Understated and out there, Portishead’s Third casually traverses a slightly bizarre soundscape, with great success. The album begins quietly but confidently with the only song I know that just stops, mid-bar. Silence is well into its stride when the sound is cut in full flow; I had to google it to check that my copy wasn’t broken.
Unexpected choices like this epitomise Third. After an opening half filled with relatively slow-paced tracks, We Carry On is an in-your-face blast of guitar that grabs your attention mid-album. Portishead follow this up with the folksy Deep Water, featuring a ukelele and barbershop-style backing harmonies. This is a somewhat surprising but not unwelcome break in a record that is somehow both very relaxed and very intense in its reverberating guitar and electronic strains.
Third works very well as a whole album, which each newly odd track complimenting the last, but two of them deserve an honourable mention. Nylon Smile‘s pulsating vocals and rhythmic drumming is pleasurably hypnotic, and the gentle relentlessness of the music really enhances the haunting lyrics. At nearly 7 minutes, Small is the album’s longest track, but the journey from the calm acoustic beginning, through the gradually-building psychedelic central section and breathy vocal breakdown, into the marching drums and long abstract guitar finish sounds great to the end.
Third is a strange but enjoyable listen, and I look forward to hearing more of Portishead’s work next month!