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PORTICO QUARTET

Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet - 10th Anniversary Edition

    Portico Quartet have defied categorisation over the course of six studio albums. From their 2007 Mercury Music Prize nominated breakthrough ‘Knee-Deep in the North Sea’ through to the longform minimalist inspired ‘Terrain’ and recent electronic driven album ‘Monument’. The band’s precisely sculpted ideas combine human touch with electronic efficiency, delivering acclaimed widescreen minimalism. The third, self-titled, album from Portico Quartet was originally released on 30 January 2012 and saw the band embracing new sonic territories.

    This 10th anniversary re-release sees the album newly remastered for vinyl and cut across three sides (the fourth is an etching) by John Davis at Metropolis, with silver foiled sleeve designs and a 12-page 12” booklet of black and white photography from the recording period. There’s a choice of either black or colour vinyl, both with silver foiled sleeve designs and a 12-page 12” booklet of black and white photography from the recording period.

    Also included in the vinyl formats is a hi-res download code for the full album and additional contemporaneous EP tracks, currently unavailable elsewhere.

    TRACK LISTING

    Side A
    Window Seat 3:18
    Ruins 5:34
    Spinner 4:38
    Side B
    Rubidium 8:44
    Export For Hot Climates 1:08
    Laker Boo 7:51
    Side C
    Steepless 3:57
    4096 Colours 4:35
    City Of Glass 6:36
    Trace 1:53
    Side D
    Etching

    Released in November 2021, Monument was acclaimed as one of Portico Quartet's most accessible, direct records to date. Carefully crafted as an ode to better times, it pulsed with the energy of dance music and was one of the most melodic and carefully structured records the band have ever released. Next Stop is the brilliant follow-up, a pulsing powerful four-tracker that also features a wistful, elegiac side and perhaps provides a coda to Monument.
    Captured Time is a melodious and atmospheric tune that erupts out of layered synthesisers and strings. It's contrast between melodic simplicity and textural density is what lets it push through to an elated, ecstatic conclusion as the band draw you into an emotional journey as only they can.

    Next Stop is Portico Quartet at full power. Arguably the most rhythmically dense tune they have ever made. It's hypnotic groove driven by am off-kilter 7/8 drum and bass groove that ducks and dives with relentless intensity.

    Youth is a deceptively simple tune, nostalgic in tone, It's a paen to childhood and simpler days, with Wyllie's wistful sax melody perfectly offset by the low-slung slow-mo hip-hop beat of Bellamy drums. But is the beautiful strings that really turn this tune into something special.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Beautiful neo-classical record, Portico Quartet's never disappoints and yet again they've blown us away with their stunning, mindful ambient Jazz. An absolute must.

    Portico Quartet announce Monument, the electronic driven follow-up to their acclaimed ambient-minimalist suite Terrain, presenting the band at their most direct

    It's rare that a band releases two albums within six months of each other, rarer too that while both are so different, they are both as epochal in terms of the band's output as Terrain and Monument are to Portico Quartet. The irony is that Monument, a stripped-back, intentionally direct album, was the album that the band set out to write in May 2020, before the dream like long-form Terrain came into focus. Briefly they were two halves of the same record, but the band ended up developing these two distinct bodies of work concurrently. And although they were written side-by-side and recorded at the same sessions, they are records best understood as distinct from each other, each with opposing ideas and forms.

    Monument is one of Portico Quartet's most accessible, direct records to date. If Terrain addressed the darker side of how Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie made sense of the pandemic, then Monument resonates as an ode to better times. If not quite a dance record, it nonetheless pulses with an energy, radiance and a scalpel sharp focus. Jack Wyllie explains: "It's possibly our most direct album to date. It's melodic, structured and there's an economy to it that is very efficient. There's not much searching or wastage within the music itself, it is all finalised ideas, precisely sculpted and presented as a polished artefact."

    Bellamy expands "Monument sits somewhere between our albums Portico Quartet and Art in the Age of Automation. It has perhaps a more overtly electronic edge to its sound – there are more synthesisers and electronic elements than we have used before and the music is often streamlined and rhythmic".

    After the ethereal, stage-setting of Opening, the album kicks into overdrive with Impressions, a short energetic track that pairs a club influenced groove with hang drum and close, delicate saxophone. It's the balance between these elements that push and pull the track through a selection of melodic and rhythmic re-configurations, contrasting human touch with a machine-like focus. Ultraviolet is a kaleidoscopic, krautrock inspired track with a haunting introduction and an insistent pulse. The wistful Ever Present builds from a simple piano refrain; a nostalgic melody line floats over the top as drums and bass groove insistently underneath, before reaching a euphoric peak. The title track Monument builds around a looping vocal sample, drums and an enigmatic melody, the ending giving way to a gauzy, weaving synth line. The power here is in its economy and luminosity. AOE flips back and forth, like a dial that's been switched. Mining the tension between a pastoral inflected cello and saxophone melody, with an abrupt shift to jilted live drums, wailing delayed saxophone and a flickering synth line. Warm Data comes straight from the same Portico Quartet tradition as older tracks like Current History and Laker-Boo. It's a marriage of instrumental minimalism with drum machines and synths. Finally, the album closes with On The Light, a track that transmits a sense of suspense and freedom, driven by the twitching drums of Bellamy and evocative sax of Wyllie. It offers the perfect bitter-sweet and evocative ending to Portico Quartet's latest Monument.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Now this is a treat, Portico Quartet’s second release in one year providing a mellow outro to the year. There’s something about this time of year which is hibernate-inducing and this is the soundtrack to the cold Winter months. Beautiful electronic Jazz, all Gondwana fan can rejoice – it’s finally here!

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Opening
    2. Impressions
    3. Ultraviolet
    4. Ever Present
    5. Gateway
    6. Monument
    7. A.O.E
    8. Warm Data
    9. Portal
    10. On The Light

    Portico Quartet announce Terrain, a three-part suite drawing on American minimalism and ambient music alongside their own rich heritage as they explore new musical vistas

    When Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie – the driving force behind Portico Quartet got together in their East London studio in May 2020 and started work on the music that would become their new album, the world, or most of it, was in the midst of the first lockdown. The unique impact of the events of 2020 became the backdrop to their time composing and recording; causing them to take stock, re-think, and plot a new musical path.

    Indian novelist Arundhati Roy expressed the sense of grief and rupture from the pandemic as "a portal, a gateway between one world and the next", and as they created the music that would become Terrain they were drawn towards longer, slowly unfolding pieces, which are perhaps the most artistically free and also the most beautiful they have ever made.


    These are compositions more in the lineage of Line and Shed Song (Isla/2009), Rubidium (Portico Quartet/2012) and Immediately Visible (Memory Streams/2019). Wyllie expands: "We've always had this side of the band in some form. The core of it is having a repeated pattern, around which other parts move in and out, and start to form a narrative. We used to do longer improvisations not dissimilar to this around the time of our second record Isla. On Terrain we've really dug into it and explored that form. I suppose there are obvious influences such as American minimalism, but I was particularly inspired by the work of Japanese composer Midori Takada. Her approach, particularly on 'Through the Looking Glass', where she moves through different worlds incorporating elements of minimalism with non-Western instruments and melodies were at the front of my mind when writing this music".

    Terrain I, II & III are all subtly different, but a short rhythmic motif that repeats is the starting point in all three movements. There is a sense of a shared journey to all these pieces, they move through different worlds, with a sense of horizontal movement that lends the music real momentum. Terrain I was the first piece they worked on and it started with a hang drum pattern, improvised by Bellamy, who added cymbals and synthesiser. From there on it grew, Wyllie adding saxophone, another synthesiser section, strings. For Bellamy "It felt more like filmmaking than music making, a bricolage of conflicting, shifting signs, subtle tension and multiple narratives. Andrei Tarkovsky's 'Mirror' and British artist John Akomfrah's incredible 'Handsworth Songs' were pivotal points of reference for me." Wyllie expands the point. "There is a sense of conversation between us both, in that someone presents a musical idea, the other person responds to it with something else, which would then be responded to again... until it feels finished. These responses are often consonant with each other but there is also a dissonance to some of this work. The music slowly evolves through these shared conversations."

    It is this sense of dialogue, both between the composers, and between tranquillity and a subtly unsettling melancholy, that makes Terrain such a powerful statement. One that speaks to both our interior and exterior worlds, to our own personal landscape, to our Terrain.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: I've always been a fan of Portico Quartet but 'Terrain' leans even further into the improvisational, free-form jazz vibes of their previous work. The three parts on offer here display a keen sense of space and momentum while forging a gorgeous, plaintive undercurrent of ambient sensibilities. It's intoxicating and invigorating. A wonderful listen.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Terrain: I
    2. Terrain: II
    3. Terrain: III

    Portico Quartet

    We Welcome Tomorrow

      Portico Quartet announce We Welcome Tomorrow a strictly limited edition three-track vinyl EP.

      The EP follows on from Memory Streams, their fifth studio album and second for Gondwana Records which was released in October 2019. Sonically it explores a similar world to the full-length album, but where Memory Streams focused on a punchier live sound, WWT explores modern classical and ambient textures.

      We Welcome Tomorrow features, the duo Fran and Flora (Francesca Ter-Berg cello & Flora Curzon) on strings, but also builds looped saxophones, drums and synths parts into a rich tapestry of sound. Odd time signatures underpin a surprisingly emotional build that resolves in richly layered strings.

      Mirage explores a different side of the band's writing. Moving away from their usual instrumentation and enlisting the beautiful string playing of 'Fran and flora' . It draws influence from the emotional, spiritual minimalism of composers such as Arvo Part and John Adams.

      Winding Snake again takes influence from American minimalism but places it against strong, modern drum rhythms and organs. And its energy and instrumentation propel the music into trademark Portico Quartet territory.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. We Welcome Tomorrow
      2. Mirage
      3. Winding Snake

      Portico Quartet return with Memory Streams, their fifth studio album and one that continues the journey that first started with 2008's Mercury nominated debut "Knee Deep in the North Sea". It's a creative path that has seen the band embrace new technology and explore ambient and electronic influences alongside minimalism, jazz and beyond. It is a process that has encouraged change. Each album has seen the band expand its palate or explore new trajectories. From the gentle charm of their breakthrough's inimitable mix of jazz, world and minimalist influences, to the tight-knit brilliance of "Isla", the electronic infused eponymous Portico Quartet to 2016's return "Art in the Age of Automation" (the band's most electronic statement to date) they have never been a band to look backwards. Each record has been its own world, its own statement and offered its own meaning. It's the mark of a band that has always both stood apart from any scene and been prepared to challenge its self and find new things to say and to push the limits of what they could do.

      It is an approach that has encouraged the band to plough their own furrow. Drummer Duncan Bellamy notes that "For better or worse I think we have always been quite an isolated band. Perhaps that comes from never feeling like we really belonged to or fit in to a scene when we first started making music" While for saxophonist Jack Wyllie " I feel more connected to other musicians these days and those relationships influence the sound we have in some way. But I wouldn't say we feel a part of scene, it still feels quite out on its own, which is cool, because it helps the music feel unique"?

      The band's new album, "Memory Streams" is part of the same continuum and yet, as the name hints, there is a sense here of a remembering, shards of past influences, hints of ideas re-forged. For Wyllie, Memory Streams "feels in some ways about the identity of the band, about the records we've made before, and the memory of them" whereas for Bellamy it suggests "a torrent of imagery, accessing and reliving archived memories, perhaps not even your own".

      Sonically, the album embraces the classic Portico Quartet sound pallet of drums, saxophone, bass and Hang- Drums, but nonetheless the sound has modulated, become more modern, whilst still channelling the beauty and mystery which has always marked the very best of Portico Quartet's music. It's the sound of a band at ease with its self who after a dozen years of recording and playing together are able to simultaneously explore and embrace their own identity.

      "Memory Streams" also marks a return to a more predominantly band orientated sound than "AITAOA" and its partner release, the mini-album "Untitled". Bellamy says "we wanted to create something that had texture, fibre and space to it. Something that felt vivid, real and alive". During recording the band re-amped a lot of the sounds on the record, a process which lends a sense of depth and spaciousness to the sound. Wyllie adds, "We tried to reduce the pallet to what really identified the band and also as a way to help us write - it's not easy if you have unlimited possibilities. But it was also was an interesting challenge as it was about writing something new, that felt like a development, whilst also drawing on the past".

      "Memory Streams" opens with "With, Beside, Against" which has an expansive, quietly unfolding quality that makes it the perfect album opener and was also one of the first tracks they wrote for the album. "Signals" is a creeping, mysterious track that captures the spirit of the record. Its hypnotic, rolling quality builds throughout with shades of a classic Portico Quartet tune but with a 'tougher' edge. The outstanding "Gradient" is a more produced piece. Mixing lo-fi and beautifully recorded acoustic parts together it grows from a simple, repeated Hang-Drum motif, outwards into a searching hypnotic crescendo. "Ways of Seeing" is a synthesis of minimalism and more dancefloor-oriented rhythms. A lone pulse from the drum machine cuts through a haze of chiming, swirling Hang-Drums and pads built from shards of looped saxophone. "Memory Palace" is a distant echo of the motif from "Gradient", and is a bare, slow piano piece shrouded in a mist of saxophone noise. The punchy "Offset" is all about motion and tension and Bellamy's drums pound in response. "Dissident Gardens" is an intricate, hypnotic track in 3 parts. Almost prog like in rhythm but has a strong minimalist element to it with Farfisa organs as the repetitive top lines. "Double Helix" begins with string swells, it stops and jolts as if someone is switching TV channels before locking into a deep groove. The beautifully sparse, emotional heft of "Immediately Visible" sits in a powerful lineage of Portico Quartet tracks such as "Line", "Rubidium" and "Beyond Dialogue". It was largely improvised in the studio and offers the perfect ending point for the album with its sense of journey and deep well of feeling. An album that locates their music in an age where we have unfettered access to a vast and ever expanding archive of imagery and ideas, Memory Streams both embraces and builds on Portico Quartet's own unique music and legacy and locates their music firmly in the present.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Millie says: ‘Memory Streams’ is a sublime neo-classical, and prominently jazz album. “With, Beside, Against” begins the album in minimalist style creating an earnest tone of reflection. As soon as the rest of ensemble joins in, the music becomes joyous, blossoming into percussion driven highs of emotion reminiscent of their earlier work. The album centres on capturing the memories of their past, Portico Quartet wanted to create something “vivid, real and alive” and I think they’ve just done that with this timeless album. I might be the only one here but when track as beautiful as “Immediately Visible” makes your heart ache a bit, that’s when you know the song is going to stay with you for some time. Similar artists on the Portico’s wavelength are GoGo Penguin, Nils Frahm and Penguin Café. If you are a fan of them, then this is the perfect album for you to end 2019 on a calming and gentle note.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. With, Beside, Against
      2. Signals In The Dusk
      3. Gradient
      4. Ways Of Seeing
      5. Memory Palace
      6. Offset
      7. Dissident Gardens
      8. Double Helix
      9. Immediately Visible

      Portico Quartet

      Untitled (AITAOA #2)

        Portico Quartet has always been an impossible band to pin down. Sending out echoes of jazz, electronica, ambient music and minimalism, the group have created their own singular sound.And while their new music mixes dense layers and textures with electronic and acoustic instruments the sound remains uniquely, recognisably their own.

        In 2017 they released their fourth studio album in a decade, Art in the Age of Automation, on Gondwana Records. Released to a chorus of acclaim, the album marked a triumphant return for the Quartet after a brief hiatus as the three-piece, Portico, and marked a welcome return to the stage for the foursome with sold-out shows across Europe including the Roundhouse, London earlier this year.

        Untitled (AITAOA #2) was largely recorded at the same sessions as Art in the Age of Automation at Fish Factory Studios in London and Portico Quartet's own studio in East London. Like it's predecessor, the album was mixed at Voxton in Berlin. It is intended as a companion piece to last year's AITAOA. But works equally as well as a stand-alone album and explores similar areas of enigmatic, widescreen minimalism alongside the more hard-hitting sounds that have become a notable part of their live shows. There is no lessening of quality here, album opener, Double Space, Index, View From A Satellite and Berlin were all originally slated for AITAOA, before being held back as the band's vision of that album came into sharper focus. The insistent groove of Unrest and cinematic beauty of Celestial Wife were enhanced with further recording sessions till the band felt they were complete. The artwork is by Duncan Bellamy for Veil Projects.

        TRACK LISTING

        1 Double Space
        2 Index
        3 Unrest
        4 In Where We Meet
        5 View From A Satellite
        6 Celestial Wife
        7 Reflected In Neon
        8 Dust
        9 Berlin

        Portico Quartet

        Portico Quartet

          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.

          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.



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