Dummy – Portishead

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Dummy by Portishead is an extremely important album to the shoegaze, trip hop genre. Dummy is frequently cited as being the album that popularized the trip hop genre and is one of the greatest albums of the 1990s. It was released in the UK in August 1994, peaking at number 2 on the UK Album Chart and certified gold in 1997. Sour Times is arguably the most notable song on the album, reaching number 13 on the UK singles chart. It was Portishead’s debut album as well. I love the album because of how well it blends the elements of hip hop into an entirely new, ambient sounding genre that gives a chilling feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s also really interesting that there have been many bands and artists who have tried to imitate the sound, but nobody has been able to reproduce the emotion and magnificence of Portishead themselves. The trip hop genre that was birthed was largely listened to in the UK, and came originally from the Bristol area. It’s blending of soul, funk and jazz into a fusion of hip hop and electronica makes it so that neither genre is especially recognizable, which makes it so interesting to me. Dummy had a scratchy, jazz-sample based sound and closely resembled a film-noir sound. The lead singer, Beth Gibbons’, channels Billie Holiday in her range of emotions that leak with raw feeling and leaves you with chills. All of these elements evoke a smoky, jazz-club-esque past but remained new and fresh with the invention of a completely new sound that was unable to be replicated again.

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