REVIEW: Portico Quartet – Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet‘s self-titled third album has finally landed via Real World Records, the label originally started by Peter Gabriel back in 1989.

The UK-based Portico Quartet, so named after inclement weather at an early gig called for a performance under a portico, return at the beginning of 2012 with a slight alteration in personnel. Nick Mulvey, who previously played Hang, the angelic Swiss instrument that gave distinction to Portico Quartet’s early material, has left to pursue solo projects, and is replaced by Keir Vine.  The increasingly rare instrument’s ethereal sounds are still present on this third eponymous outing, but step back from the foreground, melting into the album’s soundscape that swells and subsides with unpredictable beauty.

Tracklisting:

01. Window Seat
02. Ruins
03. Spinner
04. Rubidium
05. Export To Hot Climates
06. Laker Boo
07. Steepless feat. Cornelia
08. 4096 Colours
09. City Of Glass
10. Trace

Jack Wyllie’s playing on Ruins is gripping, the forced sounds from his horn shudder over fast-plucked bass notes and silken electronics, floating up from the track’s beginning. Comparisons drawn between Lacker Boo and Burial’s recent output are tenuous, the drum programming here is straight, and shares more sonic commonality with Matthew Herbert than it does the reclusive South Londoner.

Much of the electronica present on this album was played live, using effects pedals and reverb, while the crisp patterns are the work of drummer Duncan Bellamy and his MPC. It’s a show in increasing demand: their London gig at the end of this month sold out before the year began. And the creative approach of the quartet seems to be as forward thinking as their current sonic palette too; check out this SoundCloud page to read about a recent remix competition the band ran by offering up the stems from a track. If the guys favoured your rework of the track Steepless, you’d expect a prize that included all three vinyl releases, a limited edition EP, and a pair of tickets to one of their upcoming gigs.

Straddling cinematic electronica with elements of jazz, Portico Quartet have surely offered up an earlier contender to be considered one of 2012′s finest releases. A truly beautiful album.