Portishead’s take on trip-hop music is unsettling. It’s easily discarded as “experimental” but the more you listen to it, and the less the adjective will fit. Indeed, Third, aptly-named and ending a ten-year hiatus, feels just as sharp as the previous two albums.
“Sharp” is a fitting adjective, because it is difficult to think of this music as anything else than physical matter. It’s thick, brutally solid yet lightweight… Rugged, eletroacoustic groundwork by Utley and Barrow, and now-forty-four Beth Gibbon’s voice above it, merged into carefully drawn, slow, tense songs. You may think of it as sound distilled from Massive Attack, that would later overflow into Radiohead.
The jump from more classical rock music is high, but Third is so boltening, its sweet-sour taste so perspiring, that it all makes it worthwhile. A bite in this high-calibre, noir fruit of the 2000s is enough to shovel the seventies into a corner of your disc collection.
Together, the eleven pieces make for a precisely-cut album, a never-weakening dark story. How the trio succeeds in putting so much color in so much darkness? I haven’t found out, and that’s half the magic of Third.