Portico Quartet: Art in the Age of Automation review – reunited foursome make dreamy, layered trance

(Gondwana Records)

On their last album, they slimmed down to a trio, signed to Ninja Tune Records and reinvented themselves as an ambient synthpop outfit, with help from various guest vocalists. Now they’re back on their original label and reunited with Keir Vine, who provides those distinctive and hypnotic steelpan-style patterns on an instrument called the hang. Jazz purists may have lost interest in the band by now: saxophonist Jack Wylie rarely improvises in any meaningful way. Instead, his languorous lead lines are pitched somewhere between Arve Henriksen’s FX-laden trumpet and Graham Massey’s soprano sax in 808 State. But among the rather snoozy trance dirges are some delicious moments. Opening track Endless invokes Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, while A Luminous Beam mixes a punky two-note bassline with junglist breakbeats and astral electronic burbles. Best of all is the title track, a beautiful, symphonic layering of hushed horns, temple gongs, warm synth pads and dreamy strings.

Contributor

John Lewis

The GuardianTramp

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