Portico Quartet

The Capstone Theatre
Sunday 13th November 2011

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan

My trips to The Capstone usually seem to coincide with bad weather and tonight was no exception. But if you've been to The Capstone you'll know it’s well worth the visit and in that spirit I emerged from the fog engulfing the surrounding streets to see a show that was remarkable in many ways.

The majority of artists who grace this venue are Jazz or Folk orientated but on this occasion you got the Jazz and a whole lot more besides. Portico Quartet played two sets of music that was not quite Jazz, not quite Drum n Bass, not quite ambient soundscape. In truth it was thrilling melange of all of these and more bringing the Quartet's reputation of being 'a unique musical experience' to the fore brilliantly. If their name concocts images of four serious looking pro's dressed in sombre suits playing lounge music then you'd be so wrong to be worlds away. These four musicians create music that is highly dramatic, forward thinking and never less than surprising, the lack of vocals barely noticeable.

The music’s voice is mainly found in the found sound effects that fill the songs and the distorted sax that comes to the fore particularly during the second set. Those familiar with Miles Davis' later experimental work would appreciate their sound instantly, but it's the diversity of the music that brings the show together. The Jazz styled name of the band and movements inspired from long form Jazz are just the surface, with the drum machine, effects board and distorted keys bringing an atmosphere that is electric and almost timeless throughout. It would have been excellent to have images behind the band, as the songs are so evocative despite being deceptively free form.

Highlights include the Panthalassa-esque Visitor which, despite the mournful undertones, thrilled with its fog horn Sax effects and clattering drums and the high speed chase like Lackaboo which could soundtrack an urban horror film easily with its eerie sound. Perhaps then this is one of those shows that you have to have been there to truly comprehend, but if you want a comparison with another artist, just search out the Quartet's work as it really is a sound truly unique to them.

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