Nu Jazz / Jazz Related Electronica/Hip-Hop / Pop/Art Song/Folk • United Kingdom
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A modern jazz and ethnic fusion ensemble from South London, England that helped spearhead the 21st century nu-jazz movement.

Since 2005, the Portico Quartet has created a singular, cinematic sound that melds jazz, electronica, ambient music, and minimalism. At the lead edge of South London's nu-jazz movement, their debut album 2007's Knee Deep in the North Sea was shortlisted for a Mercury Prize. Subsequent outings included albums for Peter Gabriel's Real World Records. They temporarily slimmed to an issued they the album Living Fields on Ninja Tune. Subsequently returning to their quartet lineup, they released 2017's Art in the Age of Automation for Matthew Halsall's Gondwana label.

Formed in 2005, the band was initially inspired to play via founding member Duncan Bellamy's purchase of an exotic yet contemporary instrument, the Hang, at a music festival. The Hang, invented in 2000 in Switzerland, is a metallic lap drum with clamped shells, the melodious
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PORTICO QUARTET albums / top albums

PORTICO QUARTET Portico Quartet (2006) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Portico Quartet (2006)
Nu Jazz 2006
PORTICO QUARTET Knee-Deep in the North Sea album cover 4.04 | 9 ratings
Knee-Deep in the North Sea
Nu Jazz 2007
PORTICO QUARTET Isla album cover 4.01 | 6 ratings
Nu Jazz 2009
PORTICO QUARTET Portico Quartet (2012) album cover 3.17 | 4 ratings
Portico Quartet (2012)
Nu Jazz 2012
PORTICO QUARTET Portico : Living Fields album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Portico : Living Fields
Pop/Art Song/Folk 2015
PORTICO QUARTET Art In The Age Of Automation album cover 3.25 | 2 ratings
Art In The Age Of Automation
Nu Jazz 2017
PORTICO QUARTET Untitled (Aitaoa #2) album cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Untitled (Aitaoa #2)
Nu Jazz 2018
PORTICO QUARTET Memory Streams album cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
Memory Streams
Nu Jazz 2019
PORTICO QUARTET Terrain album cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
Nu Jazz 2021
PORTICO QUARTET Monument album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Jazz Related Electronica/Hip-Hop 2021


PORTICO QUARTET Line album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Nu Jazz 2009
PORTICO QUARTET City Of Glass / Window Seat album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
City Of Glass / Window Seat
Jazz Related Electronica/Hip-Hop 2013
PORTICO QUARTET We Welcome Tomorrow album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
We Welcome Tomorrow
Nu Jazz 2020
PORTICO QUARTET Endless / Undercurrent album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Endless / Undercurrent
Nu Jazz 2020
PORTICO QUARTET Portico Quartet / Hania Rani album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Portico Quartet / Hania Rani
Jazz Related Electronica/Hip-Hop 2021


PORTICO QUARTET Live/Remix album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Jazz Related Electronica/Hip-Hop 2013
PORTICO QUARTET Live album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Nu Jazz 2013

PORTICO QUARTET demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

PORTICO QUARTET Black and White Sessions album cover 3.11 | 3 ratings
Black and White Sessions
Nu Jazz 2009

PORTICO QUARTET re-issues & compilations


PORTICO QUARTET movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)



Album · 2019 · Nu Jazz
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Brits Portico Quartet always had very special place on British nu jazz scene since they arrived more than a decade ago. Among very firsts in a genre their sound was closer to Brian Eno ambient than melodic chamber jazz/songs-oriented soft fusion of their scene's colleagues. But even more important - their ambient-jazz was very organic thanks to the use of exotic "hang"(form of steel-pan) instead of modern electronics of more club-oriented bands.

They received an early fame and some decline, changes in line-up and hardly successful flirting with vocal-based pop. With "Memory Streams" they return back to basis and it's their true return to form of sort.

Oppositely to their very early releases, band's fans wouldn't find an unexpected sound and very new music in general; on Portico's new album they play mostly everything they already played before. But they do it well.

Very melodic well executed "organic" ambient jazz,very accessible and often balancing on the dangerous edge with "elevators music" but fortunately never crossing the border. Not really a listening for one's brain but simply beautiful music for many's heart.

Band's traveling Europe with new program these days so don't miss your chance to see them playing live.

PORTICO QUARTET Knee-Deep in the North Sea

Album · 2007 · Nu Jazz
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'Knee-Deep in the North Sea' is a great nu-jazz debut and might well introduce the 'hang' to some listeners, a percussive instrument that sounds like a highly dynamic steel drum.

Portico Quartet play a relaxed and at times brooding 'nu-jazz' led by Jack Wyllie's sax, which has a mostly melodic function rather than dissonant one.

At times the songs grow quite sombre, especially on a piece like the title track, which sounds a little like a precursor to ideas which will be revisited on 'Clipper' from the band's second album.

There are more frantic moments throughout, where the rhythm section really get to thump along for a bit, but these moments are used sparingly, such as during the latter parts of 'Zavodovski Island.'

I really enjoy this album, though their follow-up 'Isla' is my pick from the Portico discography.

PORTICO QUARTET Portico Quartet (2012)

Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
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Sean Trane
Third studio album from the Portico Quartet, now famous for their use of the Hang drums. Through a very un-committing artwork (presenting their names broken down, multiplied and colourized, the quartet still features the sax as the lead instrument, and if their signature instrument (the Hang) is a bit less present, you’re still unmistakably in the usual Portico soundscapes in the first half of the album. However things tend to change dramatically for the second part and veer very post-ambient.

The group still dishes out the same kind of exciting, but thoughtful fusion as they did in their first two albums, yet managing to renew themselves sufficiently to avoid repetition. Some tracks are more reflective and calmer, sometimes even approaching some post-rock soundscapes (Spinner), others developing some strong electronic elements first (start of Rubidium), then veering post-minimalist (the second part of Rubidium). At times, the album also bears an ECM reminiscence that enters the post-rock minimalism mix (Hot Climates). A bit surprising is the Bjork-like vocal appearance of Steepless. The mixed electronic moods (In some weird Tortoise way) continues 4096 Colours and onwards to the closing Trace.

A fairly different album from Portico Quartet, where the signature Hang drum is much less present and the second half has little to do with their usual soundscapes, but is no less spellbinding, but in a very different manner.

PORTICO QUARTET Portico Quartet (2012)

Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
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Portico Quartet’s self-titled release is marked by a shift in sound toward more ambient territory. The electronic aspects, handled by nearly the whole group, sometimes approach soundscapes, often add texture to their nu-jazz, and ultimately dominate the album. They don’t always make for totally compelling moments, such as ‘4096 Colours,’ and the brief, sketch-like pieces, but there’s a consistent down tempo mood to the album.

Overall this electronic development is hardly negative, though I did find myself responding immediately to standout pieces like ‘Ruins’ or ‘Spinner’ and ‘City of Glass’ due to their similarities to material on the quartet’s previous album, 'Isla.' Wyllie’s saxophone once again carries the melody on these pieces, with the distinctive Hang still playing an important (if reduced) role. Of course, it might be a little unfair that I gravitated to these tracks, but not surprising, I liked 'Isla,' so naturally I’ll like similar songs from its follow-up.

Conversely, the stronger ambient-influenced pieces were really enjoyable too, steps away from jazz perhaps, but still great stuff – like the almost harrowing ‘Window Seat,’ which is at times droning or pulsing but mostly (and clearly) dealing with ideas of isolation. ‘Rubidium’ is a little similar, with a slow build of tension that leads into a jagged bridge demonstrating the band’s further exploration with forms different to their previous release. The sketches seem to inhabit similar roles on the album, but fall short of ‘Window Seat’ and ‘Rubidium.’

So while this is thematically consistent, ambient nu-jazz, there’s a dip in the compositions across the ten pieces. The album might have been better served by one more cohesive song as opposed to the sketches and its least successful moment, ‘4096 Colours’ which plods through its reverb before just sort of dissipating – but there’s still a lot to savour. Fans of ambient music might want to try this one out, along with nu-jazz fans who like their electronics – keeping in mind that it’s an organic if cold sounding electronic element. Fans of Portico Quartet’s ‘older’ sound might be thrown at first, but the changes aren’t insurmountable. Keep listening.


Album · 2009 · Nu Jazz
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Portico Quartet’s ‘Isla’ is distinctive nu-jazz with a moody, sombre feel. The group are sometimes likened to Radiohead – and there’s something fitting about the comparison, if taken as a statement about the darker, even melancholic atmosphere both bands can create. But rather than this notion (which isn’t the only tone they display in any event) what I find most surprising in terms of sound, is the ‘Hang.’ The Hang is a little like a large, cymbal or UFO-shaped bell that sounds a bit like a steel drum, often played with hands and fingers. On ‘Isla’ it features as both a percussive and lead instrument, stealing the show at times.

The band’s second album, and their last to feature Mulvey on the Hang, ‘Isla’ is an at times urgent, often reflective series of generally composed pieces dominated by Wyllie’s soprano and tenor. There is a strong emphasis on the melodies throughout, whether the rhythm section is being unobtrusive or somewhat busier. In fact, one of the great rewards of this album is the attention to dynamic throughout, exemplified in ‘Dawn Patrol’ and ‘The Visitor,’ where the rhythm section evokes the swells of an ocean and where the lead voices are careful to build, and who are certainly willing to play softly when needed. This is also apparent on more minimalistic pieces, such as ‘Life Mask’ one of the most interesting songs on ‘Isla’ – becoming a tender ballad after a semi-tortured intro, and featuring subtle sampling throughout.

One of my other favourites is the highly memorable ‘Clipper’ where bass and drums show a little more aggression between a series of softer passages that almost ache, in what could pass as a stunning pop song – similar ground that’s visited on bonus track ‘Subo’s Mental Meltdown,’ but with a slightly funkier approach.

In a landscape stuffed with modern jazz classics from the last sixty or more years, and nu-jazz still going strong for at least a third of that, Portico Quartet have definitely caught my attention. I’ll be looking for their debut, along with their self-titled 2012 release, and anticipating more great music too.


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