Porcupine Tree are unquestionably one of the U.K.'s most inspired and inventive rock groups. Since their 1993 inception, the band - Steven Wilson (lead vocals, multi-instrumentalist), Richard Barbieri (keyboards), Colin Edwin (bass), and Gavin Harrison (drums)- have proven themselves to be true musical pioneers, with a devoted worldwide following. Now Porcupine Tree are poised to release IN ABSENTIA, their eagerly anticipated Lava Records debut. A indefinable blend of organic songwriting, evocative soundscaping, and powerhouse rock dynamics, the album is the sound of a band confidently in control of their own inimitable musical universe. A truly sonic experience, IN ABSENTIA is Porcupine Tree's most accomplished statement to date.
After a quarter-century of punk and postmodern excesses, it's always something of a surprise to find young musicians who not only recall a past era's musical indulgences, but also revel in them. This Lava Records debut is the latest fruit of Porcupine Tree mainstay Steven Wilson's obsession with prog, a mania that dates to the late '80s when the "band" was little more than a fantasy, though one with a remarkably imaginative--if entirely fictional--history and bio. But that pipedream eventually became a real "alt prog" cult fave, with these dozen ambitious songs finding a focus that occasionally eluded the band on half-hour soundscapes like its underground hit, "Voyage 34." Tracks like "Gravity Eyelids" have a retro-psychedelic feel that would have done the XTC
alter ego Dukes of Stratosphear
proud, with Wilson's pure melodic tenor pushing it beyond the merely baroque. But the collection is also a strong statement of another crucial Wilson/Porcupine retro-sensibility: The album has unified musical statement. "Lips of Ashes" and "Prodigal" serve up the sort of impressionistic, harmony-rich musings that Pink Floyd
has rarely managed since Wish You Were Here
, while "The Creator Has a Master Tape" punctuates the rich harmonies of tracks like "Heart Attack in a Layby" with Crimson
-esque metallic thrash and processed vocals. While the band's instrumental prowess sometimes slums its way into the free-form jazz noodling of past efforts, the album remains one of the band's fullest achievements. --Jerry McCulley