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Portishead


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Portishead pioneered a certain kind of vocal-anchored electronica, a kind of evocative/eclectic ethereal with elements of ectronica/jazz/pop

Status:

Most recent album, Third (2008)

See also:

The Official Portishead site

Wikipedia's entry on Portishead

Comparisons:

Their Bristol contemporaries, Massive Attack and Tricky. Other bands that followed Portishead with a related sound are lamb, Sneaker Pimps, Morcheeba.

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

i am a confirmed portishead head. they are one cool (really) band. i'm not a real hip-hop fan, but i think portishead's alchemy of that with lounge music, jazz and blues, and a little '60s secret agent theme music thrown in is quite unique and listenable. beth's voice of course drives the sound. the woman has SOUL. (lotus@oz.net)

Their music is defined as "acid jazz"...jazz instruments with a hip hop flavor and a steady beat to which you can dance to. (lovey@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu)

I first heard (and saw) Portishead on Jools Holland's Later show. I was blown away, to put it mildly. Thing that got me most was Beth Gibbon's heartrending vocal, and the visuals backed up the impression that here was a woman tearing her soul out for the music.
     Pretty soon after I picked up the album and was suitably impressed. It took up a long residency on my CD player. I've heard many many people trying to describe it, but nobody's got it yet for me. However, I can't describe it so I can't complain! There is a large dollop of blues in there, and plenty of hip-hop type sampling and beats. However, I'd say it's pretty unique. (martin@mandab.co.uk)

I picked up Dummy a few weeks ago and have really enjoyed it, and also got Portishead, which is harder to get into but which I have also come to like. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Comments about live performance:

When I saw them in concert Beth Gibbons was able to recreate every strange vocalization perfectly on stage. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I saw Portishead live and was completely bored. In fact, I hadn't heard any of their music before the show, and was put off from buying anything based on my experience. I have heard a few tracks on a sampler tape and thought they were quite excellent, but I'd be pretty leery about seeing them live again. They would be one of the last bands I'd imagine putting out a live album. (neal)

Recommended first album:

Most people seem to prefer Dummy, but I like them all. (Neile)

Recordings:


Dummy

Release info:

1994—Go!Discs/London—422-828 553-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Geoff Barrow—Rhodes, programming, drums, strings arrangement
Beth Gibbons—vocals

Guest artists:

Clive Deamer—drums
Adrian Utley—guitar, theremin, bass, strings arrangement, Hammond
Neil Solman—Rhodes, Hammond
Richard Newell—drum programming
Gary Baldwin—Hammond
Dave McDonald—nose flute
Strings Unlimited—strings
Andy Hague—trumpet

Produced by:

Portishead with Adrian Utley

Comments:

Spotted this great new British band on the Jools Holland TV show and was completely blown away. Stark lounge-soul arrangements and some amazing wracked and twisted vocals from Beth Gibbons. If only they'd fire the DJ lurking at the back! The current single 'Glorybox' will take some toppling as my Song of the Year 95. (martin@mandab.co.uk)

God! do I love this. This disc is absolutely brilliant. I can put it on, close my eyes and watch indigo crystals grow, fade and waver with the music (all without pharmaceutical assistance). I can't imagine what kept me from purchasing this disc when it first appeared. (maeldun@i-2000.com)

I didn't think much of Dummy at first, but it's now in my Top 10 of all time. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

When we first got it I didn't think I'd like it, but I do. I love Beth Gibbons' voice and how she uses it—very emotional though sung in a distanced way. It works together for me with the music in a way that that style of music doesn't for me very often. The songs almost become torch songs. This disc continues to get serious airplay at our house. (Neile)

it took me a couple listens to really appreciate the cd, but after that it was like an addiction. (lovey@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu)


Portishead

Release info:

1997—GO!Beat/London—314-539-189-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended if you liked Dummy

Group members:

Geoff Barrow—drums
Beth Gibbons—vocals

Guest artists:

C. Deamer—guitar, additional drums
Adrian Utley—guitar, bass, moog, rhodes, piano, string and horn arrangements
S. Atkins—additional vocals
J. Cornick—trombone
A. Hague, B. Waghorm—horns
S. Cooper—violin
J. Baggot—organ, piano
Nick Ingman—string and horn arrangements, string orchestration and conducting

Produced by:

Geoff Barrow, Adrian Utley, Beth Gibbons, and Dave McDonald

Comments:

My heart beat fast when I spotted Portishead's second album. After all, Dummy is one of my top 10 favorite CDs of all time, and I had been listening to the first single from this new album ("All Mine") like mad for the previous three weeks. My quivering hands snatched the new album to my breast while my wobbly legs bore me swiftly to the cashier.
     Am I disappointed? A little, but I rather think I need time to adjust.
     The unmistakable Portishead sound is there on this new album, but it has evolved into something harsher and more detached. The vocals are frequently filtered, making them sound like a recording of a recording—akin to "Glory Box" from Dummy but more extreme. Combine this with more samples, loops, scratching and hiss-pop of vinyl and you have an album that sounds composed entirely of found material. This seems part of an intentional push deeper into postmodernist territory. Choosing "Portishead" as the name of the album seems to imply they are a band pretending to be a band called Portishead. They are making a fiction of themselves.
     I loved Dummy because it did not feel self-conscious. It had a postmodern bend, sort of posing as the soundtrack for an imaginary movie. But there was an honesty, a naturalness, a seamlessness that spoke beyond its form. Portishead seems to stress its constructed nature. It's an evolution I accept; I may need a little time for my ears to catch up.
     My ears may also need time to latch onto particular songs; thus far "All Mine" is the only one I really dig. But I do have to remember that I didn't think much of Dummy the first time I heard it.
     So...my final verdict is still out. It may indeed be a jewel, just not as bright as Dummy. (maeldun@i-2000.com)

I have to admit, at first I didn't like this one at all. I really felt that it paled in comparison to Dummy. But after listening to it hundreds of times now, I realize this is a wonderfully crafted album. And, I'm in awe of Beth Gibbons' voice. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I like this album. I don't think it's particularly a sign of growth from them, but I like it and don't "glance off Gibbons's shows of misery" as one reviewer said, but find them affecting. I don't think this album makes her particularly more strident, though I do agree the tunes are less insinuated into my head than the previous album—it's a slightly more difficult listen. It's still good, though, and well worth the attention it demands. And I'm glad they didn't just give us Dummy II, because first off I think it wouldn't be possible, and secondly that would have disappointed everyone. This is enough like Dummy to follow through for me and enough different to intrigue me. It's just not as hook-laden an album. I like the production and love Beth Gibbon's voice. This is a lovely album that I like nearly as much as their first, and it might even wear better over time. Highly listenable, emotive, lots of guts and power. (Neile)

One of my biggest complaints with Portishead's first album, Dummy, when I first heard it, was that Beth Gibbon's breathy voice was just too weak. However, I soon grew to love that voice and the hurt sensitivity it displayed, particularly on the songs "Sour Times", "Roads", and "It Could Be Sweet". However, my first complaint with the new album, is that now Beth Gibbons' voice sounds too forced, too strong, as if she's in a religious fervour channeling Billie Holiday or Erykah Badu. I also found the music to be too crisp and harsh. However, on repeated listens, the album is growing on me, particularly the most Dummy-like tracks, like "Mourning Air". (jjhanson@att.net)

My disappointment of the year: Portishead. And I can't even say there is anything wrong with this record. I think what happened is that I lost all interest in the trip hop genre. I was never a huge fan and now it's like it just played itself out for me. But strangely enough I still like their first CD. (afries@zip.com.au)

Tonight I ran off some folks who were visiting by playing the new Portishead. Her voice and the dark weavings of the musics have me spellbound even more than Dummy. I suspect this is one I'll have to listen to alone. My partner likes it but says it could get tiresome. I'll have to see if it gets that way for me! (brad@lightfallsdesign.com)

I fell in love with the sound of this album. I have spent many hours listening to it after I got it for Christmas. There is something about the vocals that sends shivers through my spine—I can't define what it is really, but I like it. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

Thrashes their much-loved debut by a country mile. Gripping. (beckwith@ime.net)

The perfect nineties funeral: Somewhere in a dark lounge over a martini, with Beth Gibbons wailing out of the speakers. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)


Roseland NYC Live

Release info:

1998—GO!Beat/London—314-559-424-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Portishead fans

Group members:

Geoff Barrow—decks, drums, orchestral arrangements
Beth Gibbons—vocals

Guest artists:

Adrian Utley—moog, guitar, orchestral arrangements
John Baggott—keyboards
Jim Barr—bass
John Cornick—trombone
Dave Ford—trumpet, flugel horn
Will Gregory—oboe, baritone sax
Andy Hague—trumpet, flugel horn
Ben Waghorn—alto flute, alto sax, tenor sax
Clive Dreamer—drums, percussion
Andy Smith—decks
Nick Ingman—conductor Jeffry Carney, David Finck, John Miller—bass
Stephanie Cummins, Susie Katayama, Jesse Levy, Carol Paisner—cello
Alfred Brown, Harold Collette, Susan Follari, Olivia Koppell—viola
Israel Chroberg, Richard Clark, Natalie Cummins, Katsuko Esaki, Joyce Hammann, Ashley Horne, Regis Iandiaro, Joanna Jenner, Byung Kwak, Carmel Malin, Joel Pitchon, Carol Pool, Pamela Porta, Anthony Posk, Lenard Rivlin, Andrew Stein, Belinda Whitney-Barratt—violin

Produced by:

Portishead

Comments:

Note: There is also a video version of this concert.

In only a few songs are there real departures from the album versions, but still I'd recommend this live album for the wonder that they can re-create that sound live in the right circumstances, and as well for the different and wonderful version of "Sour Times." (Neile)

i have to say, i love this album more than their studio stuff. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I'm totally blown away by how well they pull off their complicated studio sound live. If you've got either of their studio CDs, head to the record store and pick up the live stuff. (burka@jeffrey.net)


Third

Release info:

2008—Island

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Geoff Barrow
Beth Gibbons—guitar, vocals
Adrian Utley

Guest artists:

John Baggot—Fender Rhodes
Jim Barr—bass
Clive Deamer—drums
Will Gregory—saxophone
Charlotte Nicholls "Chipper"—cello

Produced by:

Portishead

Comments:

I love this album every bit as much as the previous two studio albums. It's brilliant musically, with the combination of incredible percussion here (worth listening for, even in the less obvious places) and of course Beth Gibbons always-mournful vocals. Brilliant song construction. Gorgeous, unsettling, and not to be missed. (Neile)

Gosh, I really feel guilty for not liking this album more. I like it, but don't actively listen to it. In a way, I'm impressed that Portishead came back after so many years with their sound still intact, but in a way that disappointed me too. Maybe I wanted more variety.. to hear something new.. I love the track "The Rip", though, and listen to that frequently.. Maybe Beth Gibbons will do another solo album soon.. (lasherboy@gmail.com)


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Entry last updated 2016-04-06 21:28:41.
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