PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 May, 2008, 12:00am




It always took a little time for the penny to drop with Portishead.

The Bristol three-piece arrived with the likes of Massive Attack and Tricky and were bundled alongside the mid-1990s trip hop movement. But they have proved to be much more.

It's 11 years since their self-titled second album (the first, Dummy, earned the Mercury Prize in 1994) and the case back then was that the more you listened to their work, the more you realised they were crafting something unique.

Bandmates Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley mixed breakbeats with the blues, and then laid Beth Gibbons' funereal vocals over the top to create a sound often copied but never matched.

They went running from the spotlight, though, and the fact that it has taken that passing decade for some new sounds to arrive has only added to Portishead's allure.

But what a return. As before, it takes a few listens - but once the sounds seep in, there's no turning back. Or turning off.

It's certain that Barrow and crew want to stir things up - that's why they bounce in a little doo wop on Deep Water, right after you get comfortable with the grinding rhythms of the sublime We Carry On. But what it does is make you feel the music and its moods, most of which are dark.

There's more organ this time around, and more wailing guitars, while the stark imagery conjured by Gibbon is never more mesmerising than on Magic Doors and the brilliant closer, Threads.

It's an experience that will leave you breathless.