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PORTICO QUARTET

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.

TRACK LISTING

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

Portico Quartet & Hania Rani

Portico Quartet & Hania Rani

Portico Quartet / Hania Rani brings the singular Polish pianist and composer, Hania Rani, and East-London based widescreen minimalists, Portico Quartet, together for a unique collaboration.

Label mates, they met when Hania Rani performed at the Gondwana 10 event at the Roundhouse in October 2018, an event that Portico Quartet headlined and which marked Rani's UK debut ahead of the release of her breakthrough album, Esja.

The idea was simple, each artist would select and then rework one of each other's tunes. The result is a beautiful collaborative work that feel less like a pair of straight forward remixes and more like a new recording that brings the two acts distinctive sound worlds to a new place.

The first track is Hania Rani - Nest (Portico Quartet remix), which finds Portico Quartet reworking a track from Rani's most recent album Home. Portico Quartet saxophonist and keyboardist Jack Wyllie says:

'We've been fans of Hania since her first album album Esja, so it was a pleasure to get to work with her. Our remix took fragments of her voice and piano, and from that we extrapolated and composed an almost entirely new piece of music. The result was (hopefully) that her sound world became another instrument in the band…'

On the flip is Portico Quartet – With, Besides, Against (Hania Rani remix), which Rani recrafts with the addition of piano and her own unique vocals.

"Imagine being asked to make a remix for one of your favourite bands? I felt excitement and… mild panic. The idea for this one little rework took me a couple of months! I chose the track With, Beside, Against, which is a beautiful peaceful and broad piece of music with an energetic movement in the middle part. I tried to add a vocal line to it, reminding me of one of Portico's tracks called "Steepless" from their album released back in 2011. The result turned out to be satisfying. I felt it worked really nicely, matching the music in a natural way"

TRACK LISTING

1. Nest (Portico Quartet Remix)
2. With, Beside, Against (Hania Rani Remix)

Portico Quartet

Endless / Undercurrent

    Gondwana Records are delighted to announce parts 3 and 4 of the '7" Series', our first ever 7" vinyl collection series. Featuring bespoke artwork from Gondwana Records designer Daniel Halsall, cut at Calyx in Berlin, and manufactured at Optimal, each 7" is limited to strictly 300 copies and housed in a reverse board printed sleeve with classic 'dinked' centre holes.

    The return of Portico Quartet was one of the musical stories of 2017 and Endless was one of the tunes of the year. It's one of the band's biggest tunes and on the flip here is the ethereal groover Undercurrent.

    Side A Endless A catchy earworm, with a hypnotic groove that announced the band's return to their signature sound and marked their first new music in five years

    Side B Undercurrent cut at the same session, and making it's vinyl debut after previously only being available as a Japanese bonus track.

    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

      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

        Art In The Age Of Automation

        Mercury Prize-nominated Portico Quartet have always been an impossible band to pin down. Sending out echoes of jazz, electronica, ambient music and minimalism, the group created their own singular, cinematic sound over the course of three studio albums, from their 2007 breakthrough 'Knee-Deep in the North Sea', and 2010 John Leckie produced 'Isla', to the self titled record 'Portico Quartet' in 2012. Now rebooted as Portico Quartet after a brief spell as the three-piece Portico, the group's fourth album is on shop favourite, Matthew Halsall's, Gondwana records. Heralding a return to their mesmeric signature sound but also featuring fresh new sonic departures, the band's comeback was so eagerly anticipated that their four-night run at London's Archspace in June, sold out in less than an hour.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        says: Released on shop favourite, Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana label, Portico Quartet’s fourth album ‘Art In The Age Of Automation’ is a mesmeric, neo classical masterpiece. Sometimes the neo classical tag can be more of an insult than a compliment, bringing to mind Debenhams at dinner time piano, or the soundtrack to a documentary about the retreat from Stalingrad. Portico Quartet however, sidestep these comparisons by looking towards their contemporaries, visionaries like Floating Points and the more electronic moments of Radiohead, are as much of an influence as classic ambient artists such as Steve Reich and Brian Eno. ‘Art In The Age Of Automation’ is a genuinely beautiful listening experience. A languid journey through the full spectrum of sound, bookended by the rise and fall of the sun, melodies reflecting in its rays as the world, for these brief moments at least, let’s us drift away together in some kind of hard won harmony.

        TRACK LISTING

        Endless
        Objects To Place In A Tomb
        Rushing
        Art In The Age Of Automation
        S/2000S5
        A Luminous Beam
        Beyond Dialogue
        RGB
        Current History
        Mercury Eyes
        Lines Glow 


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