On its debut CD, KNEE DEEP IN THE NORTH SEA, Mercury Prize-nominated combo the Portico Quartet delivers an unusually meditative brand of world music-influenced jazz that matches a minimalist classical music vibe with a pop/jam band-informed compositional sense. Centered on repeated figures played on the hang (a type of steel drum) and soprano saxophonist Jack Wylie’s Wayne Shorter-esque improvisational explorations, Portico Quartet’s music should appeal to fans of Weather Report and the Dave Matthews Band alike.
On his 2013 release The North Borders, British producer Simon Green (aka Bonobo) continues along the organic-meets-electronic path that his 2010 release Black Sands followed, but this walk takes place as it's turning to dusk, and there are varying degrees of mist and chilliness along the way. Opener "First Fires" with Grey Reverend (singer/songwriter L.D. Brown) sounds like it could be quite warm, but it's entirely autumn-minded sweater music that wistfully wonders what to do with "faded dreams" as Green allows bits of glitchy sunlight to shine through his cloudy synth construction. "Emkay" is the clangs and echoes of a seaside port at night that wonderfully shuffles its way up to a lighthouse tune, then there's majestic songstress Erykah Badu wonderfully vibing ("We don't need no truth/Got plenty/Now it grows on trees") on "Heaven for the Sinner" over Bonobo's deep version of the broken beat. "Towers" suggests sleepy urban buildings in twilight with a vibraphone representing the little bits of life and light that will sparkle through the night, while "Don't Wait" is just before the dawn, as innocent chimes chase away the eerie things that lurk in the darkness.