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Portishead

Go! Discs/London

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Like a slew of recent releases, the debut by London trio Portishead references both contemporary and old-school urban music: specifically, hiphop and jazz. As a result, Dummy sounds like the soundtrack to a noir flick—one set in a nightclub whose clientele includes both alienated young people and elegant oldsters. Beth Gibbons’ cool, torch-song vocals have the smoky elegance of jazz singer Helen Merrill, but are backed by a slow hiphop beat, a Hammond organ, and a twangy guitar. There is very little variation in tempo on the album, and the songs collect themselves into an extended mood piece—the mood being somewhere between sad and downright desperate. Yet the disc is still infinitely danceable thanks to Geoff Barrow’s crisp, dry drumming and fresh samples from Weather Report, Isaac Hayes, and the Mission Impossible soundtrack.