In almost darkness at Gorilla is a stage covered in instruments and leads. You can’t see the floor through drum kits, synths, saxophones, keyboards, guitars, a double bass and a hang (swiss steel drum). And it is a quartet we’re here to see – Portico Quartet – not a 12 piece band.

I’ve been describing them as electro-jazz but this doesn’t nearly cover it. They produce no sound I have ever heard before and will not describe very well here…but perhaps, cinematic sounds from the musical love children of Philip Glass and Burial, Mount Kimbie and Steve Reich or Miles Davis and Four Tet.

They have romantic beginnings. From East London, they were discovered busking on the Southbank and are so named after one of their gigs was rained off in Italy, and they ended up playing under a portico.  They were nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in 2008.

It is very dark in here with a thick hue of stage smoke. The drawn out intro showcases each of their musical prowess. The keyboard begins a high pitched repetitive twinkling with synths and a bass that vibrates your heart. And just when you think that it’ll tip over into an electro dance track, you are surprised by the deep double bass and a jazz-like breakthrough. To engage with this music is the posture of the thousand yard stare. It is quite involuntary. I was absorbed for all 17 minutes of it.

Next up is ‘Ruins,’ the most notable track from their self-titled album of 2012. It is faster and more upbeat than the first but sticking with the contemporary jazz sound. This time with the addition of the hang (that swiss steel drum) and the saxophone, which leads the soft and repetitive melody. This evokes to my mind a soundtrack from a David Lynch film.

Sometimes they mix the aforementioned styles of sound, sometimes it’s purely unashamed jazz, sometimes you have your ears banged out with synths and drums and bass. Whatever they plump for, they are complex compositions involving at least two instruments each. It is busy creativity. The third track – of which no name is apparent, is a purer jazz sound, lead by the saxophone but with a louder contemporary bass. I can hear a Phillip Glass resonance too. They are almost competing for volume here, each musician totally absorbed in their flow.

For a time the delineation of individual tracks is not apparent, as there is a swell of electro beats and sampled synths. You are surrounded with so many different sounds I wish my hearing was more discerning. You could listen to the same gig over and over again and hear something different each time

Next they bring on Cornelia, a vocalist. This transforms the sound so that you think you are at a whole other, more conventional gig, her Gwen Stefani–ish high tones adding melody and rallying the instruments into uniformity. The double bass is switched for a bass guitar and the saxophone for keyboards. The jazz is no more. We are back in electro territory with more beats, synths, layered and sampled sounds. The heavy bass drum beat kicks off once more. I’m not sure this is a dancing kind of crowd but there is some attempted shuffling.

Their encore settles us back to saxophone and double bass jazz, a down tempo which is gentler. We are calmed and sent home. My ears are exhausted.

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