Week 169: “Dawn Patrol” by Portico Quartet


Here’s an instrument you may not have heard of: the Hang.

Part steel drum, part UFO, the Hang was developed in Switzerland in the early 2000s. It has since become a favourite of hippies, street performers, street performers who are hippies, and an innovative British jazz band called Portico Quartet.

Watching someone play the Hang is captivating. I saw a street performer on one in Paris last year, and it was truly hypnotic. It helped that the busker’s hippie girlfriend was sitting next to him, balancing a crystal ball on the back of her hand. But mostly I was intrigued by the ghostly sound of the instrument.

So I was very happy when, after a reader suggested I give a listen to Portico Quartet, I found that they regularly feature the Hang in their songs.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The Hang, of course. Even though it spends the first minute of the song hanging (sorry) on one note, it gives the song a great atmosphere. (The plural of Hang, by the way, is Hanghang, which strikes me as a strange way to pluralize something. Not sure if that pattern continues if you’re talking about three or more of them.)

2. The great bassline that kicks in at 1:36.

3. It goes from nervous to frantic to completely bonkers. To hear what a soprano saxophone sounds like when played on a roller coaster, skip to 3:41. It all comes down to earth in the end, of course, but it’s a wild ride.

Recommended listening activity:

Learning how to do a magic trick.

Buy it here.