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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 335
Mon, Dec 17, 2012

“Mysterons”
Portishead

1994

“♫ Who
dares/ dares
to condemn/ all
for nothing/ did
you really
want?
♫”

I’ve been reliving the experience of listening to Portishead’s first album through the critical eye of R.J. Wheaton and his most excellent 33 1/3 tome— Dummy. Hearing Dummy with Wheaton as your literal, literary guide through the netherworld sounds of Portishead is like Beatles fans re-experiencing the Fabs music while reading the late Sir Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head. Yes, Wheaton’s book is this essential for the Dummy fan in your life. R.J. brings new insights to “Mysterons” with second by second guides to vocal, scratches and sampled sounds you never realized existed until reading Wheaton’s 33 1/3 book on Dummy.

I love the way R.J. flawlessly seams historical events like the creation of the Theremin with personal anecdotes like the following from Jay Hay Johanson who said this after sharing Portishead with his friends for the first time in the woods, “I played it on my ghetto blaster to all my friends on midsummer night around a campfire in the woods. The effect was enormous. Some felt sacred, some cried, some became totally depressed. And I just adored it one hundred percent.” R.J. Wheaton’s quote actually reminded me of the first time I played Dummy to my Papi, he responded snidely by saying—“What is this noise that you’re playing me?”

I’ve described Portishead as Billie Holliday meets Public Enemy. It’s one of the few bands that geeky rock, rap, jazz, blues and electronic wax enthusiasts all can agree on. The opening cut of “Mysterious” introduced Bristol’s Portishead to the world where darkness and light danced to the bluesy shadows of Beth Gibbons haunting chanteuse vintage voice. Just like the Theremin, Portishead sounded like they floating wickedly beyond their everlasting sound.

The opening cut, “Mysterons” sounds like Portishead are interstellar sonic aliens coming through your speaker to bring you the soundtrack to the personal demons. Thanks to Wheaton, I never realized how much the Theremin was to “Mysterons,” as PJ wrote, “A sound beaconed by the technology of the future that frightened with it the strangeness of existence and the wake of the past.” With one foot in the past and one scratch towards the future.” “Mysterons” perfectly describes the attraction to the timelessness of Portishead’s trip hop sound, brought to life by Bristol’s leading turntable and hip hop enthusiasts Geoff Barrow, Adrian Utley and Dave McDonald.

I always called the tripped out Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack grooves, hip hop for Dummy heads, wink, wink; Before taking another “Mysterons” inspired trip through the nether worldly scratch filled sounds of Portishead’s first vintage album, make sure you take R.J. Wheaton’s 33 1/3 Dummy as your lyrical guide. Wheaton’s literal touches will leave you with a deeper respect not only for “Mysterons” but more importantly for Dummy, as a whole, being one of the most memorable excursions you will experience, leaving you—waxed profound.

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