POR­TISHEAD

Trip- hop’s pi­o­neers taste- test the new breed.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - NUI TE KOHA Por­tishead will per­form at Har­vest Presents: The Gath­er­ing, Wer­ribee Park, Vic­to­ria, on Novem­ber 12.

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.’’

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