Review: Gentle sound of electricity

27. April 2014
Monika Erdman

Portico Quartet have actually nothing to do with jazz and it was weird to see them as part of Jazzkaar festival. No matter what, Marina Pavilion was full. 

The British quartet plays music that doesn’t need introducing. They didn’t talk to the audience at all, but played mostly all of their hits for thankful listeners (Knee-Deep in the North Sea, City of Glass and Su-Bo’s mental Meltdown). 

The only few words were said at the end of the concert to introduce the name of the last song they played and thank audience before playing bis.

Playing with so many effects they force regular instruments sound different. Electronic elements are usually used as “raisins” in conventional music. Portico Quartet are a phenomenon of simple things (like shaker or cymbals) sound in an incredibly new way. Using various effects, Jack Wyllie made his soprano saxophone sound sometimes terrifying, it is so unexpected for that kind of instrument. Milo Fitzpatrick mostly acts as melodic kernel of Portico Quartet. He is the one who makes the flow and plays harmony understandable for listeners. Straight beat and the wall of electronic sound is kept elegant by adding yet another exotic and new instrument – hang drum. It is unbelievable, how peaceful sounds that alien thing, which doesn’t even look as an instrument, can make. 

For those who is used to club and electronic music it is surely a revelation, but for some people Portico Quartet might sound boring and monotonous. Every composition has the same structure as the previous one. They start with atmospheric loops and then the song accretes with lines they play, record during the concert and then new lines played over the loops. So in that way they play sets with sinusoidal dynamics. What is also interesting – they have almost no pauses between the songs. Beat usually doesn’t vary much during the compositions and the whole performance makes an impression of continuous meditation. 


Portico Quartet

April 25 at the Marina Pavilion


Duncan Bellamy (drums, electronics)

Jack Wyllie (saxophones, electronics)

Milo Fitzpatrick (bass, electronics)

Keir Vine (hang drum, keyboards)