Review Summary: Hang em' high...
Relaxing music is the best. It doesn’t require one to have to “work” and finding all the intricacies in the songs to fully appreciate the music, nor does one care if there are other groups doing the same thing. All that matters is you are listening to it and you allow the sonic waves to wash over you as you calmly lounge and do nothing. That is not to say it’s boring music as groups like Submotion Orchestra have shown the ability to write both relaxing and subtly nuanced music. Portico Quartet are a London based instrumental electronic/jazz ensemble that have created an excellent piece of minimalistic jazzy goodness for you to lose yourself in.
Portico Quartet distinguish themselves from the crowd by use of a relatively new Swiss instrument called a Hang, a UFO shaped percussion instrument. Songs like “Rubidium” and “Lacker Boo” showcase this instrument beautifully as its distinct tones echo throughout the songs. Its use is no gimmick though as it’s never used to the point where you grow tired of hearing it. The other instruments, from the sax to the stand-up bass to the piano are all masterfully executed and written in each song artfully weaving seamlessly with the electronic bits in a way that no one instrument stands out too much at any one time (except solos obviously) yet no instrument is ever drowned out by the others. The songs themselves are no genre-bending affairs but have a good amount of catchy hooks and intros like the Hang solo that begins “Rubidium” or the sax in “Ruins” that counter-balances the dronier, minimalistic portions of the album notably near the end.
Thankfully these dronier parts of the album don’t drag on for minutes at a time. Instead they are more often used as a post-rock like interlude between parts of songs with a notable exception being the songs “4096 colours” and “Trace” which are mainly drone. The percussion, other than the Hang, is a focal point on this record. Centered around simple catchy beats with nothing that could be remotely called technical, it does a fantastic job of holding all of the songs together with it fading into the background just enough to let the other instruments shine only to come back and provide a nice jazzy or salsa-y flavor to a song. The only major gripe with the whole album is the decision to add another same-y boring female singer onto one of the songs. Honestly this gives the song a very Submotion feel, but the singer is not only bad, she’s useless. A girl whining over music isn’t a good idea, and thankfully she doesn’t exactly ruin the song and she only shows up once.
This album is the epitome of relaxing, its slowly moving portions will wisk you right into a calm stupor until the sheer catchiness of the music wakes you and causes you to listen carefully at the propensity of the musicians. If you need music to a fancy meal or an elite dinner party this album has all the relaxing and toe-tapping you need.