You write the reviews: Portico Quartet, SOAS Brunei Gallery, London
Tuesday 15 January 2008
"We all live together, you see, and tonight this is for Jack," says Nick Mulvey, pointing at the saxophonist, who sports the looks of Jude Law and a chunky Norwegian jersey. "He sleepwalks and fell down the stairs last night." It's a genial way for the hang-player to introduce "Steps in the Wrong Direction", a track from this new band's first CD, Knee-Deep in the North Sea.
And the hang is why we have come along to see them. After hearing a track from their compelling disc on Radio 4's Front Row, I shot online to dig up details of the group's next gig; and judging by the tumultuous applause at the end of their short set, I am not the only one sensing that the Portico Quartet are a phenomenon in the making.
The hang is a domed steel percussion instrument, and several of these wok-like things, each tuned to a different key, were handed around the stage like totemic flying saucers. The instrument can sound like a doleful Cuban piano or a lyrical steel drum, surge forward in a hypnotic bass track or soar like a soulfully resonant gamelan. Two of the four young men in this group, who met while studying music at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, took it in turns to stroke very individual responses out of this impressive piece of music-mongery.
It may sound mythic, but it's apparently true, that the hang's inventors will not agree to sell one of their creations before the would-be suitor has undergone a gruelling interview in Switzerland. Having, I guess, soared over that hurdle, the quartet have been busking in Europe as well as on London's South Bank, and clips on their Myspace page demonstrate how this has honed the band and their sound. But what gives this strange yet perfectly balanced meld its lyrical lead is the soprano saxophone: Jack Wyllie plays up a storm, belying his expression of slightly startled detachment.
The pellucid and seemingly effortless sound on "(Something's Going Down on) Zavodovski Island" turns stormily onomatopoeic during the album's title track, while the waltz-time "Pompidou" displays Gallic undertones, befitting of a track composed during their busking days in Paris.
The rather corporate surroundings of the Brunei Gallery theatre space fails to dampen the audience's gusto or disrupt the band's control. They are set to be jazz/world/classical's first barnstorming boy band, but don't let that put you off them or this unmissable musical departure.
Louise Hayman, lawyer, London
Touring to 17 May (www.myspace.com/porticoquartet)
E-mail your 500-word review of an arts event of your choice to email@example.com. For terms and conditions, see www. independent.co.uk/freelanceterms
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Isis 'jihadi bride' claims forced sex with Yazidi girls is never rape because Koran condones it
- 2 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 3 Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland