Portico (ft. Jono McCleery) / Sea Stacks / Matt Emery [Live Review – The Boileroom, Guildford, 13/3/15]
This past Friday night, Guildford’s residents were offered a prime opportunity to catch three fascinating acts in the act of creating incredible music. It’s rare to experience a gig crammed this full of uncategorizable music – but then, the Boileroom isn’t your average venue. Kudos first has to go to the booking brains behind this show; that kind of talent isn’t always recognised, but without it nights like this would never come to be.
Matt Emery could be easily pigeonholed (and subsequently dismissed by many) as a “new age” artist – but although from note one it’s clearly likely that spiritual and philosophical thought patterns inform Emery’s work, its well-structured and passionately performed nature ensures that no PhDs are required in order for an audience to be moved. The sheer eclecticism Emery displays is astounding, with the man himself weaving a path through heavily produced widescreen soundscapes, elongated and plaintive vocal melodies, and even a handful of beautiful solo piano pieces. Matt Emery is a musical force of nature which seems to still be in development, but nonetheless is moving toward a bright and promising horizon.
Although I do love strange and beautiful music, I struggled to get into Sea Stacks at first. Fortunately, I’ve learnt that initial confusion is not always a sign that the music in question is “…too weird,” or whatever, and actually music that takes time to grow on you often pushes its roots deeper than instantly gratifying stuff can.
Sea Stacks’ Facebook page categorises the band as “orchestral indie,” which works very well but also serves to highlight the limitations of genre categorisations. A great many bands fall between the cracks when it comes to musical labels, existing in some strange blurry place where nothing is perfectly predictable. Sea Stacks are very definitely one of those bands. However, whether you pick up elements of funk, soul, classical, jazz, folk, or pop, or pick descriptors like plaintive, mournful, or even upbeat to describe certain moments within a Sea Stacks set, it would still be impossible to fully communicate the experience without offering a note-by-note and beat-by-beat commentary. Which would be awfully tedious.
In any case, by the end of Sea Stacks’ occasionally folky, soulful, classically-influenced, jazzy, folky, poppy, plaintive and mournful and even upbeat set, I was won over. I’d very much recommend you give the experience a shot yourself.
As for Portico, I’d been looking forward to seeing them live even before this gig was booked. I still remember the day a jazz-obsessed friend practically forced me to listen to the Portico Quartet’s self-titled album – and since then it’s become one of my favourite jazz-related releases. Today, the Portico Quartet are simply Portico (the name change made after the departure of percussionist Keir Vine), and their direction is a marked departure from their earlier work.
As with their support acts, precisely describing what Portico are doing without blow-by-blow commentary is a tough ask. The jazz influence is still there, but it’s become increasingly augmented by flickering electronic elements, intense beats, and incredible vocal work from guest Jono McCleery which occasionally brings to mind Muse’s own Matt Bellamy. Portico’s work is now the musical equivalent of a watercolour painting of reflections on water; trying to figure out where one element of the whole ends and another begins is guaranteed to spoil the fun entirely.
Allowing it all to wash over you, however, is guaranteed to result in a totally immersive, spellbinding, even consciousness-altering experience. Look around at a Portico crowd and you will see movement, stillness, joy, pensiveness, rapture and heartbreak. If you’re curious as to which of the above might describe your reaction, check out Portico’s website below for tour dates and further information.
Big love as always to the Boileroom crew for an awesome show, and Will and Mike for some top-notch sound.
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