Saturday, March 26, 2005


It must have been in the late 90's that my good friend J.Marquis of "Are We There Yet?" introduced me to the music of Porcupine Tree. I was amazed when I first listened to some selections from their "Stupid Dream" CD. The music is lush, cerebral, full of texture and emotion. How has this band not been noticed by more people? If you take early 70's Pink Floyd, mix in a little King Crimson, beautiful vocal harmonies and the highest quality of musicanship... Porcupine Tree is what you get.

Porcupine Tree began as the brainchild of Steven Wilson, an English songwriter and guitarist/keyboardist born in 1967. Wilson recorded his early compositions in his home studio. From : "SW and his friend Malcom Stocks developed an almost entirely fictional history of a legendary seventies group complete with non-existent band members and an absurd discography - this was The Porcupine Tree. To back up the story Steven recorded several hours worth of music supposedly by this imaginary band. This was all done as pure self indulgence but by early 1989 Steven rated some of the music highly enough to compile a cassette "Tarquin's Seaweed Farm" and sent out copies to people that he felt might be interested. One of them went to the underground UK magazine Freakbeat, run by Richard Allen and Ivor Trueman. Unknown to Steven at the time they were in the process of setting up their own record company. Despite the fact that they gave the tape a rather lukewarm review in the magazine they invited Porcupine Tree to contribute a track to their first release, a compilation album of the best underground psychedelic groups."

Wilson released two tapes, both with liner notes, including a fictitious band history. In 1992 he compiled the best tracks and released the CD "On The Sunday Of Life", a collection of exploratory psychedelic tunes.
"Such was the interest from the press and public that this small run sold out almost immediately and was repressed along with a CD version. Among other tracks the album contained a future Porcupine Tree classic and frequent concert encore in "Radioactive Toy". By 2000 "On the Sunday of Life..." had racked up sales of 20,000 copies."

"On The Sunday Of Life" was basically Wilson's homage to his favorite music from the 60's and 70's. By this time he was able to quit his day job in computers and work full-time as a musician.
Wilson took some old LSD propaganda LPs from the 60's and used voices from those records in "Voyage 34", which became an "underground chill-out classic". "In 1993, "Up the Downstair" was greeted with rapture, Melody Maker describing it as "a psychedelic masterpiece.... one of the albums of the year".
The album continued the fusion of dance and rock and also featured guest appearances from two future full-time Porcupine Tree members Richard Barbieri (ex-Japan) and Colin Edwin."

"The profile of Porcupine Tree had now grown to the extent that the question of live performances could no longer be ignored. Thus in December 1993 Porcupine Tree became a live unit featuring in addition to Steven, Colin Edwin (bass) Chris Maitland (drums) and Richard Barbieri (keyboards). All three new members of the group had worked with Steven on various projects over the preceding years and all were excellent musicians sympathetic to the sound and direction of Porcupine Tree. "

It was at this point that Wilson and the band created what I consider to be one of their masterpieces, "The Sky Moves Sideways".
The website describes it as an "expansive soundscape of melody and ambient rock experimentation" which "would prove to be a transitional work with half recorded before the formation of the band and half recorded after."

Wanting to record a complete album with the full band, Porcupine Tree produced ""Signify", the first album to fully reflect the powerful live sound of the band, blending together numerous rock, and avant-garde styles whilst absorbing many diverse influences and relying on none."
The single "Waiting" garnered attention and airplay in Europe. This was followed by the live album "Coma Divine" in 1997
and by "Stupid Dream", in 1998.

It was from "Stupid Dream" that the band finally began to get some exposure in the United States. This album featured work that was more song-oriented, and the band attracted many new fans. In 2000, "Lightbulb Sun" followed, an intensely personal album which features some nice string arrangements by XTC's Dave Gregory.

The band outgrew it's label (Snapper), and after releasing "Recordings", a collection of B-sides from the previous two albums, signed a deal with Lava/Atlantic. 2002 saw Porcupine Tree's only lineup change, when Gavin Harrison replaced drummer Christ Maitland.

Once more from the website: "The eagerly awaited new album "In Absentia" is released by Lava Records in September 2002 (European release Jan 2003).
It is the band's most accomplished and complete work to date, featuring a much heavier sound on some tracks, but also some of the band's most beautiful and fragile works. The album receives great praise worldwide and, despite little or no airplay, goes on to become the band's best selling album shifting over 100,000 copies in it's first year of release, and charting in several European countries. To promote the album the band undertake four further tours of Europe and North America, including one with acclaimed Swedish metal band Opeth. During these tours the visual element of the band's performance is taken to new heights with the involvement of film-maker and photographer Lasse Hoile who creates a dark and surreal visual counterpoint to the PT's music. The long promotional campaign for In Absentia ends on November 30th as the band play a homecoming show to a packed out London Astoria."

"In Absentia" features a harder sound, almost grungy in places, with more guitar riffs... but the band has not lost its prog-rock perspective.

It was on the tour with Opeth that J.Marquis and I saw this band. What a show! Guitarist/singer John Wesley joined the band to increase their power in live performance. The visuals were fantastic, and the band was absolutely great live. I picked up a limited release CD called "XM" at the show; it is a collection of "live in the studio" material from the band's XM radio broadcast.

I look forward to April 26, when the Porcupine Tree CD "Deadwing" will be released!


Blogger Sheryl said...

Damn! So I have to make up a band history as well?!!!

1:54 PM  
Blogger sleepybomb said...

well, looks as tho i need to dig this up on winmx and check it out. you make it sound so alluring. thanks for the tip snave.
we need a good under assistant west coast promo man for the wrecks . . .

7:00 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

Thanks for thinking of me, Sleepybomb! As much fun as that sounds, I have so much on my plate at the moment I don't think I had better add anything else! Now J.Marquis might be someone you could ask...

11:11 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

Oops! Forgot to add: I would start with "The Sky Moves Sideways" and "Stupid Dream", and if you get hooked, go from there!

11:12 AM  
Blogger Howard Davis said...

So Dave Gregory of XTC works with this band? I may have to check them out.

8:44 AM  

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