ANIMATOR Nick Uff has been quietly beavering away on his short films for years, but now he could be poised for much bigger things.

Portishead, the Bristol-based band credited with kickstarting the trip-hop sound of the mid-1990s, are about to release their third album of new material. Ten years in the making, the very literally-titled Third will be a surprise to fans expecting a repeat of their Mercury Prize-winning first album Dummy and its self-titled follow up, released in 1997.

Two of the new tracks - We Carry On and The R.I.P. - are to be released with animation made by Nick, 44, at his Charminster home.

"It's all happened very slowly, at its own pace," says Nick, who still earns his living as gardener.

"I don't storyboard my ideas, but let the films go where they take themselves. There's all sorts of ideas in there - things that have happened, a bit of social comment - like a stream of consciousness you could say."

Nick met Portishead's Adrian Utley through a mutual friend who built electronic instruments for the band.

"Oh, there was no plan, no paperwork, no contract. People don't often work in that way any more - nobody knows what they're going to get out of it or even if anything is going to come out of it."

Portishead played the indoor festival, All Tomorrow's Parties, shortly before Christmas and used Nick's animation on-stage. Clips of the performance can be seen on the YouTube website.

"I'd always shown things at rock concerts and parties, that kind of thing, but it was great to get an airing in front of a couple of thousand people."

Having studied at art college in Winchester, Nick found animation suited his circumstances - no money, no space - best. He works entirely on 16mm film, hand drawing each frame.

"Each frame has to be different, animated films cannot stand still. That means they can be quite difficult on the eye, especially in the style I use, it's very busy, a bit scratchy," he explains.

The first of the Portishead collaborations, We Carry On, will be available in a pre-release digital format at the end of April.

"It's interesting because what I have done is in no way a promo video for the tracks, but is an intrinsic part of the music. The whole landscape of pop music has changed with new technology so people don't have to do singles in the old-fashioned way, but can release things like this as an entire package. I'm fascinated to see where this goes."