Friday, 9 May 2008

PORTISHEAD: The Rip


The trouble with hauntology, if you'll pardon the contradiction, is that it doesn't show much evidence of life. Although it is always tempting for the sake of an easy life to plant a flag in hauntologist's reconstituted muxlife of 1971 and have Arthur Machen's thoughts substitute for any of their own, revisiting can only be undertaken for active reasons to do with whatever now one is living through. What hurts so much about 2008 that one has to filter life back to a misleadingly sunny and probably second-hand history? Goldfrapp have been very clever with Seventh Tree but I believe also righteous; fuzzed vowels, smacked consonants, sneakily repainted buses of artfully harder candy, gazing back through the tint of rushing rose only to demand: why not live and breathe now, why cling to that A&E of a nostalgia?

"The Rip" is the second most violent song title on Third and the second most peaceful song; it's been played on radio as the record's "accessible" track. "Strange Little Girl" tenor synthesiser waves lap across a bathyscope of something more valuable than bathos as she sings of white horses to take her away...but from what? "Scented and torn," "I take on myself," "Disappointed and sore," "I have bled"...as far away as possible as Van could get from Madame George, if she can help it/herself, by the sound of her.

As the compressed photostats of drums enter to provide a securer pathway to ride - this Kid B knows what spirits she is summoning - I think not of dubbed European children's TV serials of the sixties but of a track seldom acknowledged in any form; "King Meadowlands," produced by Vitalic and sung by Linda Lamb some five years ago, wherein she dreams of riding her childhood pony to flee "the bigger boys" and the necessity to say "please" over a still unparallelled (ef)fusion of Sixties brass loop, blacksmith's chanting iron and electroclash drift.

This "Rip" (but hasn't the title told you enough already?) is more subdued because its singer has to be; it canters placidly above the water but deep down ("the tenderness I feel will send the dark underneath") it is fleeing at marathon runner pace as bassoon subtly doubles up the bass line, forcing the continuation of breath, the non-cessation of movement. Whether she follows is yet to be seen but she is using the experiences of near or previous death to make sure that life continues to matter and that she has at least a running chance of getting to be happiness.