Orion’s reviews Portishead
May 9, 2008
If you don’t remember trip-hop that’s OK. It was the genre that was essentially established by Portishead, along with Massive Attack and Tricky. Well that genre is dead now and to call Portishead a trip-hop band would be a huge mistake. Portishead is the kind of band that transcends genre, the proof of it is here on its brilliant stripped-down third album simply titled "Third." In it, they have all but abandoned the expansive sample based sound of their previous work and have focused it into a tighter and more claustrophobic vibe. This is definitely one of the most direct albums to come out of this band in a long time. Portishead is not pulling their punches. The songs are shorter and more intense than anything they have ever done before. "Third" does not seem like this is their first album in 11 years. In it, they sound like a ferocious up-and-coming band trying to prove something. Lead singer Beth Gibbons is at her most introspective and revealing on this release. All of the songs are really personal and you get the feeling that she is using them as a form of therapy. She still has the greatest sultry voice. Musically, Portishead is a shadow of what they used to be and that isn’t a bad thing. Instead of the long winding dark cabaret soundscapes of its earlier stuff, Portishead is now constructing short focused versions along those same parameters. The instrumentation on display is smaller and the songs are for the most part constructed with a small handful of instruments. What the members do with those few instruments is astonishing. One of the best tracks features only a ukulele and Beth’s voice. They use some pretty out of date synthesizers and get a totally modern sound out of them so that their music sounds new and old at the same time. If you are familiar with Portishead at all then you have to get "Third;" and if you’ve never heard them before this album is certainly a good place to start.