Music

Album Preview: Portishead – Third

by Winston "Stone" Ford

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Is Portishead hip-hop?

That was a topic of a spirited online discussion I had with my friend a few months back. My friend argued no. I said yes.

It it hip-hop in a literal sense. Probably not. The don’t sound like anything close to hip-hop, and they definitely don’t look it. But they take the basis hip-hop (sampling) redefined the concept.

From Pete Rock to the Native Tongues, hip-hop’s golden age provided the basis of what trip-hop was going to become. Growing up in Southwest England, the guys who would eventually form Portishead, Tricky, and Massive Attack took their love of such acts as Public Enemy and formed it in their own way. Trip-hop was born off the back of late 80s and early 90s hip-hop.

But what happens now, when hip-hop sounds nothing like it once did back in the day?

Well, for their third album, aptly titled…Third, the group pretty much largely abandons the beats for guitars. What results is an album which sounds more like Radiohead rather than its trip-hop brethren. This might upset some fans, since Portishead’s Geoff Barrow is considered one of the best samplers out there (he created his own orchestral score for the sole purpose of sampling it later), but surprisingly the group continues to maintain their dynamic and sound. The essence of Portishead is lead singer Beth Gibbons’ haunting (and some say depressing) voice, which has remained unchanged.

I’m not going to give a definitive rating of Third until I have a physical copy sitting in front of me, but the unmastered leak will reassure any fan that the group has still “got it,” after a 10 year hiatus between albums.

Third drops on April 28th. The first single, “Machine Gun” is out now. (New fans–don’t judge. This is probably going to the weakest song on the album.)