Portico Quartet formed, were nominated for the Mercury Prize and then lost founder Nick Mulvey to a solo career which has seen him nominated for the same award with his debut album. His replacement, Keir Vine, has since departed too, and the quartet have dropped the number-specific part of their name.
From here on in, they’re Portico – and having inked a deal with Ninja Tune for their new album, Living Fields, they’ve moved even further away from their jazz roots. Mulvey’s signature hanghang have been banished, as has Jack Wylie’s sax parps, Milo Fitzpatrick’s double bass and Duncan Bellamy’s conventional drumkit. Their last album as a quartet featured a vocalist on just one track, and this for the first time. On the new album just one track is bereft of vocals; guest vocalists – Jamie Woon, Joe Newman and Jono McCleery – appear throughout the glitchy electronica that makes up the 2015 reboot of Portico’s sound.
The album is a perfect fit for Coldcut’s celebrated Ninja Tune label and, while a clear evolution on what went before, is radically different in every way to the music that made them known. From their debut to this new work has been a confident journey of sonic experimentation, of following instinct and doing as they please. But, as Jack Wylie’s run through of the albums that influenced him most for his This Music Made Me shows, they’ve not forgotten jazz entirely…
Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians
A seminal bit of American minimalism.
By far the most listened to piece of music in my life, I must have listened to this album over a hundred times, mainly when I was revising. It was the album we all bonded over when we started making music as Portico Quartet.
I’ve always enjoyed this paradoxical feeling in this music of being on a great journey but simultaneously being held still by the sound.
Arthur Russell – World Of Echo
Arthur Russell died with over 2000 reel-to-reels of music he’d been working on in his New York apartment, and only one album released.
There’s a beautiful sense of decay in this record and a tragedy in it that’s brought into focus by his untimely death from AIDS related illnesses at 40.
The obituary in the Village Voice read: “His songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his own music.” Just solo cello, delay and voice, there’s a fantastic freedom and a loose timing that allows for very personal and moving listening.
A classic choice but it’s is undoubtedly one of the greatest records ever made.
I used to listen to it when I feel asleep when i was a teenager in the hope that the spirit of all those great players would seep into my subconscious. Not sure it did.
Regardless, it’s one of those rare points in history when everything just came together perfectly.
Terry Riley incorporated a lot of Indian elements into this music and with la monte young developed a more spiritual kind of minimalism.
It was this mix of indian and western music that really excited me. Also he uses different tuning systems on his synthesiser and is an early example of using delays in the studio to add to the music.
Quite a transfixing meditative effect.
Later Coltrane; he was heavily influenced by the free jazz associated with the black power movement of the late ’60s, and I felt he found a spirituality in this freer type of playing and it seeped into his later more searching explorations.
I reconnected with this album quite recently because of the energy and physical quality to it that became more apparent after making and listening to a lot of electronic music for the last couple of years.
You can hear the politics of Coltrane through the sound of his saxophone, a very human kind of music. Amongst the most expressive, passionate music ever made.
The first time I heard this band was live at the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston when they were touring this album, although every performance is improvised so it’s never the same, rather a style they are playing in at the time.
It completely blew me away to see a group of musicians with such a completely unique style of group improvisation. They’ve created their own systems for free improvising based on a very strong group dynamic (they have been playing together for 30 years), which isn’t too common.
Plus, it draws from music I’m really into – later Coltrane, minimalism and some Indian stuff.
William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops
I’m going to retell the story of disintegration loops, just in case you haven’t heard it and you’re still reading.
After sifting through his studio William found some tape loops he had made in the ’80s from synths and cello, he decided to try and digitise them and put them onto record. He returned to his studio having left the tapes to play on loop and realised they had disintegrated into something else. He recorded this process of the tapes disintegrating which is what makes up the four discs on The Disintegration Loops.
A few days afterwards he recorded the last hour of daylight of the attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers from his roof in Brooklyn; the music was set to this footage. It makes for deeply emotional viewing and makes me go to some very deep places.
This album draws on the language of less experimental music (house techno and ’80s pop, etc.) and breaks them down into introverted, very individual experiences.
He creates landscapes more than building and dropping tunes.
The track NEW on this is one of my all time favourite pieces of music.
I remember the first time I heard this record I was at Dimensions Festival in Croatia in 2013. I had just downloaded it and cracked it on while sitting on the beach in the sun.
I knew it was nt going to be the most uplifting listen but it really darked me out and gave an unsettling tone to an otherwise extremely pleasant experience. It really affected me. Not quite sure what to think of it, I listened on the flight home and several times afterwards.
It’s a remarkable piece of music, a dark brooding record with heavily processed instrumental textures that moves between moments of beauty and harsh discord. It made me realise what you get when you treat acoustic instruments, and the sense of destruction and decay you can build into sounds.
I’m putting down a box set of Daniel Lopatin’s first three albums as Oneohtrix Point Never because I can’t decide which album to choose.
The first Oneohtrix track I ever heard was Laser To Laser and what really struck me about it was the harmony. It had this beautiful sadness in it, it could almost be a strange lost BOC tune. He reformulates these ’80s (generally Juno 60) synth sounds to create these epic soundscapes that avoided the soothing new-age clichés. It’s got a strong conceptual backbone to it but it also has these beautiful harmonies and structures.
I really admire the way he marries these two things and they kind of merge into a whole.
Portico’s album Living Fields is out on 6 April 2015 through Ninja Tune.
Tour dates and further information can be found here.