451

Portico Quartet: Isla

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Portico Quartet: Isla Having created a seismic sensation in Britain with its first album, Knee Deep In The North Sea (Babel, 2007)—which was a Mercury Prize Album Of The Year in 2008—Portico Quartet now releases that "difficult" second album. Can the group better its precocious debut? Yes it can. Portico has grown, as a collective entity and as individual musicians, and it's associating, rewardingly, with some heavy hitters: signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World Records and produced by John Leckie, whose credits include Doves, Radiohead and The Stone Roses.



Portico gathered much of its early media attention from the use of hangs—tuned percussion instruments which in appearance resemble a pair of cooking woks (see the YouTube clip below). Portico was the first British band, maybe the first band in the world, to use hangs, and the novelty served it well.



With a character of their own, hangs nevertheless carry traces of Tibetan prayer bells, steel drums, gamelan gongs, tubular bells, cymbals and xylophones. Their sound is pure and mellifluous, but without the sustained resonance of real bells; they are percussive, but without the hard-edged impact of cymbals or xylophones. Hangs don't work as washes of chill-out ambient sound, but they lend themselves perfectly to riffs and ostinatos, producing rapid-fire rhythms with attractively rounded edges.



One of the strengths of Isla is that the hangs aren't treated like exclamation marks; their particular attributes have become more fully integrated into the group sound. The basic Portico paradigm has hang players Nick Mulvey and Duncan Bellamy, who also plays kit drums, working in tandem with double bassist Milo Fitzpatrick to produce interconnecting layers of beats and melodic motifs. Some might call this "trance," but there's too much evolution going on to merit that generic description. Saxophonist and (less is more) loopist Jack Wyllie rides the waves, stating most of the themes and taking most of the formal solos. He sticks mainly to prettily played and gently handled soprano, but adds some rough, broken-note strewn alto or tenor to the racing "Clipper."



The album is characterized by a brisk liveliness: even when a top line is slow and leisurely, as for instance in the extenuated soprano notes which state "Line," the underlying patterns played by the hangs and/or the drums and bass are frequently in double or quadruple time. Melodies are attractive and catchy. Rhythms are insistent. Improvisation is to the fore. Isla is the nuts.

Track Listing: Mass Charge And Spin; The Visitor; Dawn Patrol; Line; Life Mask Interlude; Clipper; Life Mask; Isla; Shed Song (Improv No. 1).

Personnel: Jack Wyllie: saxophones, loops; Milo Fitzpatrick: double bass; Nick Mulvey: hang; Duncan Bellamy: drums and hang.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Real World Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read This Is The Uplifting Part CD/LP/Track Review This Is The Uplifting Part
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 22, 2017
Read Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh CD/LP/Track Review Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 22, 2017
Read Glare of the Tiger CD/LP/Track Review Glare of the Tiger
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2017
Read Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana CD/LP/Track Review Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 22, 2017
Read From Two Balconies CD/LP/Track Review From Two Balconies
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 21, 2017
Read "Blue And Lonesome" CD/LP/Track Review Blue And Lonesome
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "Ena / One" CD/LP/Track Review Ena / One
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 26, 2016
Read "Manhattan EP" CD/LP/Track Review Manhattan EP
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 2, 2017
Read "For The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review For The Unknown
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 9, 2016
Read "Impermanence" CD/LP/Track Review Impermanence
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Louisiana Soul Revival featuring Doug Duffey" CD/LP/Track Review Louisiana Soul Revival featuring Doug Duffey
by James Nadal
Published: May 16, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!