Friday, April 9, 2010

419. Dummy- a trip hop down memory lane.

Album: Dummy.

Artist: Portishead

Year: 1994

Genre: Trip Hop.


  1. Mysterons
  2. Sour Times
  3. Strangers
  4. It Could Be Sweet
  5. Wandering Star
  6. Numb
  7. Roads
  8. Pedestal
  9. Biscuit
  10. Glory Box

There are lots of great things that were discovered by accident- fire, penicillin and the slinky to name a few. One of these is definitely not the musical concept of scratching. I can imagine how it happened- some guy heard the sound a needle made when a record was knocked and thought- I could use that. A DJ decided to repeat the phrase of a record while he was “performing” his “set” and thought he’d embrace the sound of the vinyl made when it was reversed quickly by hand. Scratching became cool, hip and groovy and DJ’s gained a level of respect that allowed them to hang around with actual musicians.

Personally I put people who scratch on a par with human beat boxes both of who should just shut up. Saying “Boom tish, baboom boom tish” a lot is no more skillful than replicating a bout of flatulence by sticking your hand in your armpit. And making a scratchy noise on an album isn’t cool at all. It isn’t cool now and it wasn’t cool in the nineties but back then nobody had realized.

Portishead are a strange collection of musicians. Nobody could deny that singer Beth Gibbons is a true talent. She sings in a way that suggests she’s not reciting lyrics but giving you the truth as related to her by gods the night before. The strings she performs with help to enhance the effect and make her even more godlike. Sadly the scratching and samples prove she’s all too mortal. If Gibbons really was divine then something as inherently evil as a DJ would be unable to survive in her presence. She’d open her voice and the horrid, scurrying thing would shriek and turn to ash. The fact that Gibbons could stand to be in the presence of monkeys clearly shows her mortality. Even if she couldn’t turn them into a small pile of DJ dust she could at least have clonked them on the head with a mike stand. Sadly she didn’t so this record is marred by scratching.

Dummy is one of the pioneering albums in a genre known as Trip Hop, which is one of those slightly nebulous genres that nobody is really capable of pinning down to a precise definition. It's probably best described as Moody, sample ridden, atmospheric and trance-like. It's also apparently over and anything that is vaguely similar is described as Post-trip hop, which to my mind is just really lazy journalism "I can't describe this album so I'll just add a post to whatever came before it". Trip hop came and went. While nobody seems especially eager to try and reclaim it there are those who still hold Dummy up fondly as it's finest hour. Personally I see it as possibly a genre we needed to have but not one I feel any need to revisit.

Influenced by: Pre Trip Hop

Influenced: Post Trip Hop

Highlight: Biscuit

Lowlight: Wandering Star

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: This is my first ceedee in the trip-hop genre. It wuz recommended to me by a friend who likes this kind of stuff. At first it wuz a little scary to listen to. But wen it got to track #2, it wuz so haunting. "nobody loves meee...its truu"
Haha that stayed in my mind for a long time so i kept on listening to the ceedee. The vocal is great and the songs sound mysterious. I like to listen to it when i'm doing art and also when it rains. haha i dont knoe why. I know i grew to like this ceedee tho :D. Its great.

-That's brilliant. I love they way they shorten "though" to "tho" but types "ceedee" instead of "CD"

So are you a dummy for this sort of music or is it all just a bad Trip hop? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. It's a dark and mysterious adventure into the enigmatic underworld of fantasyland (all with varying shades of blue!) In other words, I love it!!