The Portico Quartet

Album Review by Sebastian Gahan 26/1/2012

Jazz often has a self-indulgent reputation, perhaps unfairly, but anybody expecting a barrage of vaguely synced horns will find much to dislodge that idea on this self-titled album from The Portico Quartet. The quartet is reputed to sound 'like nothing you've heard before' and that is not a lie. It's as if someone has taken the structural concepts of long form jazz and thrown them into outer space to intermingle with the transmissions from Earth. There are certainly jazz ideas here but they are mixed with swirling beats, films score atmospherics and drums as ice cool as anything.

The best way to enjoy this work is in the evening, perhaps in semi-contemplative darkness. That is because this is music that will make reach into your own inner depths to discover something. In the case of many who hear this it will be a love of this deceptively quiet but atmospheric record. Highlights include the haunting Ruins, with a drum line and synth that could soundtrack any long dark evening of the soul perfectly. The haunting point when the drums and swirling keys linger in the mix is impressive as to be staggeringly beautiful. Music rarely moves a listener in this way and there are many more examples of this on the album.

The opening timpani drum of Rubidium is perfect and as the song evolves the bass strains, static effects and sax come together to make almost an aural force field of emotion and it is genuinely impressive. When the track morphs into controlled drums and bass effects it brings a new rawness to the song if there was a moment to describe their sound best, this is perhaps it. This is not just one man blowing his horn, although there is nothing wrong what with that whatsoever, this is an urban dreamscape of the future put to music. 

I don't need to say it too much that this is an impressive album you must hear. 

Released 30th January on Real World Records.

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Comment left by Amie on 7th August, 2013 at 7:45
I just´╗┐ bought this dlgatiily at Womadshop for 9.29 US dollars. I am disappointed to see that Portico's Quartet's earlier albums (Isla and Knee-Deep In The North Sea) WERE on Spotify until quite recently, but are now gone. I actually like those albums a bit more than this one. They make much more extensive´╗┐ use of an instrument called the hang that sounds like a steel drum. Two amazing tracks from those albums to check out (they're on youtube) are Paper Scissors Stone and Pompidou.