Portishead Releases Benefit Single for Amnesty International

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[Photo by Mark C. Austin]

Portishead’s music is kind of like a glacier. It’s beautiful and awe-inspiring, and it moves for nobody—11 years passed between the band’s second (1997’s Portishead) and third (last year’s haunting and appropriately-named Third) records.

So when Portishead drops some new music unexpectedly, it’s a bit of a jolt. Recently, that’s exactly what happened; the band dropped a new single, “Chase the Tear,” as a download benefiting Amnesty International.

The tune is a propulsive slab of cold, hard electro-pop not altogether different from Third, but with a twitchy, New Wave synth line that sounds the way television static looks. In other words, a headphone gem, not a summertime jam.

Amnesty’s website features a companion video to the tune showing the band performing the song in a small room with Beth Gibbons singing mostly in the fetal position. It captures the claustrophobic feel of the song perfectly.