Trip- hop’s pioneers taste- test the new breed.
GEOFF Barrow is suspicious of the new breed. He recently used Twitter to ruminate on the dance music genre, dubstep, and its poster boy James Blake.
Barrow, who tweets as JetFury, asked: ‘‘ Will this decade be remembered as the dubstep meets pub singer years?’’
Blake dismissed the swipe from Barrow, a founding member of trip-hop originators Portishead. Barrow now claims the barb was beaten up.
‘‘ It had more to do with what is going on around James Blake,’’ he explains.
‘‘ There is a lot of new music being touted as odd, interesting and experimental.
‘‘ Forget Blake. I find more grievances with Florence and the Machine, really. With that, you’re told it’s alternative music and it’s really not.
‘‘ It just makes it easier for radio to say, ‘ Oh, we’ll play this because it’s a bit weird’.’’
Barrow, who, with Portishead, has run the gamut on odd, interesting and experimental, says dubstep is too formulaic.
‘‘ It’s too easy for people to make a standard dubstep tune with technology,’’ he says. ‘‘ I like those who have their own vibe.’’
Barrow adds: ‘‘ I’m sure there is some great dubstep out there but I’m too old to go to a club, take some designer drug and stand in the middle of the dancefloor nodding my head, trying to find it.’’
Seventeen years ago, tastemakers found Portishead ( beatmaker Barrow, singer Beth Gibbons and guitarist Adrian Utley) exponents of the dark and dense Bristol sound.
Their debut album, Dummy, is a masterpiece with unlikely hits Sour Times and Glory Box. Barrow’s opaque, filmic beats were a perfect match for Gibbons’ disturbing torch songs.
‘‘ It feels like somebody else made Dummy,’’ Barrow says now.
‘‘ I’m 40 this year and I was 21 when I made Dummy.
‘‘ It’s like, ‘ How do you feel about that article you wrote when you were 21?’ It’s another person, almost.
‘‘ I’m proud of Dummy and I’m glad people still hold it in high regard.’’
Portishead work at their own pace, with three albums released in 17 years and each work darker than its predecessor.
Their latest album, Third, released in 2007, was uncompromising – and uncommercial.
‘‘ We made a big discovery with the concept of tunality,’’ Barrow says. ‘‘ It is based on the whole idea that something doesn’t have to be in tune. That made things really interesting.’’
Portishead will start writing a new album in January.
‘‘ Nothing exists at the moment,’’ Barrow says. ‘‘ I’ll worry about new songs when we get there.’’
Meanwhile, Portishead is energised as a live entity. They have played select festivals this year and will tour Australia in November.
Barrow says they are picky about playing at appropriate events. ‘‘ It has to be the right fit,’’ he says. ‘‘ I don’t want to play a festival where the first five rows are Coldplay fans. We have a different attitude.
‘‘ We played some pop festivals in Europe and it didn’t really work.
‘‘ But there is enough room for everyone. You can get your Coldplay in one place and Portishead in another.’’
Barrow, it should be said, speaks from experience.
This year, Portishead has curated a festival for the All Tomorrow’s Parties brand in England and is overseeing another in the US in October.
‘‘ It’s a dream job, really,’’ Barrow says. ‘‘ You just go after your favourite band. If they’re not available, you go after your next favourite.
He laughs: ‘‘ It’s only a problem if they’re dead or in jail.’’