Isla - Portico Quartet Album Review
The second album from ex-London buskers, The Portico Quartet, Isla follows on from their critically acclaimed album, Knee Deep in the North Sea, which was nominated for a Mercury Music Award in 2007.
Their fusion of post-jazz ambience is spellbinding; this is a group of four extremely talented musicians who make it seem so simple and minimalist, yet it flows so smoothly. The pièce de résistance is the hang drum, which is the backbone for each track, combined with clattered saxophones, drums and a thumping double bass, it creates something so fresh and so unique you will not be able to divert your attention for the duration of the album.
Bringing in Radiohead producer, John Leckie, the band is a lot more ambitious and experimental with this outing. Starting with the fast-paced Paper Scissors Stone, it is a lot freer than their first effort, which did seem quite controlled in some places. This album lets all that go and the results are astonishing, each track seems to be like a progressive jam, John Leckie has made the musicians more confident and it can be heard in their music. Line is an enticing, hypnotic, eight minute lesson in ambience; a Caribbean style steel drum starts of and leads the track into a scattered, yet alluring climax. Another joy to behold is the tune Clipper, which does sound in places like it could be on a Radiohead album, the slow/fast tempo is truly brilliant. This is free, loose jazz at its best. The album goes out with a magnificent Soprano Saxophone based improv, Shed Song which is a brilliant way to close this magnificent album.
This has to be my album of the year so far; it should get second Mercury nomination and possibly a win. It's a beautiful album and the Portico Quartet have revolutionized the way others and possibly I see ambient music but also my perception of modern jazz.
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