Mysterons- Portishead

WeeeOhhh…WeEeOhHh…

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!”

10 thoughts on “Mysterons- Portishead

  1. I have heard Portishead on pandora radio. I love their sound. It’s a precursor to Radiohead imo. Do you know a song where the chorus is “give me love” (that’s what it sounds like anyway). I

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  2. Beth and Elizabeth Fraser are twinned in my head. Ethereal sounds from another universe, beamed from the watchers, able to stir those strands of our DNA that come from nowhere near this planet. Have you heard her work with the Polish National Symphony Orchestra?

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    1. I haven’t heard that and I really few I ought to. Now Mr Biscuit, I have to ask. Did you recognise the image at the top of the review as a panel from an old Marvel comics Tales Of The Watcher consciously or subliminally?

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  3. Aaah man, this album! I literally picked it up on Vinyl a few weeks back, only a tenner (!), because it was a definite rotation in those mid-90s with all the other good stuff.

    I always liked the link between Dummy, Maxinquaye and Bristol as well, especially the use of the same sample on two huge, and very different, tracks from each band.

    I’ve also always thought the saddest song in the world might be ‘Roads’ on Dummy, it’s utterly heartbreaking and, yet, stunning at the same time.

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      1. From the very opening second… and, yes, Mysterons is sublime as well!

        Actually, there’s a weird import for Dummy with an extra track that just doesn’t fit as well as the original ‘without it’ album. Unsure why it got added but you can’t escape from it on streaming services now…

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