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A Magazine for Sheffield

Portico Quartet

Press play and this album swells in to life with a fuzzy ambient tick. Like your favourite Four Tet or ambient album, you are introduced with a warm and captivating blend of electronics and bowed double bass that builds to a Fennesz-like crescendo and then fades into the first song of the album. Instantly you can tell this is going to be a very different experience to the rest of Portico's work.

Forgive me for the trite references, but I believe this is one of the major strengths of this album. On Knee Deep in the North Sea, and more so on Isla, Portico showed that they were no ordinary quartet. Contemporary music, especially modern electronica, was definitely a major influence on their compositions and production, including dabbles in effects and electronics on record as part of the overall texture. On this, their third and self-titled album, they take the next logical step by actually incorporating electronic elements and stylings into the songs and their live set-up, with the drummer using sample pads and an MPC, bringing glitches and sample loops to a strong yet equally subtle drum kit. Another new addition to this album's line up is the hang player Kier Vine, who replaced Nick Tulvey when he left in early 2011. Kier also plays keys, adding an additional layer.

A very important fact about this shift in the band's sound is that it is all still played live. There are no pre-made arrangements, backing tracks or even layers of overdubs. Go and see Portico live if you can, because they can recreate these tracks to the letter.

You can feel the depth of effect that so-called "bass music" has had on this album. Each track has a distinct groove and with tracks such as 'Lacker Boo', it's almost impossible to deny the garage beats that are littered throughout. Even songs like 'Steepless', featuring vocals (another first) from Cornelia, which is massively stripped back - consisting mainly of clicking, micro sampled vocal loops, wide plodding piano chords and her beautifully quirky vocal - still oozes with the groove of a James Blake EP.

Portico have hit on something really quite special here, a sound that bridges the gap from Isla to modern dance and electronic music. It is simultaneously a jazz album you can give to the youngsters in snapbacks and a dance album you can give to your parents without them being unimpressed.