If it was possible to directly sublimate lucid dreams into sound, it isn't hard to imagine the results coming out somewhat like this. Music is made to simulate that kind of loose natural flow of thoughts often enough, but it's more rare for it to capture the experience as directly and vividly as Portico Quartet do on their sixth full-length. Memory Streams isn't just suggestive of memories flowing and shifting, it feels like a fleeting, mysterious, wash-through-your-mind dream in itself.
The sonic palette is familiar to those who have been following the band since their defining shift toward jazztronica on their eponymous album (Real World, 2012): ethereal saxophone (live and looped), equally mercurial synthesizer swirls, the vaguely otherworldly resonant tone of the steel hang drum, skittering rhythms built on an organic blend of drumming and programming. It's a natural continuation from the landmark Art in the Age of Automation (Gondwana, 2017) and its counterpart AITAOA#2 (Gondwana, 2018) that continues stretching and tweaking the template in subtle minimalist ways. Jazz and ambient, analogue and digital, strings and console knobsin Portico's hands, they're all complementary ingredients rather than dichotomies.
The result on Memory Streams has the feel of a sort of immersive cocoon washed by a beautiful understated light show, relaxing as a cabana and mysterious as outer space. With "Ways of Seeing" the group floats on lively rhythmic shuffling; "Memory Palace" reprises a previous track's motif for a thoughtful sax-garnished piano interlude, while the highlight "Offset" turns to chill-dub as the hang and sax hypnotically flit through the ether. The quartet sounds more comfortable and effortlessly interlocked than ever, even as the complex interplay stays sharp and their soundscape continually expands. The mental and musical stream is a practically limitless one, wide, deep and endlessly fascinating.
With, Beside, Against; Signals in the Dusk; Gradient; Ways of Seeing; Memory Palace; Offset; Dissident Gardens; Double Helix; Immediately Visible.
Duncan Bellamy: drums and electronics; Milo Fitzpatrick: bass; Keir Vine: hangs and keys; Jack Wyllie: saxophone and keys; Francesca Ter-Berg: cello; Flora Curzon: violin, viola.
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