Portico Quartet still sound like nothing you ever heard before. The Mercury nominated East London based outfit’s unique music has expanded to embrace new sonic territories. Drawing on the inspiration of electronica, ambient, classical and dance music as they take their strange, beautiful, cinematic, future music to exciting new vistas where the inspiration of Burial, Mount Kimbie and Flying Lotus rubs shoulders with the textures of Arve Henriksen and Bon Iver and echoes of Steve Reich and Max Richter. But all underpinned by a shared joy in collective music making as the band push their inimitable music into the future.
It’s a change that was brewing for some time. As anyone who saw Portico Quartet live throughout 2010 knew, the band had added a heady brew of live samples and loops to their arsenal, exploring a harder-edged sound that brought a more contemporary edge to their previously wholly acoustic music. It was a metamorphosis that was accelerated when the band’s original hang player, Nick Mulvey, left to explore his own musical muse earlier this year and the remaining members drummer Duncan Bellamy, bassist Milo Fitzpatrick and saxophonist Jack Wyllie started exploring the possibilities of sampling the hang and triggering it’s sounds from electronic pads, opening up a whole new way of utilising the instrument’s unique sound. It accelerated further when they invited keyboard player, and now hang player, Keir Vine (an old friend of Milo’s from Goldsmith’s University) to come on board. Keir who brings his own unconventional keyboard methods and love of synth music to the band has also developed his own take on the hang style pioneered by Mulvey and his erstwhile band mates. But it is Keir’s keyboard playing (a sound Portico Quartet had always wanted to use) that has been instrumental in allowing the band to explore a new sonic world, as has drummer Duncan Bellamy’s shift to playing a hybrid electronic/acoustic drum set-up and his and his band mates organic use of live sampling and loops alongside their more traditional instruments.
Produced by the band themselves and brilliantly engineered by Greg Freeman at the Fish Market studios and Real World, Portico Quartet’s eponymous third album is the sound of a band that refuses to stand still. But there are no shortcuts here, the music is played live, not pre-recorded, and the hard won collective empathy that is at the heart of their sound remains their primary touchstone. Full of mystery and drama Portico Quartet still take the listener on an unparalleled journey but where their previous album Isla was the sound of a band looking inwards, Portico Quartet find the band looking defiantly into the future.