From London, composed of Jack Wylie (soprano and tenor saxophone), Duncan Bellamy (hang and drums) and Milo Fitzpatrick (double bass), the band was originally also joined by Nick Mulvey until 2011, having left to pursue a career as singer-songwriter. This intricate modern ensemble of jazz, electronic, ambient and synth-pop has caught the attention of many since their busking days, playing outside the National Theatre in London. Their name stems after one of their gigs was rained off in Italy, which meant playing under a portico and their assemble does appear to have hints of spiritual as well as celestial feel to it.
Having been nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize as well as Time Out’s jazz album of 2007 following their debut album ‘Knee-deep in the North Sea’ (2007), their unique use of the hang, a descendant of the steel drum, just smaller and more UFO looking, set them apart on the jazz scale. Their reference to modern jazz and African music (original members studied ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies) with a twist of trance-like melodies creates a fascinating as well as captivating sound.
‘Ruins’ from their 2011 album, has a delicate flow through the hang and almost a strumming bass, accompanied by a shy yet piercing saxophone part.
‘Isla’ (2009) and self-named ‘Portico Quartet’ (2011) followed, with an album due to be out this year, the band has had a couple years to organize themselves, changing their name to Portico and musical style to the similarities of James Blake in 2014. They however, changed back after fans didn’t quite grasp onto the modifications they had made – setting them back on their original tracks. Even though their last album dates a couple years now, the record tumbles through moody, mournful and ghostly wrapped compositions with electronic drums/twitches alongside the hang as well as a screeching saxophone.
I really recommend giving a listen to their last album, whilst keeping an eye out for their new material because these Cinematic Orchestra and Jaga Jazzist-like vibes are to get lost in. The beautiful play of electronica and jazz has me lost in another place, riding an empty train through a rainy day. Between the neurotic drums on “Rubidium”, the angelic voice of Cornelia on “Steepless” and the moving voyage of “City of Glass” – I’ve travelled with Portico Quartet to a place which not many can bring me to.