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Real World Records
The change of clothes on Portico’s third album hits home. Hats off.
It’s easier to pull off a change of outfits if you’ve done it before. A decade of polo shirts and khakis can impede a sudden switch to leopard pants and leather jackets.
I’m not sure quite how they’ve done it, but Portico Quartet are now as comfortable on Rinse FM as they are on stations that play little other than Blue Note recordings. The tranquil and detailed modern recordings found on their two first albums, the mercury music prize nominated Knee Deep in the North Sea and superb follow up Isla, sit next to bold touches of electronic music on this their third, self-titled album.
The switch didn’t have to be made; people, myself included, still like long and carefully composed contemporary jazz pieces. Especially the mystical ones found on Isla from 2009. Fans of London’s finest jazz band, myself still included, might have fretted about Portico Quartet breaking new grounds on this release.
But, as Steve Jobs would have it, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. The album’s electronic edge occasional pop excursions, such as on the serene ‘Steepless’, are carried out in taste. The guys have one foot in jazz improvisation, a second in their tested modern waters and the inevitable third in the kind of avant-garde electronica that cannot have escaped them in London. That’s not to say that the modern compositions aren’t still around: ‘Window Seat’, the opener, is all about its deep strings. But the synth details that underpin it hint at the group’s new direction. Every track comes equipped with something new.
‘Spinner’ – which wouldn’t have been out of place on one of Portico Quartet’s first two albums – mixes stilted percussion with a deep contrabass and Jack Wyllie’s distant saxophone. ‘Rubidium’ is a blast into several directions, and probably the best example of where the group has gone for this album. Four minutes into the nine-minute track, a glitchy Nintendo synth emerges, supported by some chaotic jazz drumming on the hang the group is known to use. It’s anachronism at its finest; the change of clothes hits home. Hats off.
words Sven Hultberg Carlsson