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Portishead

Portishead

Like Soul II Soul a few years before them, Portishead spearheaded a revolution in both pop and dance music by introducing a distinctive new groove. Portishead was at the vanguard of the 90s 'trip hop' onslaught, and after a three-year respite, they returned with a self-titled second album to reclaim the trip hop crown. Beth Gibbons is on her way to becoming the Billie Holiday of electronica, retaining a stoic, laconic tone while recounting tales of despair and emotional upheaval. The lazy, spacious beats that are the band's trademark provide just the right combination of urgency and tranquility to underscore the emotional contradictions at the core of Portishead's music. Adrian Utley's delightfully creepy guitar and keyboard work adorns the proceedings tastefully and effectively. On tunes like "Cowboys" and "All Mine" Portishead makes it plain that when it comes to arresting, unsettling electronic downbeat pop, nobody does it better.

Hip hop enthusiast and obsessive break hunter Geoff Barrow, jazz musician Adrian Utley and singer-songwriter Beth Gibbons created Portishead's genre defining 'trip hop' album "Dummy" in 1994. The set's combination of head-nod beats and cinematic atmospherics (including Theremin, Rhodes, and Hammond) both sampled and played live, was given an extra twist by Barrow, who pressed the recordings up on vinyl and scratch-mixed them together, passing the resulting tapes on to Gibbons to add lyrics and a tune to. And it's Gibbon's who lifts the album into Mercury Music prize-winning territory, adding a heart-rending melancholia with her fragile folk-soul vocals. Featuring the singles "Sour Times" and "Glory Box", "Dummy" is just one of those must-have albums.


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