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Portishead is a band from Bristol, England, named after the small coastal town of Portishead ('Pore-tiss-hed', with a hard 's' in the middle), 12 miles west of Bristol. They are an important part of the trip-hop scene which started in Bristol in the 90's. With their tasteful use of live jazz samples and intentionally lo-fi sound, the band has been cited as influential by many modern musicians including guitarist Wes Borland, Hip-Hop star Kanye West, Evanescence and underground producer DJ Dangermouse.
The band was formed in 1991, by keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Geoff Barrow and singer Beth Gibbons. Barrow had previously worked with two other trip hop bands from Bristol, Massive Attack and Tricky, and decided to name his new endeavour after his hometown.
After releasing a short film (To Kill A Dead Man) and its accompanying music, Portishead signed a record deal with Go! Beat and their first album, Dummy, was released in 1994, and featured heavy contributions from guitarist Adrian Utley. In spite of the band's media-shyness, the album gained universal critical acclaim and was successful on both sides of the Atlantic, spawning two hit singles, "Glory Box" and "Sour Times". The album won the British Mercury Music Prize in 1995 beating albums such as 'Definitely Maybe' by Oasis and Leftfield's 'Leftism'. Portishead has often been used as accompanying music in the media. Such examples include car adverts, Channel 4 intermissions and the teenage drama series Sugar Rush.
Their second album, Portishead, was released in 1997, and featured the single "All Mine". A live album featuring new orchestral arrangements of the group's songs was recorded primarily at Roseland in New York City, and released in 1998 with a DVD of the concert soon following. 1999 saw a cooperation with singer Tom Jones for a track on his album Reload.
There have been rumours of a third album to be published, possibly called Alien, but no such record has been released, and Portishead's official site dismisses the rumours: "We have noticed that there is some confusion on an album release called "Alien". Please be aware that this is NOT a Portishead release. The band are in the studio working on new material now but no release dates are scheduled as yet. Keep an eye on the site as any release plans will of course be announced here first!" Portishead official site news.
As of May 2007, no new album has been released. There is another so-called Portishead album circulating called 'Pearl', but this is actually an album by Mandalay.
In December 2007 Portishead hosted the ATP (Nightmare before christmas party). Portishead played there live on both nights of the festival. Their set included 4 new tracks from their upcoming new album. The new tracks sound very different from Portisheads previously released work. Their new sound is faster and more rock influenced. Video registrations of Portishead ATP performance can be found on youtube. Other artists Portishead invited for ATP included Aphex Twin and Massive Attack
Portishead did show the first signs that their third album was progressing by posting two new tracks on their myspace page in August 2006. However these were subsequently dismissed by Geoff Barrow as 'doodles'. On October 18, 2006 Geoff Barrow confirmed that a third album was currently being recorded.
Also, in the summer of 2006 Portishead covered Serge Gainsbourg's "Un Jour Comme Un Autre" ("Requiem for Anna") on the tribute album entitled Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited. Oddly, Beth Gibbons' vocal performance sounds nothing like her previous Portishead contributions.
In February 2005 the band appeared live for the first time in seven years at the Tsunami Benefit Concert in Bristol. Also in 2005, Utley and Barrow produced The Coral's The Invisible Invasion. Barrow along with Utley, Clive Deamer and John Baggott also assisted with the production of Stephanie McKay's McKay album in 2003 under the Go!Beat label. Utley also contributed to the Black Cherry album by Goldfrapp.
Gibbons has also collaborated on a separate solo project with Paul Webb, aka Rustin' Man. In October 2002, the album, Out of Season, was released in the UK, and in October 2003 it was released in the U.S.
Portishead and other so-called trip hop groups have expressed dislike for the term, arguing it is a media invention designed to categorize their otherwise not-so-categorizable music.
The long awaited third album simply titled 'Third' is scheduled for an April 2008 release date. The band is also planning a European tour and will play on various Festivals and will be headlining the 2nd day of Coachella 2008.
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