Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The new spooky

English trip-hop pioneers Portishead are returning with their third studio album, 11 years after their self-titled second record and a full decade after the phenomenal Roseland NYC Live, which is when I actually started to really get them.

Portishead came across as way too spooky for me and I pretty much wrote them off initially. But after seeing the Roseland video and paying more attention to just how the band crafted its soul-spooking sound I came around. After that my only difficulty with Portishead was trying to remember the individual song names.

In a 1997 interview with Rolling Stone, Geoff Barrow described his self-styled anti-sampling method. The band would record original music, press it onto vinyl, rough the records up a bit and then sample that.

Third has leaked and probably isn't too tough to find in full, but just today the band officially released the first video, for the appropriately named "Machine Gun." It's rough and jarring in comparison to their earlier records (and the bulk of Third, at least from what I've heard) but it's hypnotic and compelling at the same time.

I wonder, as I do with a lot of well-established bands, whether or how well Portishead would catch on if they were to debut in this era of hyper blog scrutiny and immediate Internet access. Suffice it to say that while critically acclaimed for the most part, trip-hop never was the broadest sub-genre in alternative music. I don't think anybody who listened to that type of music then or now would rank Portishead any lower than the top two or three bands of trip-hop. And they certainly stand up over the time. Check out "Roads" from their Roseland performance:

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