PORTICO QUARTET

Nu Jazz / Jazz Related DJs/Electronica/Rap / Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk • United Kingdom
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Portico Quartet are a 4-piece modern jazz group from London and Southampton. Their sound is made distinctive by the use of the hang, a 21st Century percussion instrument used on all their tracks. The group is composed of Jack Wyllie (soprano and alto saxophone), Duncan Bellamy (drums), Milo Fitzpatrick (double bass), and Keir Vine (hang and percussion). Nick Mulvey, former hang player and percussionist, left the Portico Quartet in early 2011 to pursue his career as singer-songwriter. He is replaced by Kier Vine. After nearly two years of playing mainly small gigs and busking regularly outside the National Theatre in London, they signed to Babel Label in 2007. Their first album, Knee-deep in the North Sea was released on 5 November 2007, coupled with performances at the London Jazz Festival at Purcell Room together with pianist Michiel Borstlap and drummer Bill Bruford. They are now signed to Real World Records and read more...
Thanks to snobb for the addition and dreadpirateroberts for the updates

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Knee-Deep In the North SeaKnee-Deep In the North Sea
REAL WORLD RECORDS 2017
$14.22
$19.15 (used)
Untitled (AITAOA #2)Untitled (AITAOA #2)
Gondwana Records 2018
$10.62
$11.74 (used)
Art in the Age of AutomationArt in the Age of Automation
VIRTUAL LABEL GROUP 2017
$19.98
$20.17 (used)
Portico QuartetPortico Quartet
REAL WORLD RECORDS 2017
$6.24
$6.16 (used)
IslaIsla
REAL WORLD RECORDS 2017
$12.63
$3.95 (used)
Live/RemixLive/Remix
REAL WORLD RECORDS 2017
$6.27
$4.73 (used)
Live/RemixLive/Remix
Real World Records 2014
$18.79
$30.22 (used)
Art In The Age Of AutomationArt In The Age Of Automation
P-Vine 2017
$28.53
$22.26 (used)
Portico Quartet by Portico QuartetPortico Quartet by Portico Quartet
Real World Records
$51.97
$20.17 (used)
Live/RemixLive/Remix
Real World Records 2013
$28.46
$114.58 (used)
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PORTICO QUARTET Discography

PORTICO QUARTET albums / top albums

PORTICO QUARTET Knee-Deep in the North Sea album cover 4.04 | 7 ratings
Knee-Deep in the North Sea
Nu Jazz 2007
PORTICO QUARTET Isla album cover 4.02 | 4 ratings
Isla
Nu Jazz 2009
PORTICO QUARTET Portico Quartet album cover 3.16 | 3 ratings
Portico Quartet
Nu Jazz 2012
PORTICO QUARTET Portico : Living Fields album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Portico : Living Fields
Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk 2015
PORTICO QUARTET Art In The Age Of Automation album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Art In The Age Of Automation
Nu Jazz 2017
PORTICO QUARTET Untitled (Aitaoa #2) album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Untitled (Aitaoa #2)
Nu Jazz 2018

PORTICO QUARTET EPs & splits

PORTICO QUARTET Portico Quartet album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Portico Quartet
Nu Jazz 2006
PORTICO QUARTET Line album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Line
Nu Jazz 2009
PORTICO QUARTET City Of Glass / Window Seat album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
City Of Glass / Window Seat
Jazz Related DJs/Electronica/Rap 2013

PORTICO QUARTET live albums

PORTICO QUARTET Live/Remix album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Live/Remix
Jazz Related DJs/Electronica/Rap 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 singles (0)

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

PORTICO QUARTET Reviews

PORTICO QUARTET Knee-Deep in the North Sea

Album · 2007 · Nu Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
dreadpirateroberts
'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

Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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

Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
dreadpirateroberts
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.

PORTICO QUARTET Isla

Album · 2009 · Nu Jazz
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dreadpirateroberts
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.

PORTICO QUARTET Isla

Album · 2009 · Nu Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
Second album from a group that holds a special place in this writer’s heart, since in early 07 he discovered the group playing live on London’s River Thames left bank on a Sunday afternoon amongst the dozen of street artistes developing their crafts. The group played all afternoon half-hour sets, resting the other half-hour, thus allowing me to wander and discovering mimes, clowns, other musicians etc... and come back to catch another earful of their music, and buying the then-brand-new album. For those who are not familiar, this four-man crew (betcha you’d know that much ;o) has a very special all-instrumental edge since they feature the rare Swiss-made “Hang drums” (actually two of them during the afternoon I saw them), which is sort of closed double-wok hollow-metal tuned-percussion instrument, struck with soft mallets and sound-wise resembling those Caribbean steel drums, but can often be sounding to a piano if played correctly.

Their second album, recorded in may 09 at Abbey Studios and released in early 10 and dressed in a all cardboard geometric artwork similar to Elephant9 or Tunng’s, features only one Hang drum player (Mulvey), which is a wise decision, because the last thing you’d want is to overdose the listener with a no-matter-what-you-say limited percussion instrument. I was afraid that this second effort would be a tad too much of a carbon copy of their debut, but I was relatively quickly put at ease, because the group’s composition and aptitudes have progressed exponentially, even if the group can’t erase their debut album’s heritage from your mind. Indeed their jazz-influenced instrumental fusion has risen to another depth (can’t use the word sunken, here;o)) mainly due to the communal songwriting, but also hiring a four-man string section, although their presence is relatively discreet.

Mulvey’s Hang drum banging (sorta speak;o)) is again superbly up front in many tunes, but you never get tired of it, because the way it’s played, it could be (almost) mistaken for a piano, despite the fact that the other percussionist (and real drummer) also diddles the keys of a real piano when heeded. Jack Willie’s sax is the other indisputable star on Isla, often reminiscent of a gentle Coltrane, often enhanced by Fitzpatrick’s contrabass, which can lead you into the illusion of the Garrison-Trane link (most notably on Clipper, one of my fave), especially once Mulvey’s Hang drum takes slight Tyner-esque shades. But the fusion has a real progressive edge, partly due to Bellamy’s excellent drumming and time-keeping. Dawn Patrol is simply awesome in a late-night crowning promenade, just a stroll on the beach of melody. Line is more of a Surman-esque new-agey ECM-type of fusion

Just as good as their debut album, but the surprise is now gone, Isla is one of those superb prog album that you can easily use to cuddle up and get cute with your partner without risking her annoyance at your otherwise “weird & bizarre” music.

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