Monday, September 17, 2012

Portico Quartet: Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet (group)
Portico Quartet (Realworld; 2012)
Jack Wylie (sax, electronics)
Duncan Bellamy (drums)
Milo Fitzpatrick (bass)
Keir Vine (hang)

With their third album, simply titled Portico Quartet, the London based group has moved ever so slightly from their rhythmic, percussion driven textures of the last few years. The group with new hang (the percussive steel-drum-like instrument the band has become known for) member Keir Vine has evolved even further into a more deeply melodic and atmospheric outfit. The influences of Steve Riech, Brian Eno and other sound manipulators have overtaken and enriched the band for this session.

"Window Seat" and "Ruins" show the group leaning more in an electronic direction. Subtle revolving loops and patterns that quietly become hypnotic typify the opening piece "Window Seat." As the tone begins to settle in an infliction of groovy basslines, whistling sax and hovering drums captures the attention. It's wonderfully paced and sublime on multiple levels. "Lacker Boo" lies deeply in a haunting and sweeping groove of electronics and percussion that holds you entranced and hitting the backbeat at the same time.

"Steepless" features Swedish vocalist, Cornelia Dahlgren, who reminded me of a nice mixture of Syke (ex-Morcheeba) and Anja Garbarek. Her raspy, withdrawn vocals blend perfectly with the electronics and almost  typewriter percussions. "4096 Colours" with its underwater flow, echoing and distant notes from Wylie's sax got me thinking of Aphex Twin's early ambient work. This piece moves slowly but emerges into a heavy almost organ-like pattern that drifts outward toward conclusion.

Moving squarely in a direction that I'm really having trouble defining (which was probably the group's purpose), Portico Quartet has risen above their early beginnings and found a voice on a path that seems ideally suited for them. Portico Quartet is a pulsating gem with swift yet soft patterns that fans of both ambient and cerebral jazz will find very rewarding.

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