Isla

Portico Quartet

Released 19 October 2009

  1. Paper Scissors Stone
  2. The Visitor
  3. Dawn Patrol
  4. Line
  5. Life Mask (Interlude)
  6. Clipper
  7. Life Mask
  8. Isla
  9. Shed Song (Improv No 1)
  10. Su-Bo's Mental Breakdown

Liner notes

Isla is a thoughtful and richly tuneful collection of nine pieces recorded by producer John Leckie at Abbey Road no. 2, a studio room made legendary by George Martin, the Beatles, Kate Bush and many others.

Leckie’s track record as a catalyst for emerging talent is legendary: not only for the famous examples, Stone Roses, Doves, XTC, Radiohead, but also for pioneering systems orchestra Lost Jockey (which spawned Man Jumping, ZTT’s Andrew Poppy, Orlando Gough, and soundtrack supremo John Lunn) and World Music stars such as Rodrigo & Gabriela and Papa Wemba.

Isla, the new album from Portico Quartet, is another step forward. Producer Leckie has brought an extra clarity to their arrangements, while the musicians have made good use of the studio to sculpt and enhance their sound with loop pedals, real-time electronics and overdubs. Nevertheless, 70 per cent of the album was performed live at Abbey Road: this is a band who can deliver on the promise of their recordings in concert; and vice versa. Their collectively written compositions evoke a universe of musical possibilities and influences. ‘Eventually, the sum of all our parts – and what we’ve been listening to – comes out,’ says Wyllie. Yet Portico Quartet sound like nobody else in jazz, World or contemporary music. Each of the nine tracks on Isla has a distinct mood and atmosphere, while remaining firmly within their soundworld. From the churning maelstrom of Clipper to the pounding pedal points of Dawn Patrol; from the fragile ostinatos of Line to the anthemic ensemble of the title track, Isla is an album whose contents reveal fresh nuances and facets on each listen.

Portico Quartet are captured during the recording sessions for their second album Isla in the legendary Studio 2 at Abbey Road.

Listen

Reviews

  • Sublime The Washington Post (USA)
  • With 'Isla', produced by John Leckie, Portico have found their mojo: a thrumming, intensely textured and dynamic sound flowing between sax, bass, drums and hang. (Looks like a wok, sounds like a steel drum.) The subtle electronic shadowing and beefed-up bass recall EST, while the lead track traces a Balkan/Gypsy line and repetitious rhythmic measures reference Reichian minimalism without making you feel ill. All tracks are memorable and hang together like a suite. Brilliant. Independent On Sunday (UK)
  • An Authentic Musical Force The Times (UK)
  • Genuinely Innovative The Observer (UK)
  • The follow-up to the Mercury debut has a brooding ambience...it also demonstrates, to the nay-sayers especially, the young lad's commitment to evolving and creative music-making. Bass and drums are high in the mix and hints of electronics and string overdubs have added a haunting sonic texture in places. The hang is still Portico's secret weapon though, a Swiss-made hand drum that chimes with an ethereal, as much as hypnotic, presence this time round...this highly atmospheric album stands on its on merits. Jazzwise (UK)
  • Exotic and Hypnotic MOJO (UK)
  • It's apt that Portico Quartet used to jam in club chill-out lounges, since their soothing, hypnotic music has many of the same qualities of high-grade electronica. Richer and more rewarding than their Mercury-nominated breakthrough, Isla still has jazz running through it's veins, based as it is largely around sax and double bass, but the London band have broader ambitions. The hang, an instrument vaguely akin to a steel drum, adds wisps of African flavour, and these nine instrumentals boast a melodic accessibility and cinematic scope as liable to woo Radiohead fans as patrons of Ronnie Scott's. Q Magazine (UK)

Further Listening

  • Knee-Deep In The North Sea

    Portico Quartet

    Released 31 January 2011

    Recorded with the remains of their student grants, Portico Quartet’s first album and saw them transition from busking on the South Bank in London to being nominated for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize. Remixed by John Leckie and re-released by Real World Records in 2011, featuring three new tracks.
  • Portico Quartet

    Portico Quartet

    Released 30 January 2012

    Drawing on the inspiration of electronica, ambient, classical and dance music Portico Quartet take their strange, beautiful, cinematic, future music to exciting new vistas and embracing new sonic territories. All underpinned by a shared joy in collective music making as the band push their inimitable music into the future.

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