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Friday, November 22, 2002

Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, 'Out of Season'. Described as a one-off collaboration, the most evocative female voice of the nineties, Beth Gibbons, has joined forces with former Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb, now trading under the guise of Rustin Man. With Portishead, Gibbons had played a vital role in the conception of two of the decade’s most astounding musical artefacts. Five years have now passed since the release of “Portishead”, and gaps like these are never normally perceived as being creatively beneficial.

Not only does this record sound fundamentally different to Portishead, but it also seems that Gibbons is using “Out Of Season” as a testing ground for her voice (she is supposedly working on new Portishead material with Geoff Barrow). Indeed, her vocal remains the most important instrument throughout the record. “Tom The Model” sees her adopt a more soulful sound and her vocal on “Show” is husky, possibly the closest to her Portishead “sound”. It was as if this track was recorded in a late night jazz bar sometime after midnight with just a piano.

Each listen of “Out Of Season” rewards the listener, with hidden subtleties and charms emerging. The three female backing vocalists alone deserve a medal, as they consistently sound wonderful, without intruding on Beth’s “ground”. It’s as if they are the plectrum/bow to her strings – vital, yet inconspicuous. Webb does a wonderful job also, content to stay in the background. Portishead fans will be glad to see the involvement of Adrian Utley. However, it is Gibbons who shines throughout, instilling herself as one of the great female vocalists.

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