The Portico Quartet are a bunch of guys in their early twenties who play instrumental music. Formed four years ago from two sets of schoolfriends, they share a house in East London, make recordings, and play festivals and clubs. Yet what distinguishes them from dozens of other Hackney hopefuls is the way they sound - a fresh, unclichéd resynthesis and reinvention of music that's both pleasingly familiar and thrillingly new, like World Music from the future. With largely acoustic resources - percussion, bass and wind instruments - they have conjured and refined a group signature that's immediately recognizable. Thanks to the use of the hang, a tuned percussion instrument bought on impulse at a music festival, they have a sound that is instantly attractive, yet uncompromisingly individual, and it's this, combined with the cheerful eloquence of their performances, that has brought Portico Quartet a long way in a short time.
The line-up of the band is Duncan Bellamy (drums), Milo Fitzpatrick (double-bass), Nick Mulvey (hang and percussion) and Jack Wyllie (soprano, tenor saxophones and electronics). From a grassroots start in 2005, busking on the South Bank of London's Thames, their reputation spread swiftly. They began to get paid bookings plus the odd festival, and they made a five-track CD to sell at gigs. In 2007 they signed a record deal to make a full length CD, Knee Deep In The North Sea (Babel/Vortex). This was a turning point: the album attracted attention from DJs, bloggers and critics of every stripe, and was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize alongside Rachel Unthank, The Last Shadow Puppets, Radiohead and Elbow a win-win situation for credible newcomers like Unthank and Portico Quartet.
Now the band has another album in the can: Isla (Real World Records, out October 2009) is a thoughtful and richly tuneful collection of nine pieces recorded by producer John Leckie at Abbey Road no. 2, a studio room made legendary by George Martin, the Beatles, Kate Bush and many others. Leckie's track record as a catalyst for emerging talent is legendary: not only for the famous examples, Stone Roses, Doves, XTC, Radiohead, but also for pioneering systems orchestra Lost Jockey (which spawned Man Jumping, ZTT's Andrew Poppy, Orlando Gough, and soundtrack supremo John Lunn) and World Music stars such as Rodrigo & Gabriela and Papa Wemba.