Instrumental albums can be a strange affair. They rely purely on the strength of the music. There is no singer to hide behind. No big personality hogging the mic. Then again jazz is one of those styles that can easily pull off the instrumental album with aplomb. The Portico Quartet are an interesting proposition. They are a jazz band, no doubt, but they combine elements from Classical, Latin and middle Eastern music to great effect. The result is at times dis-jointed, but hey, that's jazz.
For me this is a mixed bag. There is no doubting the talent of the musicianship on display and there are some real moments of pure joy. Opener Paper Scissors Stone is an atmospheric workout that sees some fantastic Sax work by Jack Wylie and The Visitor, as with Dawn Patrol, has a hypnotic vibe that is hard to resist, but on Shed Song and Clipper they descend into a blur of self indulgence that leaves the listener behind.
Ok, these blips aside this is a very enjoyable piece of work. It probably won't appeal to those who are taking their first foray into the jazz world, but it certainly should not be discounted, as I defy anyone to listen to Life Mask and not be moved. It is worth buying for this track alone.