Vinyl LP Record
Named for a town near Bristol, England, Portishead is a British dance band that grabs ideas from all over the mod pop world (spaghetti Western guitars, turntable scratching, melancholy soul vocals, atmospheric organs, house beats) and stirs them into spacey, dub-like productions that sound like a dance club in the middle of a "Twin Peaks" dream. You could call it surreal hip-hop pop. But if the beats on the band's debut album achieve a kind of trance-like static, the songs themselves reach for something more rousing. With understated lyrics and overstated melodies, singer Beth Gibbons and bandleader Geoff Barrow write insinuatingly melancholy dance ballads that ebb and flow like waves through rustling waters. Organs quaver in quiet tremolos, guitars emit squiggles and turntables hiccup, while Gibbons, in a high, cutting voice that evokes a less breathy Sinead O'Connor, sings songs of longing and heartbreak with equally palpable emotion.