Portico Quartet: Knee-Deep in the North Sea – review

(Real World)

Portico Quartet, who created a popular signature sound by bathing minimalist music in the glow of the steelpan-like hang drum, are on tour opposite Penguin Cafe this month. They are seductively absorbing live, as some live tracks on this album demonstrate, and it's those that make this more than a makeover (via the input of celeb producer John Leckie) of their 2007 debut album of the same name. Portico fans will undoubtedly want this update for the subtle sonic tweaking, and the live recordings sufficiently ramp up the group's familiar melodious murmur for those listeners who previously found them soporific. The title track remains the most absorbing Portico melody, and Jack Wyllie's soprano sax takes on an eloquent, voice-like tremor against a more insistent percussive sound on the live version. Prickly Pear has the trad-jazziest feel, sprung on Milo Fitzpatrick's bouyant acoustic bassline; Cittàgazze is an invitation to handclapping and chanting from the audience, and the tone-poetic spaciousness of a radio recording of All the Pieces Matter shows how affecting the same colours can be when not constantly painted over a trance-inducing groove. It's mostly for existing fans, but there's significant value from the new material.


John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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