- Kenny Mathieson
- 13 November 2008
The Arches, Glasgow, Mon 24 Nov
The Portico Quartet’s debut album Knee Deep in the North Sea was attracting considerable attention even before it was included among this year’s Mercury Prize nominations, including a prestigious award as Time Out’s Jazz, Folk and World Music album of 2007.
The band fit well into the diverse spread implied by the latter award. Their groove-based music is not conventional jazz, and bass player Milo Fitzpatrick was happy to acknowledge that they do not think of themselves as specifically jazz musicians.
‘Our music is more instrumental. We do have the sax and double bass which are iconic jazz instruments, but our music mirrors rock music, African music, new classical music. I’d say our sound is jazzy, but also classical and film soundtrack-like.’
At the centre of the band’s distinctive sound is the unusual percussion instrument which has brought them a lot of quizzical attention, the hang. It was a chance purchase of the instrument (which has been said to resemble an inverted wok) by percussionist Duncan Bellamy at a music festival that inspired them to start up the band.
They initially funded and recorded the album themselves. Six months later, Babel Music approached them after a gig at the Vortex in London, and they went back and tweaked the tapes. The rest, as they say, is history, and with the Mercury nomination boosting sales even further, they will be under a bit of pressure when they do get down to that difficult second album.