This track has an otherworldly quality to it that completely deserves to co-opt the name of those creepy bad guy aliens from the UK 60’s kids TV show Captain Scarlet.
The Mysterons were a relatively obscure reference for a trip-hop band to choose in the middle of the 1990’s when Portishead released the game changing album Dummy. Now, even further from the era that spawned it, I wonder how many who have come to discover the band since get the connection at all.
Portishead were not kids when they had their first hit with Dummy. Beth was 29 when Numb, Sour Times and Glory Box made their way onto the radios and MTV’s and those CD’s of Dummy started shifting in serious numbers. Geoff was 21. And yet the record sounds like it came from an earlier time or perhaps more accurately it sounds like it’s from a different timeline altogether.
Mysterons was the opening track. The album had such a deep mood to it in 1994 it cut across the alternative music scene instantly. Beat enthusiasts, indie kids, goths and metalheads all found something alluring and irresistible in Portishead’s sound.
As someone who was all about the rock at this stage to hear the scratches and studio trickery give the music a cold ‘soundtrack’ like quality spoke to the film fan in me first. This sounded like something from a horror movie. Full of existential dread and dispassionate haunting from another place.
Beth’s voice is stunning but so too is her unique annunciation and the way her humanity is blended with the equipment and technology in such ways they meld together. Many of her vocals taper off into an uncanny valley where the mix takes her over. It’s like being sung love songs by The Borg.
Honestly it was like nothing before it. I sat around a campfire in 1994 listening to this album on a boombox with a group of drunk college students (at the time I too was also a drunk college student, I wasn’t creeping) held entirely in it’s grip. The conversations stalled and all ears turned towards the music. As side one finished a guy I hardly knew said out loud what we were all thinking.
“What the hell was that? Turn it over!”