After arriving with a bang when their debut album, Knee-Deep In The North Sea, was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize, London-based instrumental collective Portico Quartet have quietly released a series of meticulously crafted records since without ever quite achieving the same levels of acclaim. This is rather a shame, as over a decade on, they remain as accomplished and interesting as ever. Originally perceived as predominantly a jazz/world music fusion group, mostly using live instruments (including their signature Hang, a metallic lap drum not dissimilar to a Caribbean steel drum), the departure of founder member Nick Mulvey to reinvent himself as a singer-songwriter saw the band he left also branch out to pursue a new direction as purveyors of sweeping, hypnotic electronica: a template Portico Quartet are still largely following today, although they have never completely abandoned the experimental, globe trotting elements that characterised their earlier work.
Portico Quartet's music should be easy to describe, but it turns out that it's not, even for them. They often call it "widescreen," which is the kind of cinematic metaphor that music reviewers resort to when they can't think of anything else. They named themselves Portico Quartet because they first played under a portico as a quartet.
In their most recent project, Portico Quartet cuts the ribbon and reveals their own personal 'Monument' - a precise and stylistically thought out album that feels like a controlled acceleration into better times. Although both 'Monument' and 'Terrain' were made in the space of six months, the albums are as different as night and day. If 'Terrain' is the stream of consciousness after three glasses of wine, 'Monument' is the sharp energy welcomed after a detox.