Isla

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From the moment ‘Isla’ starts, the listener embarks on a journey through an aural landscape of surprising variety and virtuosity. The innate bond, instrumentation and improvisatory skills present between the four members of Portico Quartet create a truly unique sound, lending them fans of all ages, from the niche audiences of London’s underground jazz scene right through to the listeners of BBC Radio 1. It is a rare thing indeed, when a group appears who balance such a wide variety of genres with definitive individual style.

portico_quartet - isla

Artwork by Duncan Bellamy

Glimpses of the inspirations for Portico’s music are fleeting but striking – scenic references to Africa and Arabia abound, entwined within contemporary minimalist rhythms and electronics. These references provide the listener with an idea of what the Quartet have been up to since their 2007 Mercury nominated Babel Vortex release ‘Knee Deep in the North Sea’. The months of touring abroad and at home have influenced and broadened their compositional skills, with innumerable musical refractions woven expertly into their musical tapestry.

Duncan Bellamy’s drums shimmer and push, providing a tangible energy for Jack Wyllie’s storytelling saxophone lines. In ‘The Vistor’, Wyllie’s melodies find an endpoint in a haze of delay; a use of electronics that marks a development in the established sound and one that works superbly. Nick Mulvey’s ubiquitous Hang is given just the right amount of lightness and room in the mix, and is particularly bewitching in the opening figures of the title track, ‘Isla’. Milo Fitzpatrick on Double Bass provides an integral and magnificent definition to the album with the second half of ‘Isla’ showcasing his exceptional arranging skills. The additional instrumentation used (electronics, marimba, cello, viola and violin) is explored in a delicate and subtle way, lending a new found poise to Portico’s wholesome soundscape.

Recorded at Abbey Road and Fish Factory studios in May of this year, John Leckie’s production gives this second album both clarity and atmosphere. The quality of Leckie’s work lends real progression to Portico’s sound, a true sign of his versatility as a producer.

This is an album that you make space for. I’ll admit I’ve been listening to it through and through in the last seven days prior to writing this post. That is not to say that ‘Isla’ isn’t immediately appealing and gratifying – ‘Clipper’ the sixth track on the album, and probably my favourite, has been on pinball style rotation around my temporal lobes since my first listen. The album is constructed in such a way that a thread seems to run all the way through it – an almost filmic aspect, and deserves listening to in full each time.

In short, Portico Quartet’s ‘Isla’ is an accomplished, sincere and beautiful album providing a natural growth from their first, ‘Knee Deep in the North Sea’.

If you hurry, you might still be able to buy tickets for the ‘Isla’ album launch at Camden’s Koko on the 2nd November.

‘Isla’ is the new album from UK based Portico Quartet. It came out two days ago and you can purchase it here.

Download / Listen here

Portico Quartet – (Something’s Going Down On) Zavodovski Island

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