Portico Quartet – Live At KOKO, London

Dreamy days...

Once in a while it's important to leave the arena of pounding guitars, organ-displacing bass and enjoy something a little more special. Portico Quartet are this special thing. They're the perfect remedy for the music fan who's had his eardrums kicked in more times then a jail cell door, tonight's show at KOKO taking all present gently by the hand and leading them down the proverbial rabbit hole. 

Things truly kick off first with Japan's Anchorsong – aka Masaaki Yoshida, producer, solo live act and destroyer of pads. With a simple set up of himself, a sampler and an all-female string quartet, Anchorsong creates roars of crashing cymbals, rave beats and even thick synth grooves. Half the crowd try and move to the drums while the rest sway to the impressive string work. It's a forty minute 4/4 classical/electronic mashup that gets a big response – definitely one to watch out for.

Portico Quartet appear, or rather seem to materialise from nowhere, and slowly build their enchanting web of sound; gentle rhythms and keys filling KOKO and stopping anyone leaving for the bar. This is trance music, but not in the traditional sense, this is actual music to cause trances. Sharing DNA with the likes of The Cinematic Orchestra, Bonobo and Four Tet, the Portico boys differ by lowering the epic levels and rather going for a late night vibe, a positive repetition that mixes various textures and audio flavours. There is an organic root to their sound, a jazz background that when mixed with subtle samples, sax, pedals and steel drums ends up just soothing the soul. 

Tracks from all three albums make an appearance, 2012's self-titled is mined for the majority of the hour-and-a-half set. 'City Of Glass' is a standout and gets a huge applause before all fall back into respectful silence. Clash notes that strange and rare thing, a silent venue. No bad eggs here ruining the evening, people are enjoying the music and any distractions be damned. The band onstage seem to feel the same, playing in their own world, with nearly no crowd interaction. It's like a mammoth jam you've been lucky enough to witness. 

Tracks continue to blur into each other, 'Knee-Deep In The North Sea' getting an airing from the groups full length debut, as well as 'Line' from 2009's 'Isla'. 'Ruins' predictably proves the nights biggest crowd pleaser, the floor one swaying mass of bodies as the sax-led number brings back memories of post-party chill-outs and late night drives. 'Steepless' featuring Cornelia helps close things, the Bjork-tinged epic proving the band have a strong future with more vocal collaborations, Cornelia herself spinning around the stage, amping the energy in time for a short two song encore. 

Night over, the place empties quickly and sedately. It's as if a calming switch has been flicked in all and rather then a post-gig pint everyone wants a nice cuppa and to once again carry on dreaming. Hats off to the four musical magicians. 


Words by Sam Walker-Smart

Photos by Marco Micceri


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