Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Sparse but evocative chillout music from Portishead

I got a twofer out of my iPod the other day that reminded me of a really enjoyable album, “Dummy,” by Portishead. Portishead is a 3-piece that released 2 albums in 3 years in the nineties, took 6 years off, and then got back at it in 2008. An engineer who works with the band is sometimes mentioned as a 4th member, which makes sense, since the production figures prominently in their sound.

I bet a Portishead is something really cool...

Most of the songs have guitar and laid back percussion. There is also a lot of keyboard – often synthesizer – and pretty and emotional vocals proviced by their female singer, Beth Gibbons. There is a fair amount of post-production gimmickry, but they don’t get too heavy-handed with it. In fact, they strike a nice balance of sparse songs and atmosphere. I have had “Dummy” in the mix behind a few parties and it’s pretty good late night music for when some of the guests have gone but the die-hards are sitting down for some funny conversation. It might even inspire a hook-up. Who knows?

In any event, listen to my 4 favorite tracks off this, their debut album.

  • Mysterons – A sparse guitar riff and percussion that is snare and kick drum only back an oozy and heartfelt vocal performance. A little synth and scratching give it some color. Cool track.
  • Sour Times – More laid back percussion, clean guitar, and some jangling stringed instrument back another smoky groove. They added some gentle horns at the chorus so I would like it more.
  • Wandering Star – Gibbons uses her expressive voice to good advantage in this song that features their signature simple percussion and sparse mix of instruments to create a soothing groove.
  • Pedestal – Gibbons’ voice has an effect on it that makes it sound like it’s coming through an old radio, the percussion rides the cymbal, and they scratch through the bridges, creating a great chillout vibe. I love the jazzy muted trumpet solo.
  • Glory Box – This track reminds me of a Zero 7 song. It oozes through the verses but the choruses are big and dirty.

I often wondered what a Portishead was. I figured it was something clever or psychedelic. Turns out it’s just the town near Bristol in Somerset, England where the band is from. No more clever than “Boston” or “Kansas,” though perhaps cooler.


December 7, 2010 - Posted by | Chillout, Electronica

1 Comment »

  1. Love, love, love Glory Box. One of my faves.

    Comment by Jenifer | December 7, 2010 | Reply

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