Take one studio bod with a film soundtrack-inspired, lucid musical vision. Give him a penchant for experimenting with the most eerie of late-night atmospheres, concocting new worlds from cool jazz, moody guitars and lethargically-paced, hip hop beats. Find him a woman with a voice of genuine, stricken beauty, who sings like the only salvation for her oft-broken heart is to warble her agonies away. Together they make Bristol's Portishead (right), and, along with Tindersticks, are Britain's most beautiful indie roses, but down-to-earth with it. For example Geoff Barrow, the studio bod, met his female accomplice,, Beth Gibbons, on an Enterprise Allowance Scheme meeting day a few years back. 'I liked her voice because there was something really different in it,' Geoff urges. 'I'd been looking for a soul singer and she came across as somebody who was coming from a personal, honest view. I don't think the lyrics are just made up - she's not the type of person to make up some dreamy relationship.'

Presently receiving garlands of praise is the album Dummy, a serious contender for the debut-of-the-year awards. Every single blessed track is a winner: the tunes are clear, crisply enigmatic, Beth's lyrics darkly poignant. Another challenge awaits however; live performing. 'I'm not looking forward to it,' Geoff sighs. 'We've been having some rehearsals - it'll be all live, no samples. It won't be the same as the record, but we want to blow people away.'

'Dummy' is out now on Go] Beat

(Photograph omitted)

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