Portishead
Dummy


4.5
superb

Review

by Justin Swope USER (85 Reviews)
December 16th, 2012 | 19 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Dummy is a moving album with a haunting atmosphere and a persistent, infectious groove.

Trip-hop has always been one of music's biggest gray areas. What makes it so interesting is that it's not easily definable. Sure, you can say it's a healthy mixture of electronic music and hip-hop, but that really would not do bands like Portishead justice. As one of the preeminent pioneers of this fascinating sub-genre, Portishead unleashes a breath of fresh air with the robust and consistent Dummy, their debut LP.

From start to finish, Dummy has a fairly steady groove that carries over through each track. Most of the album is executed in a low-key, unassuming fashion. However, the album also carries a certain degree of tension and melancholy. Settling into these addictive grooves can be quite satisfying, but there is something unsettling lurking in the shadows. Beth Gibbons's vocals conveys a unique restlessness that serves to actively compete with the downtempo beats and outlandish rhythms. Her voice brings the emotional drive that keeps the album engaging.

Dummy is filled with off-kilter beats, surprising turntable effects, and a plethora of instruments that give the album an organic feel. Portishead melds all of these elements in such a fulfilling way to create an atmosphere that is as exquisite as it is eerie. I always wonder how the band arrived at what they did, but, whatever they did, it worked. Their ambition comes to light on every track, as they constantly evade the trails of one specific genre. The opening track, "Mysterons", for instance, delivers a stream of uncanny electronic sounds packaged with a murky hip-hop coating. The track sets the tone for the entire LP and establishes the mystifying environment that never ceases until the sexy closing track, "Glory Box", slowly drifts away.

Gibbons's voice exceeds all expectations on tracks like the exciting and immersive "Sour Times", the delicate "It Could Be Sweet", and the contemplative "It's a Fire". From the sampling to the sonic textures, Dummy is a musical treat. Its spookiness never lets up, but it never overpowers the album's finesse. Thus, the production is intricate and smooth. Songs like "Wandering Star" expose Portishead's penchant for a twisted hip-hop sound as they manipulate the track's overall sound with a relentless outpouring of turntable effects. By the time Dummy reaches the album's centerpiece, "It's a Fire", Gibbons keeps the LP alive and well with simple but suitable lyricism like "Breathe on."

However, all of Portishead's abilities reach complete fulfillment with the hauntingly beautiful "Roads". "Roads" is incredibly dense, with a perfect blend of strings that heighten the anxiety, keyboards that sink to mystifying depths, and hypnotizing drums that reinforce the mysterious force present throughout the album. In addition, the poignant vocals allow this painful, internal battle to materialize. Dummy is filled with psychological struggle and hopeless sentiments. Gibbons never breaks this character and her vocals come across as both honest and affected. On the grim penultimate track "Biscuit", she captures a lost and wayward girl who tears herself apart as the unforgiving world merely passes her by.

Dummy is a self-contained work of art with plenty of passion to offer with every listen. It sets out to deliver a dark, but sensual mood and succeeds on a number of different levels. As a result, the LP gradually evolves into a deeply intimate and surreal experience. Trip-hop is not your typical musical genre, and Portishead is clearly not your typical musical group.

Favorite Tracks:
Roads
It's a Fire
Biscuit
Sour Times
Mysterons



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Comments:Add a Comment 
KILL
December 16th 2012


71981 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review

Digging: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out

Minus.
December 16th 2012


2680 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Great review, Great album. Listening to this album always brings up so many memories of my teen years.

Gwyn.
December 16th 2012


15161 Comments


33 Reviews and not a single bad one.
You should be pretty proud.

Pos'd.

Minus.
December 16th 2012


2680 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I'm trying to get the courage to write another review.

Gwyn.
December 16th 2012


15161 Comments


Already did it once, what's the problem in doing it again?

Admittedly the review you wrote pretty short, though.

derho
December 16th 2012


307 Comments


cool review. Blue Lines started it, but I feel like this album perfected the trip hop sound.

jtswope
December 16th 2012


2373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks guys much appreciated! and i agree ^

Minus.
December 16th 2012


2680 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Already did it once, what's the problem in doing it again?
Admittedly the review you wrote pretty short, though.

Agreed, and I should have spent more time on it. I think I might pick an album that I can give some criticism as apposed to an album that I think is classic and flawless.

Minus.
December 16th 2012


2680 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

You're the first person I've ever heard say that

Chortles
December 16th 2012


18010 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review man. album is fantastic

Digging: Jacaszek - Treny

mindleviticus
December 16th 2012


8298 Comments


album rules

cagedescending
December 16th 2012


4124 Comments


album's on fire yo

good review

eternium
December 16th 2012


16338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review.

Detritivore
December 16th 2012


271 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good album,

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
December 16th 2012


50698 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice one

Digging: The Smith Street Band - Throw Me in the River

MusicIsMyFavorite
December 16th 2012


405 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review, pos

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
December 17th 2012


16060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great album, good job on review

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

ManaYoodSushai
December 22nd 2012


90 Comments


ive got this album, just never listened to it, I will now

Minus.
December 22nd 2012


2680 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Why would you get an album and never listen to it? Especially a stellar album like this.



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