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Portishead is a band from Bristol, England, named after a small coastal town twelve miles west of said musical hotbed, in North Somerset. They were initially known for their use of jazz samples and some hip-hop beats along with various synth sounds and the hauntingly beautiful vocals of singer Beth Gibbons. Their current sound drops the samples in favour of a harder, more abrasive edge, but retains Gibbons’ vocals.
The band was formed in 1991, by keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Geoff Barrow and singer Beth Gibbons. Barrow had previously worked with Massive Attack and Tricky whilst tape operator at Coach House Studios in Clifton. He was often referred to as “that bloke from Portishead” and so decided to name his new musical endeavour after his hometown.
After releasing a short film (To Kill A Dead Man) and its accompanying music, Portishead signed a record deal with Go! Beat and their first album, ‘Dummy’, was released in 1994. It featured heavy contributions from guitarist Adrian Utley. In spite of the band’s media-shyness, the album gained universal critical acclaim and was successful on both sides of the Atlantic, spawning two hit singles, “Glory Box” and “Sour Times”. The album won the British Mercury Music Prize in 1995 beating albums such as Definitely Maybe by Oasis and Leftfield’s Leftism.