstrating that these guys are moving their music forward. Their debut album was rather spectacular, so good that you couldn't imagine the band delivering a better album. You'll be glad to hear that with their third, self titled album, they have delivered an album that is just as good. This album brings electronica, ambient, classical...with the overall surrounding of cinematic beauty. Altsound.com
  • ...it sees them radically expanding on their 'new jazz' sound ...with extensive use of loops and samples that combine to create a sonic ambient melange with traces of dance culture and the classical allgigs.co.uk
  • Portico Quartet's newly found ability to graft enigmatic instrumental jazz onto enchanting electronic. FWD Music (UK)
  • 9 out of 10... What we have here is an album which grabs the zeitgeist but still stays true to its roots: callipygously shuffling, painlessly seguing, mingling the darkest rags 'n' bones of dubstep, d 'n'b and off-kilter jazz, all the while interweaving heck loads of new-found textures and electronics. It's a forward-thinking game-change which feels rich, warm and - quite simply - astounding...This record is a playful, daring and capricious listen, and one of the first truly remarkable records of 2012...." thisisfakediy.co.uk
  • ...mouthwatering stuff. Portico Quartet have cemented themselves as one of the most unique-sounding and forward-thinking ensembles on the whole of the UK circuit...judging from the album's single, Ruins, it's going to be mouthwatering stuff. britishjazzblog.com (UK)
  • 9 out of 10...Trailblazing stuff! Welcome back boys (even with your new toys!) you've done it again. Trailblazing stuff! bluesandsoul.com (B&S Magazine)
  • It's extremely creative, inventive and spontaneous. ...great beauty where strange, hypnotic rhythms encourage you to enter a new futuristic world. Both fresh and unique, it mesmerises through its mystery and drama and its mood is rich, warm and joyful." AAAMusic.com (UK)
  • Given that many a great album in musical history has been self-titled, the choice of title for Portico Quartet's third offering is apt. ...true to its eponymous title, this is their coming of age masterpiece. ...effortless addition of new layers of sound that conspire to make this record great. Like Radiohead, their influences are gracefully woven into their fabric and not overtly paraded on their sleeve and as a result, their metamorphosis seems entirely natural. Still, what besides a plethora of styles, musical prowess and technological advancements, make the album an utter gem? The answer lies in the fact that this collection of songs can hook and enrapture the jazz aficionado without alienating the rest of us. Its accessibility, yet at the same time its depth, shows a level of musicianship that many spend an entire career striving for. Three albums and six years down the line, Portico Quartet have produced the sound they've probably been dreaming of, and it was most certainly worth the wait positivenews.org.uk (UK)
  • ...I haven't seen or heard anything like it." Those wonderful, brilliant lads in Portico Quartet have finalized their third album. ..."I'm going to be at a loss for words describing their set without sounding like some sort of raving lunatic who just saw a UFO. When you boil it down, I haven't seen or heard anything like it." musicsnobbery.com (UK)
  • ...the jazz outfit that even jazz novices profess to like. ...Portico Quartet have morphed into the jazz outfit even jazz novices profess to like. Connecting live improvisations, electronics and instrumental post-rock, the former buskers continue their evolution with a more electronically included third album. Q Magazine (UK)
  • ...post jazz quartet move into spooky electronic territory This unorthodox quartet have come a long way from their humble beginnings as a busking street band...soundscapes run the gamut from ECM-ish ambient to the heavy-duty electronica of Aphex Twin or Flying Lotus Uncut Magazine (UK)
  • The broad eared will enjoy the dark new sounds emerging from the Portico Quartet. The former buskers who were nominated for sunny instrumental music rooted in the mellifluous chime of hang percussion have moved into stranger territory after an injunction of electronica and a personnel change. Their third album, simply titled...is released 30th January and is their most involving album yet. The Times (UK)
  • A hauntingly beautiful record. ...the band's sonic palette has expanded to embrace samples and electronica though the gently melodic tintinnabulations of the bell-like hang instrument remains a core element of the band's sound. A hauntingly beautiful record. Record Collector (UK)
  • Ruins...Its an incredible song to have a walk through a winter landscape to... britishjazzblog.com
  • I'm lost for words... The music speaks for itself. I'm lost for words. My tea's gone cold. If you don't watch/enjoy this video here then you hate music and therefore life. Boxmusique.com
  • beautiful, cinematic, future music to exciting new vistas. sonicmasala.blogspot.com
  • Super smooth. thewellversed.com
  • If you've never listened to Portico Quartet before, do yourself the favour... The London-based group brings a level of chilled out intricacy and creativity to their sound that is exciting and refreshingly current. lonelynote.blogspot.com
  • Their new stuff sounds great. The night was a chance for Portico Quartet to experiment with playing their new material live before the upcoming album release in January. The four young men are refusing to be typecast by the sound which won them a Mercury prize nomination and unexpected popular success. During the evening the bassist used a bow as often as he plucked, and the saxophonist, hang player and drummer exploited a bewildering array of electronic instruments to play with new sounds... in such a consistently skillful group of musicians it does not matter if the focus shifts, because wherever it lands there'll be good music. Varsity Online (Live review from The Junction, Cambridge) (UK)