Portishead Dummy
Grade
A-
 
Also Try
Lamb
Morcheeba

I've always been told by friends that I should be listening to Portishead. As a fan of Lamb, I was assured that the acts shared at least a similar sense of style. So, when I went digging around for an album to start out with, I went for the one I was at least familiar with. Having seen the video for Sour Times, with it's retro-James Bond/spy movie feel to the music, some time ago, I figured Dummy was the best place to start.

Portishead features a handful of musicians, including Geoff Barrow on the rhodes and programming, Adrian Utley on guitar and bass, Clive Deamer on drums and other performances by Neil Solman and Richard Newell on certain tracks. In the forefront is vocalist Beth Gibbons, whose sultry, buttery voice provides a warm and relaxing presence to the album. The music can best be described as a casual crossbreed of jazz, drum and bass and even dub.

The opening track, Mysterons, is a heart-wrenching piece that lulls its way forward into a slow, tapping beat and leads into a heartfelt wail by Gibbons. The second and most familiar track, Sour Times, does indeed borrow samples from More Mission Impossible by Lalo Schifrin to establish a spy-flick theme that works sharply with Gibbons' constant cry of "Nobody loves me..." Following this up is the dub-heavy Strangers that thumps and rolls, not unlike a hip-hop song.

Wandering Star is probably one of my favorite tracks as it stomps a slow yet firm beat accenting by a pulsing bass line. Second to Wandering Star is Pedestal, which strikes out with a distinct personality that's strong in jazz themes, most notably the trumpet performance by Andy Hague, that are complemented by the programmed samples.

Dummy has a few minor aspects that feel weak compared to the rest of the album as a whole. It's a Fire is a rather boring track that feels out of place in the scheme of the rest of the album. Numb's over-the-top bassline can grow tiresome to those not big on HEAVY dub.

With that said, though, Dummy is a wonderful experience that fans of the genre will enjoy. Certain tracks can even transcend genre and find their way into the hearts of those fresh to the genre.

- - Kinderfeld

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