Portico Quartet, Isla
Enchanting post-jazz to appeal to fans of Philip Glass and Weather Report alike
London post-jazz troupe Portico Quartet first came to wider recognition when their 2007 debut Knee-Deep in the North Sea was nominated for Britain's prestigious Mercury Music Prize. Their signature instrument is the hang — a Swiss-manufactured metallic lap drum with a strikingly ethereal timbre, yet their enchanting music is far too idiosyncratic for them to be seen as any kind of novelty.
This second album sees them team up with legendary Stone Roses and Radiohead producer John Leckie and abandon the ethnic, world-music leanings of their debut in favour of a more brooding, introspective ambience. A dogged Steve Reich/Michael Nyman-style minimalism lies at Portico Quartet's core, but soprano saxophonist Jack Wyle adds witty, baroque flourishes to tracks like the skittering "Paper Scissors Stone" and "Line." Elsewhere, Leckie infiltrates the kind of muted-dread electronica that he pulsed through Radiohead's The Bends on distracted numbers such as "Dawn Patrol," while "The Visitor" is both classicist and maverick enough to appeal to fans of Philip Glass and Weather Report alike.
Like their wilder, more feral London cohorts Acoustic Ladyland, Portico Quartet are moving contemporary jazz out of the cultural margins and firmly onto the modern musical hipster's radar.