This progressive sound project achieves the “something different” Gibbons and Man (aka Paul Webb, Talk Talk) hoped to realize. The downbeat sound that helped to define Gibbon’s ubiquitous trip-hop outfit Portishead is, refreshingly, not present during these sessions, catapulting this side-project into the “beats-free” zone. Subtle orchestral arrangements, eerie sonic effects and simple, lyrical songwriting classify the action on Out of Season.
“Mysteries” begins the program with an absorbing rain and guitar sequence (performed by Adrian Utley of Portishead) followed by wistful woo-ing vocals and, shortly after, Gibbons: “God knows how I adore life / when the wind turns on the shore lies another day / I cannot ask for more.” The relationship between voice and melody is symbiotic and haunting, evoking the nature of change and the tone of the entire work. Though the record was written between Gibbons and Man, other contributions from members of Gibbons’s and Man’s mainstream projects co-produce and perform, including drummer Clive Deamer and pianist John Baggot from Portishead’s live band and Talk Talk percussionist Lee Harris and guitarist Simon Edwards.
The collaboration works. Gibbons and Man arranged Out of Season in experimental, “first time” mode, but the diverse array of musicianship, mixing and an extensive lineup of mood-inducing sound effects (moog, vibes, ebo) resulted in a piece that is right in it’s own place. Out of Season adheres to an instinctual sense of what sounds right, because nothing is too over the top or too similar to their past work. Timing, placement and style have all been excruciatingly arranged and re-arranged, but the overall tone is as fluid and natural as the smooth lounge track “Romance.”
The side-project is a tricky undertaking — it needs to be an expression independent of the parent sound but interesting enough to stand up on its own. So it’s not unintentional that Out of Season sounds a little “out of its time” — it’s moody, it’s autumnal and it showcases an impressive range of Gibbon’s vocal color. From the sultry, diva-driven “Tom the Model” to the throaty, half-muttered “Resolve,” Out of Season is, however, perfectly in sync with itself.