portishead – dummy (1994)

Portishead’s DNA is copious and varied, braising individual obsessions in an after-hours cauldron. ‘Dummy’ is what happens when a hip-hop sample comes to life, like Pinocchio, growing jazzy breaks and a soul of its own. The record’s haunting, cinematic atmosphere is lavishly upheld by Beth Gibbons’ foggy vocals, as she whispers enough to remain both mysterious and unsheltered. Meanwhile, Geoff Barrow warps old spy movie soundtracks, anchoring them to industrial, early morning Bristol, and inspiring Adrian Utley’s guitar to quiver with a nebulous allure. Though the stories are bruisingly sad, they often provide little set up and instead pivot off the tender despair of a stranger.

29/30

A favourite: ‘Strangers’

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