Untitled (AITAOA #2) by Portico QuartetRelease date: April 27, 2018
Label: Gondwana Records
Portico Quartet and their ‘electronics only’ version Portico have been around for a long while and have become known for their continuing blending of jazz, electronica, ambient and minimalist classics After an excellent release in 2017 titled Art In The Age of Automation, they have come up with something that could be called an accompanying piece, Untitled (AITAOA #2).
Now, that has seemed to have created some kind of confusion how to approach this album. One way is to treat it solely as a set of unfinished ideas that didn’t make it to the original album and the other is to take it on its own value. If you take the first route, you may end up with a feeling you are listening to unfinished ideas that the guys decided to discard or leave them for later. Many who follow the band for a while may feel shortchanged, expecting the full-blown treatment that might take them in any possible direction.
Personally, I’d say the would be a mistake. What Portico Quartet have done here is present the nine-track here as musical sketches, that are exactly that – sketches. That is certainly a valid artistic approach that seems to be appreciated with visual artists and writers, and for some reason doubted with musicians. It seems the words ‘demos’ and ‘unfinished’ stick too much in minds of some listeners. But, what if the musicians have decided to leave them just like that and present their musical process as ideas that have their own value?
That is the feeling that predominates here. Throughout their output so far, Portico Quartet have proven not only that they have an abundance of good musical ideas, but also that they can execute and present them, long or short. Maybe these ideas should remain as they are, maybe they will be built upon at some point, but the ones that the band present here certainly have musical merit. A lot of it.
Whether you take the opener ‘Double Space’ with its shimmering piano somewhere there, or quite exquisite musical interplay of ‘View From A Satellite’ or ‘Reflected In Neon’ the solo piano piece with muffled electronics added that at some point might end up garbled up on one of Caretaker’s creations, you actually do have formed musical ideas that stand on their own merit.