When your band line-up is announced as having a new Hang player, you know you're in for a special ride - that's if you know what a 'Hang' actually is. Until watching one of their live shows, I wasn't sure what it was until the programme mentioned the suffix, 'drum'. Ah - a hang drum, or idiophonic drum which looks like a UFO, sounds like a cross between a gong and a gamelan bell and relies on vibrations and air to make its sweet chime resonate. Hearing it on its own, you might think "seconds out, round one". Install it as part of your nu-jazz repertoire and you have something unique.
There aren't that many musicians blessed with playing this percussive instrument, but Manu Delago (part of Björk and Bugge Wesseltoft's respective bands), Stephan Micus (German composer who has played just about every conceivable traditional instrument) and Portico Quartet's newbie Kier Vine might exclaim otherwise. Vine joined the band in 2011 and has made his recording debut on the band's latest album due out on 30th January.
Simply entitled 'Portico Quartet', the album sees the band shifting towards a more atmospheric and electronic sound, without losing the motifs and warmth of their Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut 'Knee Deep in the North Sea' and its superb follow-up 'Isla', both issued on Real World. The label is quite rightly excited about this third set, but not quite as keen as the still-young band themselves - you can watch them in action as they explain about the making of the album on the video, above. What WILL those jazz purists say about this new shift in style? Who cares?
Seeing them live is also a bit special and their upcoming UK tour, therefore, becomes a bit of a must. First stop is Bethnal Green's York Hall on 29th Febraury, followed by stops in Brighton, York, Sheffield (just added) and more until Manchester on 10th March. We have tickets for the shows costing £12 to £15, available now.
Prior to the tour, Portico Quartet are appearing at London's Rough Trade East for a free in-store PA on 31st January - click on 'more info'. NB - keep them peeled for a forthcoming review of the new album, right here on Allgigs!