Portishead – Third

April 30, 2008

I had no idea a new Portishead album was even on the way until sometime last week, but then it has been ten years since their last release, the Roseland Live NYC album. So to right down to business, is Third, the Bristol based band’s third album of new material, any good? Why yes, it’s very good, and seemingly designed to keep listeners pressing “Repeat” or at least rewinding, as there are all sorts of odd touches here and there throughout the 11 track album, strange samples or strangely familiar sounds, placed randomly, sometimes in the midst of a song, or at the end of one, as with “Machine Gun,” the current single. Some songs suddenly end or cut off, or simply drift away, while other songs seem like truncated versions of longer works. The overall feeling is of listening to music already in progress as the album begins, or maybe to music that never quite stopped. Portishead’s music remains rooted in electronica and trip hop, but there are folk and world music elements mixed in, and Third as a whole sounds thoroughly modern, rather than being an exercise in mid-90’s nostalgia. The album is densely layered and sometimes disorienting, but it’s also beautiful and compelling, a welcome return for one of electronica’s pioneering bands. Standout cuts: “Hunter,” “The Rip,” “Machine Gun” and “Threads.”



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