Photo: Hannah Collins

Portico Quartet will release Terrain, a three-part suite drawing on American minimalism and ambient, and the group’s classic sound pallet of drums, saxophone, bass, and hang-drums.

Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie, the driving forces behind Portico Quartet, began working on Terrain in their east London studio in May 2020, when most of the world was in the midst of the first lockdown. The unique impact of the pandemic became the backdrop to their time composing and recording, causing them to plot a musical path defined by longer, slowly unfolding pieces, which are perhaps the most “artistically free they have ever made,” we’re told.

“We’ve always had this side of the band in some form. The core of it is having a repeated pattern, around which other parts move in and out, and start to form a narrative,” Wyllie tells XLR8R. “We used to do longer improvisations not dissimilar to this around the time of our second record, Isla. On Terrain, we’ve really dug into it and explored that form.”

All three tracks are “subtly different,” we’re told, but a short rhythmic motif that repeats is the starting point in all three. “There is a sense of a shared journey to all these pieces, they move through different worlds, with a sense of horizontal movement that lends the music real momentum. There are obvious influences, such as American minimalism, but the pair were particularly inspired by the work of Japanese composer Midori Takada.

Working alongside Milo Fitzpatrick and Keir Vine, Bellamy and Wyllie released Memory Streams, Portico Quartet’s fifth studio album, in May 2019. Their debut album, Knee-Deep in the North Sea, was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize. To read more about their work, check out their XLR8R Influences podcast here. Meanwhile, you can read Wyllie’s Artist Tips feature with XLR8R here.


01. Terrain: I
02. Terrain: II
03. Terrain: III

Terrain LP is scheduled for May 28 release on Gondwana Records. Meanwhile, you can stream “Terrain: II” in full below and pre-order here.