Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Portico Quartet: The New Thing

Portico Quartet
Duncan Bellamy (drums)
Jack Wylie (saxophone, electronics)
Milo Fitzpatrick (bass)
Nick Mulvey (hang, percussion)

Portico Quartet are a British quartet that started out as buskers (street musicians). Their sound is slightly difficult to describe but it is lush, melodic and ethereal all at once. The main attraction is their use of percussion--in this case the instrument of choice is called a hang. The hang is Swedish instrument modified from the steel drum used in Caribbean music. The hang looks like two steel drums welded together. It can be played both by hand and with sticks. It makes a beautiful sounds and for Portico Quartet is the perfect accompaniment to the saxophone and upright bass.

While only recording two records, Knee Deep In The North Sea (Babel) and their just released Isla (RealWorld), Portico Quartet have quickly established themselves on the jazz scene in England and in Europe. Their sound combines jazz, African and even Steve Reich (especially the album Music for 18 Musicians). As with such genre-bending groups as E.S.T., Acoustic Ladyland, Cinematic Orchestra--Portico Quartet have become one of those band you definitely need to learn about. Both albums are a delight and rewarding listen.

You can't truly pigeonholed this band but you will be enveloped by the dreamscape they can create over the course of listening to one of their albums. Or witnessing a live show (which is probably the best way to experience them.) So definitely check out both albums--I believe you will find that they really just might be the "New Thing."

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