Duncan Bellamy

In range of our fully loaded quick question machine is Portico Quartet’s Duncan Bellamy

Photo: Duncan Bellamy

Hello Portico Quartet, it’s all change with you, again, isn’t it?

Hi there, well yes and no!

Yes and no? Well, first you’re a quartet, then a trio, then a quartet…

We wanted to explore something completely different with our last album ‘Living Fields’, ideas that were quite unrelated to the work we had made before. This record picks up where we left off after our third self-titled album.

… and you’ve welcomed Keir Vine back into the fold…

Keir has been working a lot with film soundtracks and sound design, and working with music in a setting for theatre, as well as various other projects.

… and there’s a new label too…

I think Ninja Tune suited us for ‘Living Fields’, but in the end I don’t think we quite saw eye to eye about where our music was heading.

So all change then really. Was Portico just a detour, or an evolution?

You could say it was both. Portico felt like a rebirth. Crucially it allowed us to evolve and reach this point where we’ve made another Portico Quartet record, which we couldn’t conceive of at the time.

‘Art In The Age Of Automation’ sounds like a loaded title?

It’s more of a question than a statement. What does it mean to be human in this age we’re entering? Art making is an innate, inherently human act and activity, so how do we reconcile that with life now?

Last time we spoke we called you “lauded jazz hopefuls turned electronica trialblazers”. Do you like our neat little label?

Maybe the other way would’ve been more accurate. Lauded jazz trailblazers turned electronica hopefuls! Either way it sounds very flattering, you’re very kind! Portico Quartet is something in between, it’s about where the acoustic and synthetic meet and mesh together.

So the hang drum is back then? Have you missed it?

We have. It’s been a fundamental part of Portico Quartet’s sound since we began making music. It gives us a sonic identity and a platform to extrapolate from.

Erm… what is it please.

A Hang is a relatively new instrument made by a company called PanArt in Switzerland. Imagine two shallow domes (or woks) placed opposite one another. It has dents like a steel drum and is struck with hands or beaters. It’s got a soft, resonant quality reminiscent of the steel pan, but also has overtones and influence from Gamelan and other metallaphones. It’s a beautiful thing.

Any odds sounds you’d like to admit to?

Mmm, not sure there’s anything that odd exactly, there’s quite a lot of texture of instruments pitched up and down that sound quite strange. A few bits of vocals… it’s always strange hearing your voice back…

The saying goes that “two heads are better than one”, are four heads better than three?

I think that all depends on how superstitious you are about numbers… but for this band I’d agree four heads are better.

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