Portishead – ‘Third’

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Midway through the latest Portishead disc comes the thumping “We Carry On”, a song that has enough paranoid, punk Joy Division urgency and sinister drama to stop you in your tracks. Third has me feeling nostalgic for a Berlin I never knew, which must have something to do with its perfect use of Krautrock rhythms, sudden shifts and stops, and its riveting, Eastern bloc vibe. The bleak, film noir distance for which Portishead is known has taken on a layer of organic warmth, which could be likened to staying cozy under a mink blanket in an ice hotel. Beth Gibbons’ trill of a voice is highlighted throughout, at times either vulnerable or nervous yet fierce. The creeping, cello-strewn “Small” juxtaposes hushed lyrics and lush harmonies with heady church organs that drown the middle of the song in a horror flick pulse. Empty phrases like crushingly brilliant, emotionally challenging and tempestuous only begin to scratch the surface of this intense and undulating work. Wow. (Mercury/Island) –Madeline Virbasius-Walsh