Portishead showing more group effort
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, December 2, 1997, pp D02
Portishead: 8 p.m. Wednesday. $20. The Roxy, 3110 Roswell Road
The music of Portishead swirls and shimmers like a dervish. A
sense of foreboding surrounds the listener with hints of James
Bond theme tunes of the '60s and soundtracks from science fiction
and horror classics all pegged to the urban beats of the '90s.
The band's second U.S. jaunt brings it to the Roxy on Wednesday,
with its four members augmented by two disc jockeys. Between the
two American tours, Portishead did play a stateside show in July
at New York's Roseland Ballroom that was taped for broadcast on
British television. "It was terrifying, mainly," says
multi-instrumentalist Adrian Utley speaking by phone from the
group's hometown of Bristol, England. "(With) all these cameras
tracking around and all this white light, we thought, `This is
a mistake.' It looks good though. We'll probably sell a long-form
video in the next year."
Utley sees little difference between American and British audiences.
"If we play in England it has a different connotation for
us." But, he adds, "It's just the way we feel. It's
the same kind of people that come to the shows everywhere."
The band's new CD, titled simply "Portishead," has
received rave reviews but less attention from radio than the debut,
"Dummy." "Sour Times" from the latter record
caught the radio and the public's ear with its forlorn refrain
of "Nobody loves me, it's true, not like you do" sung
by the achingly beautiful voice of Beth Gibbons.
Adding to the mysterious atmosphere that surrounds the band,
Gibbons rarely talks to the press, but often consents to photo
shoots. Previously, leader and songwriter Geoff Barrows has handled
most of the interviews, but Utley's higher profile of late does
much to negate the perception that the band is a duo. As Utley
puts it, "I was always there from the first day. It was the
way it was marketed by the record company."
The new record even looks like more of a collaborative effort
on paper. Unusually, the fourth member is the group's engineer
and sound man Dave McDonald. McDonald's role becomes more understandable
when you know the band's recording process, which makes intensive
use of the studio.
"We're all involved ---Dave, me and Geoff in the studio,"
says Utley. "Geoff and I tend to write the backing tracks,
with the live beats first (that's Geoff's department). We'll have
a sound in mind, like a soundtrack we're inspired by, then multitrack
it, maybe put it onto vinyl and sample it from vinyl. Then that
goes to Beth, and she'll write her lyrics and melody on that.
Why record your own samples, rather than taking them direct from
someone else's recording? "Because if you use a sample (from
another artist)," Utley says, "a few weeks later someone
has the same sample on their record. (Also) if you make your own
samples, you can make the chord sequences go the way you want