Portico Quartet - 'Portico Quartet'
If you were previously unaware of this four piece post-jazz outfit comprised of members from London and Southampton, then you may have had a very up close and personal performance without even being aware of it. Back in the mid 2000's, these four lads used to busk outside the National Theatre on london's Southbank for mere pennies (not that bands make much more than that in the current musical climate), but with sheer imagination, talent and an array of wonderful compositions later, have found the respect and admiration they so deserve.
Portico Quartet have just released their third album, a self titled one at that. There is often deliberation as to why, after LP's released before, that a band would suddenly name their album after themselves. There is no cause for discussion however after listening to 'Portico Quartet'. This, quite simply is them, it is their sound, this is what they are about. So why not name it after yourself? They appear to have (excuse the brash cliché) found themselves, which is funny, because it happens on an album that appears to be a story about finding yourself, or at least one about discovering. We start the album as you would if embarking on an epic journey. It evokes imagery of being dreary, on a cold, dark and brisk winters morning (just like this morning funnily enough), emerging slowly from your comfortable nest. Strings are introduced, symbolising warmth. We are ready. Fully prepared, excited in anticipation for what discoveries lay ahead. An intelligent opening, one that could have been made right at the end of recording, but if super clever, could have quite easily been their starting point for everything else. Either way, they have produced a very clever and poignant opening track. This is where the journey truly begins and the wheels are set in motion. They create moments of calm and tranquillity, fluid jazz at its finest, only comparable to Bonobo. They continue with something a little more solid, but still allowing fluidity, manufacturing electronic sounds from who knows where. The soprano sax makes a great narrative, tweaking to almost minor notes, rendering the character somewhat lost, before tweaking back to found. Once back on route, the authoritative sax regains confidence, uniting again with the rest, rejoicing in their mission. Steel drums make a couple of appearances on this album. They induce hypnotic rudiments, telling the listener..."we are in new ground now...". Reverberations and introduction of Saxophone, with screeching strings add a population and energy, with confirmation from the bass. This is a stunning arrangement of instruments, depicting an emotive discovery potentially impossible to portray in any other medium, or at least not to this affect. This is not an album completely devoid of any vocals, just to let you know. Two-thirds through the album, a hushing and angelic voice with almost mousey qualities sings over a light wood percussion. There is something quite 'Field Music' about this, if it weren't for the vocals that is. Not wanting to summarise the album in words, they inject a mind set, near enough the end that you can resonate fully with the lyrics, but completely so you are made to feel a fool with someone spelling it out for you. Allowing full acoustic values to ooze from each instrument, cleverly juxtaposed with certain scatty sounds, rendering them almost electronic, creates a journey worthy of 'The Orient Express', not limited however to its specific line, but to wherever you want it to go. This is a template for your own adventure, one that you can shape and mould, that will resonate at different times in different places. A truly unique experience for each listener, not portraying a point, but a lifestyle. It's going to be tough to trump this one. 'Portico Quartet' was released January 30th through Real World Records.