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Can You Say Sultry?

(London/Go! Discs)

I'll admit right from the start that I'd been waiting for new material from this group since I heard their last album. On Dummy, the group created a fiercely original set of songs that is listed as most (for good reason) as one of the founding albums in the trip-hop movement. In the three years that have passed since its release, several other groups have tried their hand, but none of them have been able to capture quite the amount of passion and mystique in their sounds (in my mind).

On their newest release, Portishead finds themselves back in familiar territory. There are the beautifully arranged string arrangements, the old movie soundtrack samples, and the old- school scratching. Also, Beth Gibbons is back in fine (if not better) vocal form on the recording. Throughout the 11 songs on the album, her voice weaves in, around, and through the sonic landscapes with a huge emotive force. When she sings out the line, "This will be the damnedest day," the listener has no doubts that it will be. It's haunting, dark, but damn it if it isn't also quite seductive. A few songs tread familiar territory, but for the most part it's an interesting new set of tunes for Portishead. It seems that every day in Bristol might just be a rainy one, but I'm not one to complain if this is the music it produces.

Rating: 8