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Dummy – Portishead

Dummy

(1994), 9.5/10
Dummy wasn’t the first trip hop album – Massive Attack’s Blue Lines pre-dates it by three years – but it bought its own angle to the genre. The trip hop beats are accompanied by chilled textures, giving Dummy a vibe that’s somewhere between a film noir and classic jazz and soul. The production team of Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley use samples lightly, like Isaac Hayes on ‘Strangers’, and handle most of the instruments themselves. The star of Dummy is vocalist Beth Gibbons, whose sultry, expressive voice gives the material emotional depth, a 1990s’ spin on a soul album.

There’s not a weak song, and each track has its own sonic world that fits impeccably into the overall mood of Dummy; there’s the ominous pulse of ‘Wandering Star’, the turntables of ‘Biscuit’, and the light strings and bass of ‘Glory Box’. The highlights are the theremin infused opener ‘Mysterons’, and the gorgeous ‘It’s A Fire’, underpinned by a pretty Hammond Organ.

Dummy is a glorious example of the way that the exploratory nature of the 1990s opened up new musical avenues; a band using technology to synthesise ideas and arriving at something original and heartfelt.

 

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