Beth Gibbons & Rustin’ Man – Out Of Season

Beth GibbonsMost of the music press (including the BBC News website) has been in a tizzy for the past few months about the eagerly awaited return of Portishead. Their as yet untitled album will apparently be released at some point this year, ten years after their last record, the 1997’s self-titled Portishead. Of all the members of the group, only vocalist Beth Gibbons was active during their hiatus. She recorded this 2002 album with Rustin’ Man (aka Paul Webb, former Talk Talk member).The music is almost the polar opposite of Portishead in everything but tone and mood. Whereas Portishead created their songs from jazz and film soundtrack samples, everything is live. Guitars, drums, horns and strings are all delicately arranged, but it’s Beth’s voice that comes through to the fore and rightly so.

On the Portishead albums, she frequently sounded as if she was singing through gritted teeth, with all the joy of someone just diagnosed of cancer. On this album, she sounds a lot clearer and makes her voice clearly heard. It helps that the backing music is usually pretty gentle in pace and texture. On the first track, “Mysteries” all that’s accompanying her is a simply strummed acoustic gutar and a ghostly choir. “Show is another slow track, with a repeated piano motif and some minimal violin work.

The best track is “Tom The Model”, which has a much more expansive sound. There’s lots of instruments and sounds, but everything fits together really well. It swoons and stuck in my head straight away. The jazzy, swing beat of “Romance” is a neat track too. This is a really interesting album, that stuck with me for a long time. I remembered bits of it, like a hazy dream for days on end. Even non-Portishead fans should check this out as it’s a wonderful album.

Beth Gibbons & Rustin’ Man – Tom The Model:

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