This was a very exciting project: take Beth
Gibbons, the vocalist for trip-hop übergroup Portishead,
and team her up with Paul Webb (here calling himself Rustin
Man), bassist in pre-post-rock band Talk Talk. Two fine musicians
in their own rights, together they will surely produce a work
of lasting beauty, and stunning innovation, right?
Sadly, the answer is no. This album is not a strange
collage of electronic patterns (a la Webb's work in 'O'Rang)
with Gibbons husky, wonderful voice. I was expecting an even
more experimental and atmospheric take on the Portishead sound
that Gibbons personifies.
The reality of what this collaboration produced is not bad
by any stretch of the imagination. It is just not as good as
i had thought/hoped that it would be. Basically, rather than
being ultra-futuristic, Out of Season wanders
in a very retro mood. Instead of looking towards the future,
Gibbons and Webb explore the well-mapped out terrain of their
Webb, apparently, is fascinated by the acoustic guitar. And
together both he and Gibbons seem to share a love for folk music
and old school blues. This album explores that, and while they
do it well, it just wasn't what i wanted.
The blues numbers on this disc really stand out best. On Tom
the Model Gibbons asserts the bold claim that she is as
powerful a singer as Aretha Franklin or Etta James. A bold claim,
and yet she has the pipes to back it up. Her voice is wonderful
on this song.
My favorite on the disc is Drake, which sounds like
old jazz. The drums are brushed, an upright bass thwucks away
in the corner, and Gibbons stands front and center just belting
it out. There is also an oddly-placed harmonica solo that really
works in this tune.
Other songs are folkier. Resolve is mellow and hushed
and sounds like country-influenced folk music a la Joan Baez
or the like. The light acoustic work in Mysteries is
propped up and strengthened by Gibbons voice singing delicately,
and a female backing chorus.
Overall, i am disappointed that the album is not as good as
i had hoped it would be, but i am not disappointed in it overall.
If Gibbons wanted to prove that she is a world class singer,
she has done so. Her voice is the star of this album, and if
you are a fan of her then you will enjoy this. If you like folk
music or retro jazz vocals, this might appeal to you as well.
However, the beats and turtlenecks crowd that makes up the core
Portishead fan base will not be too impressed.
It's not as good as i hoped it would be, but it's not bad overall.