After defining the 1990s trip-hop scene and cementing their legacy as one of the world's most innovative and important bands with their two previous records, 1994s landmark Dummy and 1997s self-titled LP, Portishead return 11 years later with a remarkable avant-rock record, one which sees the group removing their signature turntable-scratching, vinyl samples and hip-hop beats in favor of a sparser, heavier, more oblique sound. Utilizing a simple guitar-drums-vox-digital editing setup, Portishead re-build their sound from the ground up on Third, diving headlong into harsh industrial rhythms ("Machine Gun"), krautrock grooves ("We Carry on"), free-jazz skronk ("Magic Doors") and even an acoustic ditty ("Deep Water").
Vocalist Beth Gibbons again charts murky and terrifying lyrical waters here, her voice a beacon among the dark and free-form instrumentation. And although the band has excised all remnants of trip-hop, Third is still an album built primarily on it's low-end, with songs like "Plastic" and "Machine Gun" presenting some of the most inventive electronically manipulated percussion this side of Kid A. Third is easily the most dynamic record Portishead have ever recorded, a perfectly modern reinstatement for a band that has always played by it's own unique set of rules while never letting themselves fall victim to over-saturation. They've certainly never been dictated by the current "sound", and with Third, one of the year's most stunning records, they've dropped yet another out-of-left-field album full of wonder, bewilderment and glorious noise.
Highlights: "Silence", "Plastic", "We Carry On", Machine Gun", "Magic Doors", "Threads"
"We Carry On"