Portico Quartet — „Terrain“ (May 28, 2021)

UK FLAG                                                                                                    Portico Quartet — „Terrain“ (May 28, 2021)
♣♠  Terrain je v jistém ohledu poněkud zvláštní volbou názvu nového alba Portico Quartet. Zdá se, že voda hraje na albu klíčovou dočasnou roli a to buď v nekonečných dešťových kapičkách z jízdního činele Duncana Bellamyho, v měkčích cákancích kapesního podpisu kvarteta nebo ve stále módnějších „vratkých“ syntezátorových polštářcích, které působí dojmem sestřelení pár výstřelů na záda rybářské lodi. Jistě je to v rozporu s pevností Země, té Terry, od níž název záznamu dostává svůj název. Můj návrh by byl, že terén, o kterém mluví Portico Quartet, je tvárný, multi~skalární (mluvíme~li o veličině ve smyslu pouhé velikosti, nikoli směru); drsný povrch sedadel vlaku má stejný význam jako Great Outdoors. Stojí za to pamatovat také na to, že pod pevností země leží nevyzpytatelné kapalné oceány, které nás všechny podporují; terén bez tuhosti nemusí být nebezpečný.
♣♠  Všechny tři části, Terrain I, II a III jsou nepatrně odlišné, ale krátký, opakující se rytmický motiv je výchozím bodem ve všech třech dějstvích. Ke všem těmto dílům existuje pocit společné cesty; pohyb různými světy se smyslem pro horizontální pohyb, dodávající hudbě skutečnou dynamiku. Terrain I je první skladbou, na které pracovali. Začalo to vzorky hang drum improvizovanými Bellamym, který přidal činely a syntetizátor. Odtamtud to rostlo, Wyllie přidal saxofon, další sekci syntetizátoru, smyčce. Výsledné album představuje hluboký dialog a to jak mezi skladateli, tak mezi klidem a nenápadně zneklidňující melancholií. Terrain je mocné prohlášení. To, které promlouvá k našemu vnitřnímu i vnějšímu světu, k naší vlastní osobní krajině, k našemu terénu, resp. smýšlení. Portico Quartet is where grand ambitions and warm sounds meet at an opportune intersection where texture ultimately overrules genre.
⇒   Portico Quartet announce Terrain, a three~part suite drawing on American minimalism and ambient music alongside their own rich heritage as they explore new musical vistas.
♣♠  When Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie — the driving force behind Portico Quartet got together in their East London studio in May 2020 and started work on the music that would become their new album, the world, or most of it, was in the midst of the first lockdown. The unique impact of the events of 2020 became the backdrop to their time composing and recording; causing them to take stock, re~think, and plot a new musical path.
♣♠  Indian novelist Arundhati Roy expressed the sense of grief and rupture from the pandemic as “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next”, and as they created the music that would become Terrain they were drawn towards longer, slowly unfolding pieces, which are perhaps the most artistically free and also the most beautiful they have ever made.
♣♠  These are compositions more in the lineage of Line and Shed Song (Isla/2009), Rubidium (Portico Quartet/2012) and Immediately Visible (Memory Streams/2019). Wyllie expands: “We’ve always had this side of the band in some form. The core of it is having a repeated pattern, around which other parts move in and out, and start to form a narrative. We used to do longer improvisations not dissimilar to this around the time of our second record Isla. On Terrain we’ve really dug into it and explored that form. I suppose there are obvious influences such as American minimalism, but I was particularly inspired by the work of Japanese composer Midori Takada. Her approach, particularly on ‘Through the Looking Glass’, where she moves through different worlds incorporating elements of minimalism with non~Western instruments and melodies were at the front of my mind when writing this music”.
♣♠  Terrain I, II & III are all subtly different, but a short rhythmic motif that repeats is the starting point in all three movements. There is a sense of a shared journey to all these pieces, they move through different worlds, with a sense of horizontal movement that lends the music real momentum. Terrain I was the first piece they worked on and it started with a hang drum pattern, improvised by Bellamy, who added cymbals and synthesiser. From there on it grew, Wyllie adding saxophone, another synthesiser section, strings. For Bellamy “It felt more like filmmaking than music making, a bricolage of conflicting, shifting signs, subtle tension and multiple narratives. Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Mirror’ and British artist John Akomfrah’s incredible ‘Handsworth Songs’ were pivotal points of reference for me.” Wyllie expands the point. “There is a sense of conversation between us both, in that someone presents a musical idea, the other person responds to it with something else, which would then be responded to again... until it feels finished. These responses are often consonant with each other but there is also a dissonance to some of this work. The music slowly evolves through these shared conversations.”
♣♠  It is this sense of dialogue, both between the composers, and between tranquillity and a subtly unsettling melancholy, that makes Terrain such a powerful statement. One that speaks to both our interior and exterior worlds, to our own personal landscape, to our Terrain. 
Location: London, UK
Album release: May 28, 2021
Record Label: Gondwana Records
Duration:     38:46
Tracks:
1. Terrain: I   19:19
2. Terrain: II   9:17
3. Terrain: III   10:10
Personnel:
♠  DUNCAN BELLAMY Drums, Electric Bass, Hang Drums, Synthesiser, Piano, Voice, Sampler, Vibraphone
♠  JACK WYLLIE Saxophone, Piano, Synthesiser, Sampler
♠  Strings by FRANCESCA TER~BERG Cello (I, II)  SIMMY SINGH Violin (I)  PETE BENNIE Double Bass (I)
Credits:
♠  Composed, performed and produced by Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie. Strings composed and arranged by Jack Wyllie. Recorded at PQHQ, London and Fish Factory, London in 2020 by Greg Freeman. Mixed by Greg Freeman, Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie in Berlin, 2020. Mastering and vinyl cut by John Davis at Metropolis, London. Design and photography by Veil Projects.
Review
By John Garratt ⌊March 23, 2021⌋ Score: 8
♣♠  When Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie — the driving force behind Portico Quartet got together in their East London studio in May 2020 and started work on the music that would become their new album, the world, or most of it, was in the midst of the first lockdown. The unique impact of the events of 2020 became the backdrop to their time composing and recording; causing them to take stock, re~think, and plot a new musical path.
♦♥  Indian novelist Arundhati Roy expressed the sense of grief and rupture from the pandemic as “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next”, and as they created the music that would become Terrain they were drawn towards longer, slowly unfolding pieces, which are perhaps the most artistically free and also the most beautiful they have ever made.
♣♠  One can hear echoes of Steven Reich in Terrain as clearly as they can hear traces of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Midori Takada, the latter of which made a big impression on Wyllie with her 1983 album Through the Looking Glass. No matter what angle you approach it, Terrain is a spellbinding amalgamation of colorful sounds.
♦♥  If there is one thing in the Portico Quartet’s instrumentation to set them apart from their peers, it’s the use of the hang drum. Looking like a puffed~up cymbal and sounding like a steel drum with a softer attack, the group build unique ostinatos normally provided by keys. The hang drum pattern that gets the first movement started behaves true to minimalist form with a simple four~note pattern that alters only slightly over the first half of the movement. The entrance of the saxophone is just another textural component alongside the soft drumming and electronic sampling. Just when the listener feels that the first movement has gone to sleep for good, in comes a simple yet evocative piano that sounds like it needed a tune~up a few years ago. The hang drum reappears as it did before, wrapping up the 19 minutes of quietly tense music with long~sustaining minor chords.
♣♦  The somber nature of the first movement is swapped for a lighter sound and tempo for the second movement, the shortest one at nine minutes and 16 seconds. A simple piano figure, possibly simpler than the hang drum figure of the first movement, guides much of the movement as low strings provide elongated pedal tones as a foundation. Bells, light percussion, and a hesitant saxophone fill out the surrounding space without cluttering it. The hang drum returns for the third and final movement, perhaps the most abstract one of all. All of the instruments come out to play, but it’s the drumming that pushes everything forward. Any repeated patterns are tucked back in the mix as the movement morphs into something resembling a drum solo accompanied by the discordant hum of electronic ambience and what sounds like a soprano sax. At ten minutes in length, it almost doesn’t give itself enough room for falling action once all the pieces have smashed together.
♦♠  Terrain may not be a unique album in the perspective of contemporary jazz or minimalist electronic and classical music, but it certainly is unique unto the Portico Quartet. Bellamy and Wyllie have used their lockdown time well in exploring the outer capabilities of their chosen format. It’s an album where grand ambitions and warm sounds meet at an opportune intersection where texture ultimately overrules genre. Can you ask for more from a suite of music that combines ambient, minimalist classical, and jazz?
♦♠  https://www.popmatters.com/portico-quartet-terrain-album-review
David Burke, May 28th, 2021 08:11:
♠♦  https://thequietus.com/articles/30020-portico-quartet-terrain-review 
BC: https://porticoquartet.bandcamp.com/album/terrain
Label: https://www.gondwanarecords.com/artists/portico-quartet
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