From tape loops and live strings, Fender Rhodes riffing and angelic singing, these English subversives construct très hip Gothic hip-hop. A junkie for smoky atmosphere, keyboardist Geoff Barrow selects offbeat samples (Johnny Ray, Lalo Schifrin, Wayne Shorter) while Beth Gibbons croons through the intentional murk, copping glamorous Astrud Gilberto attitude. Songs like "Roads," "Glory Box" and "Sour Times" come across both sad and sexy, provoking cinematic images — lonely lovers in cocktail lounges, light slipping through Venetian blinds. Assertive rhythms and quirky production, however, save Portishead from languishing in any coy retro groove. Instead they manage yet another — very smart — rebirth of cool.
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