This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/28/steve-hackett-4/

Whilst having an ever active schedule, Steve Hackett, the former Genesis guitarist, graciously took time out to talk to TPA’s John Wenlock-Smith about his latest album, The Night Siren and his current U.K. tour (which started tonight in Cardiff), also of his future plans and the progress of writing his memoirs that is currently underway…


Good afternoon Steve, how are you doing?

I’m doing well, very busy though but that’s better than the alternative!

Lets talk about The Night Siren album for a moment, how has it been received?

Very well indeed all told, it’s been in the U.K. Chart, the Germany chart and the Italian chart, and I’ve just found out its doing well in Holland too.

I was in Holland myself recently seeing Marillion, they love their music over there.

Indeed they do. I played at a club called Boerderij in Zoetermeer in the middle of Holland. It’s a lovely club that holds about 2,000 people and it’s always a good crowd there too. It’s the heartland of Dutch music.

I’ve seen it advertised in Prog magazine, they seem to have great shows on there regularly.

Yes indeed, it’s a fantastic institution. It’s great, truly wonderful.

Steve Hackett - The Night SirenI reviewed The Night Siren for our site and felt it was a complete distillation of all your work and your talents, and a good summation of your releases over the last few years. I really liked it.

Yes there’s a lot of things on it, a lot of instruments that some people wouldn’t recognise, but I think the album was a product of having made 20 odd friends from all around the world and using different instruments from all around the world in an attempt to broaden rock’s shoulders and to go non-formula if possible. And to allow some protest material to appear as well, I’m particularly proud of it really.

It seems as if there have been other things to talk about, other than just the music with the little bit of the story and theme of musical migrants who ignore borders and just demonstrate that it’s possible for people to get on and with people from Palestine, Israel, Azerbaijan and recording all over in Hungary, Sweden, Bulgaria, with stuff recorded in Miami, London, also some of it was recorded in Sardinia, so there is an Italian influence on there too. Some of it databased, if you know what I mean, some of it not in time and sometimes they were just drum tracks. There have been a couple of albums that have come from the base material.

Djabe, for example, have done an album from the source material that was recorded in Sardinia, and it sounds great, rather ambient jazz with ethereal trumpets, and with Gulli Briem from Iceland on drums creating a kind of Weather Report vibe like on A Remark You Made from the Heavy Weather album with the bass player having played with a Jaco Pastorious feel, it’s good stuff. It’s all put together from jams, very laid back but beautiful stuff, I have some shows with them soon aside from my regular touring band.

Steve Hackett - UK Tour posterSo how’s the tour going?

It’s been good, we’ve done a Caribbean tour, the States, Scandinavia and played Europe and a few hot spots. We were in Stockholm just after the bomb went off, thankfully we weren’t there when it happened otherwise the show would have been cancelled, but it was on the next day so we played a few streets away from where it happened, and it’s Nad Sylvan’s hometown so it was a very special show.

There was a letter in Prog magazine from a guy who saw you in San Sebastian in Spain and he said he felt that you were very underrated in general, and you are so mentioned in the Wind and Wuthering article. And there is a six-page piece on you in there too.

I hope I said nice things about the others! Well I guess being away so much I’ve missed that one so I will have to get that.

And the U.K. Tour starts on Friday?

Well we play in Dublin on Wednesday and then the U.K. after that.

I’m hoping to be able to see you this time around, possibly in Manchester with Sue as she wants to see you again.

Well It will be great if you can and I can promise you it’s a good show. We do three songs from The Night Siren and most of Wind and Wuthering, including Inside and Out which should have been on the album, and always appears in my version of the album at least.

Steve Hackett with Gary O'Toole & Nad Sylvan - photo by Christian Arnaud

You mentioned in your interview that you are writing your book now.

Well I am writing it slowly, and I’d love to write half an hour every day but I’m so busy that it’s easier said than done. To get that I’d have to give up sleep but it will get written eventually.

I’ve just read Phil Collins book (Not Dead Yet).

What did you think of it?

I enjoyed it but I thought he had a bit of a downer on you though.

Yes, he did a bit really and I don’t know why.

I get the impression that he fits in better with the other two – The Charterhouse set – than you did.

It’s odd, I’ve heard Phil say that Genesis were over when Steve left and heard him say the opposite at times too, so there seems to be some inconsistency there. I think there must be a reason why that era is held in such esteem and why there are over 100 tribute bands who focus on that era.

I think Tony (Banks) may be a bit of an awkward bugger at times and he is very chordal and likes his Rodgers and Hammerstein twinkly parts.

Well here’s an interesting thing. I think there is nothing wrong with Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Rodgers, and love one and the other. I’ve been listening to some of those old soundtracks again and when you listen to some of those melodies they wrote and listen to what is going on, you have to have an open mind. If you don’t listen to Bach you’re missing out. If you don’t listen to blues you’re missing out. Musically in there it’s very interesting indeed, and also Phil tended to vote along with the other two and Mike always sided with Tony and he bossed Tony about too. I think they’ve always had a love/hate relationship.

It was always about alliances and having a strong voice in a vote. For example, I put forward the opening to I Know What I Like several times before they ran with it; sometimes they’d throw the baby out with the dishwater, as it were.

I think I must be the Black Sheep of Genesis, sometimes they speak favourably of me and at other times less so, but composition by committee has its failing and I think Phil still sees himself as the new boy! I am very proud of what I did with them and the band they became. They seem very keen to forget the spotty youth era for some reason which is very sad as it is their history, although that said, if they ever wanted to reform with me included I’d be there like a shot, but I think even if I had the skills of Hendrix and Andrés Segovia they still wouldn’t want me.

I guess they’d want to revisit the pop era and do stuff like Abacab and Mama again. Sue and I laugh about that album, I tell her if she misbehaves I will play her Mama and that keeps her in line.

Well there is nothing wrong with having “Hits”, and I had that with GTR with Steve Howe, we were in the charts in the U.S.A. with When the Heart Rules the Mind for instance, but I guess they won’t contact me anyway. There is a science to having a hit, but I decided not to chase that as I think it can undermine an album because each album has its own journey really.

So what’s next for you?

Well I’ve got the stuff with Djabe and then I will reconvene with my band, if I can call them that, and we will be off to Australia and New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand and then more Italian dates too. I love playing in Italy.

Last time we spoke we talked about another blues album.

I was asked by Malcom Bruce (Jack Bruce’s son) to play at a show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and I jumped at the chance as I love blues. There were about 40 musicians up there including Paul Young and Lulu, I played Spoonful and I was on fire, I absolutely loved it.

I love blues but it must be live as I don’t feel studio recordings capture it somehow, plus I was playing Gary Moore’s guitar.

His Les Paul Gold Top?

No, this was his Gold Top Fernandes that was made especially for him. It sounds fatter than mine does.

How did you get that?

A guy called Graham Lilley, who is my Guitar tech at times, was Gary’s full time tech and he is involved with Gary Moore’s estate and he bought it to me as a spare for me and I said if it ever comes up for sale give me a shout and he did, so I bought it. You can hear it on that last piece on The Night Siren album (The Gift).

Excellent. Well Steve, my time has gone so I’ll let you go. Thanks for talking with us, I wish you well with the tour and everything and I hope to see you on the road soon.

Thank you for talking to me too. Keep well.

Steve Hackett - photo by MichaelAarons


[You can read John Wenlock-Smith’s review of The Night Siren HERE.]


LINKS
Steve Hackett – Website | Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/28/isildurs-bane-steve-hogarth-colours-not-found-in-nature/

When it was announced that Swedish progressive music pioneers Isildurs Bane and Steve Hogarth, Marillion’s vocalist, had come together for a musical collaboration my interest was notched up quite a bit. Isildurs Bane have been around in progressive music circle since the Seventies with their rock based chamber music, employing strings, brass, woodwind along with traditional rock instruments. I have been aware of them for some time but to my shame have not investigated their musical world; this collaboration with Steve Hogarth seemed too good to miss.

The collaboration came about after keyboardist Mats Johansson invited Steve to join them after his appearance at Isildurs Bane’s annual concert at Halmstad in 2013, where he was a guest of Richard Barbieri. Mats wrote the songs with Steve in mind, and when he had agreed to come on board Steve contributed further ideas which expanded the album. Steve states that the invitation came at an extremely busy time for him but he was intrigued by Johansson’s writing and became engaged with the project. Colours Not Found in Nature is the first full album for Isildurs Bane since 2005’s MIND Vol 5: The Observatory as since then they have concentrated on their successful IB Expo concerts, educational workshops and theatre projects. Johansson felt that the biggest personal challenge was to find out if he could still write music, and if Isildurs Bane as a band were interested in working on a new album. As for Hogarth, he relished the opportunity to work outside Marillion, using more diverse topics for his lyrics, as he puts it, “as a creative artist I get to work with the kind of instrumentation and ensemble that I don’t normally work with. It’s a beautiful thing to be part of. I would jump at the chance to do it again.”

Indeed this album is a beautiful thing, Hogarth’s lyrics sit so well with the instrumentation of Isildurs Bane which support and enhance them while they weave their stories. The performances are all top notch here; special mention should go to Samuel Hällkvist whose guitar contributions are superb, adding colour and texture without dominating the other instruments.

The album has six tracks totalling 41-minutes of music, the perfect running time which leaves you wanting more and invariably leads to you hitting the ‘repeat’ button. The slightly discordant opening leads quickly into the guitar which kicks off the up tempo, lively riff of the first track, Ice Pop, the keyboards and guitar taking the lead ably supported by some great trumpet here and there. Towards the end the strings come in as the tempo slows to accompany Steve’s vocals along with a piano before the song segues into The Random Fires, a Beatles influenced pop/rock song, bright and almost cheerful.

This album at times has a big, varied sound with lots of instruments but they never seem cluttered, there is always space between them to ensure each is heard and no individual dominates proceedings. Each of the songs is superbly constructed, dynamic with quite an emotional or passionate feel, holding ones attention throughout.

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The track The Love and the Affair has Hogarth listing mundane and everyday tasks which are done in the name of “love”, the lyrics later in the song suggesting that something is missing and the consequences of this feeling, on this the album’s longest track at over 10-minutes. This follows the wonderful ballad-like Peripheral Visions, a beautiful song where the strings blend and weave around Hogarth’s voice, which appears at its best on this album. The lovely melody of Diamonds and Amnesia, which is provided by the strings and synths, gives way to the tour de force that is the album closer, Incandescent. Here the ensemble’s energy takes us on a turbulent and skillful ride, from a twinkling almost gentle start instruments are added as the song develops before it takes off at around three minutes with some great guitar supported by some brass, ebbing and flowing in a much more angry way than what has gone before.

The level of song writing and performance is top notch, with each contribution as important as the next. The songs appear to have a natural flow through the album, complex and dynamic blending together effortlessly elements of rock, prog, jazz and contemporary classical music into a cohesive whole. This has been a great collaboration, one which I hope they will do again. Give it a listen, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t.

TRACK LISTING
01. Ice Pop (6:23)
02. The Random Fires (5:16)
03. Peripheral Vision (7:00)
04. The Love and the Affair (10:33)
05. Diamonds and Amnesia (5:18)
06. Incandescent (6:50)

Total time – 41:20

MUSICIANS
Steve Hogath – Lead & Backing Vocals
Katrine Amsler – Keyboards, Electronics
Klas Assarsson – Vibraphone, Marimba, Percussion
Luca Calabrese – Trumpet
Axel Crone – Bass, Clarinets, Saxophones, Flute, String Arrangements
Samuel Hällkvist – Guitars
Mats Johansson – Keyboards
Christian Saggese – Classical Guitar
Kjell Severinsson – Drums
~ Additional Musicians:
Liesbeth Lambrecht – Violin & Viola
Pieter Lenaerts – Double Bass
Xerxes Andren – Drums
John Anderberg – Choir Vocals (on The Love and the Affair)
Anneli Nilsson – Backing Vocals (on Peripheral Vision)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Ataraxia
Catalogue#: ATX4CD
Date of Release: 14th April 2017

LINKS
Isildurs Bane – Website | Facebook
Steve Hogarth – Website | Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/compilations/progotronics-3-launched/
Progotronics 3

After almost a month and the release of Progotronics 2 sampler in March, we are back once again with the third iteration of the series and our biggest Progotronics sampler yet.

Progotronics 3 features 18 tracks in total, and with this one we think that we’ve made the best one. We are not saying that the previous samplers lacked quality, it’s quite the opposite actually, but with Progotronics 3 we succeeded in bringing the most varied compilation. Whichever Prog you enjoy mostly, we think that you will definitely find something that will satisfy your appetite with this sampler.

From the classic Prog-Power Metal, to Post Black Metal with Prog influences, Djent, Instrumental Jazz Fusion-driven stuff to Psychedelia and everything in between, Progotronics 3 is quite a joyful experience.

Stream, download and share if with your friends; let the music be heard. The submissions for Progotronics 4 are now open; the sampler will be released on May 26th. Download our Android app from Google Play Store here.

Progotronics 3 Track Listing:

1. Theory – Sea of Damnation
2. Breag Naofa – The Morning Of
3. Tone Puppets – A Place to Find
4. Sam Lenhardt – Tidepools
5. Oro Cassini – Blank Faces
6. From the Dust Returned – Echoes of Faces
7. Leviathan Owl – Everything Will Be Fine
8. Gloson – Fabulist
9. Lucid Lynx – Crystallized
10. shetz – Chameleon
11. Shaping Motion – Making the Best of It
12. Colombian Necktie – Untitled
13. The White Flies – Chaser
14. Abiogene – Satori
15. Donella Drive – Silence
16. Justin Enriquez – December
17. Centroid – The Divide
18. Lucerne – Lysithea

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/headphone-dust-releases-fovea-hex-ep/
STEVEN WILSON's Headphone Dust Label Releases New FOVEA HEX EP

Steven Wilson has recently teased his upcoming fifth studio album, and while waiting for that to be released, the English musician also works as a manager for his own label Headphone Dust, which in the past mostly served as a home to some of his releases.

Last year Headphone Dust released its first non-Wilson release by a band called Fovea Hex, and now the label has announced the release of a new EP from the band titled The Salt Garden 2.

Wilson announced this via his official Facebook page, stating:

“‘The Salt Garden 2′ is the second in a series of 3 limited edition EPs released on Headphone Dust in conjunction with German label Die Stadt, and contains 4 brand new tracks, one of which is a collaboration with Brian Eno. The first EP was voted the best single of 2016 by influential website Brainwashed.com, and is now completely sold out.

The Salt Garden 2 comes as a limited edition 10″ vinyl which also includes a CD of the EP. If you pre-order the EP from the Headphone Dust webstore you can also receive a bonus remix CD. The items ship starting from June 21st.

About Fovea Hex:

Four years after the release of the critically acclaimed album Here Is Where We Used To Sing Fovea Hex return with The Salt Garden; a series of 3 EP’s to be released in ltd. edition 10″ vinyl via Steven Wilson’s Headphone Dust label.

Since the appearance of Fovea Hex’s first EP trilogy Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent in 2005, Clodagh Simonds‘ collective ensemble has attracted a genre hopping rollcall of A-list luminaries including Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Carter Burwell, Donal Lunny, and Steven Wilson, as well as a who’s who of the electronic avant-garde including Roger Doyle, the Hafler Trio, Colin Potter and Michael Begg. Regular contributors include Kate Ellis, Cora Venus Lunny, Laura Sheeran, and Julia Kent. They have performed at the personal invitation of David Lynch in the gardens of the Cartier Foundation in Paris, as well as in Austria, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

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Fovea Hex - The Salt Garden II

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/arcadea-interview/
Arcadea

Not long ago it was announced that Arcadea, a trio from Atlanta featuring Mastodon‘s drummer Brann Dailor, guitarist/keyboardist Core Atoms (Zruda, Gaylord) and keyboardist/guitarist Raheem Amlani (Withered, Scarab), will release their self-titled debut album on June 16th via Relapse Records. The recorded is heralded as “otherworldly psyche-electric, synth-driven, metallic madness led by Dailor.”

We talked with Core Atoms about the upcoming record. Read the interview after the break.

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Your self-titled debut album will be released on June 16th via Relapse Records. Tell me about the creative process that informed Arcadea and the themes it captures.

Core Atoms: Since we all have our own bands with more traditional instrumentation, we wanted to do something different but still rooted in our love of prog. We all share a love of 60′s-70′s psychedelia and that era where technology was bit by bit merging with punk, soul, rock and funk.

What is the message you are trying to give with Arcadea? Is there a concept story that feeds the music?

The world of this album is a post-human one, set at a time when our sun starts its burnout and Andromeda collides with the Milky Way. While life as we know it is long gone, the heavenly bodies have inherited consciousness, similar to the ones the ancient Greeks attributed to their gods. The album’s eleven tracks tell the tale of intrigue, shifting alliances and alien races, at a time of a great cosmic change.

Based on two tracks you released so far it seems like “Arcadea” is pretty dynamic release. Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

While a riff or two came out of jamming, all the songs were constructed beginning to end with sonic and thematic ideas in mind.

Arcadea album art

Describe the approach to recording the album. How long the album was in the making?

The album took a while on and off to record as the three of us stayed fairly busy over the past few years. 2 weeks stretched over two years. We would lay down all the music for a track, send them to Brann and when he was back in town he’d throw down his part, usually in a take or two. I remember Brann recorded one of my favorite drum tracks on Christmas Eve last year, during a crazy thunderstorm.

All three of you are listed as vocalists too. What was it like to distribute the vocal parts of the songs for the album?

Certain passages call for certain voices and between the 3 of us I think we were able to find the right voices while having a lot of fun recording them.

I am sure that many people would love to know specifics of the synths you used on the record. What can you tell me about it?

I have used the same battered Korg synth for years, despite some dodgy keys. I also used a 1987 Yamaha Pss-570 on a song or two. Raheem would bring different boards to the studio for us to experiment with all the time though. I also use my guitar pedals and did a lot of experimenting and sound manipulating.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release? I could definitely hear a lot of different influences threaded through your music, but I’m in particularly interested to hear which artists from the Prog Electronic spectre influenced the album.

I have always loved various genres of music. Brann and I share a deep, deep love of 70′s Genesis and 70′s Stevie Wonder. Stevie basically invented new sounds in the early 70′s that have fueled modern day hip hop, R&B and electronica ever since. He was using synths and vocoders when Kanye West was still pooping in a diaper. He’s not thought of as prog but listen to 1976′s, “Contusion” for just a taste. Genesis before Gabriel left is still near and dear to me. Brann and I have always tripped out on Wonder and Genesis and it HAS to have an influence.

What is your view on technology in music?

Since the advent of the computer, music has become more and more processed while the artist, less organic. It seems to me there’s a tight rope between talent and over-reliance on technology. Arcadea embraces a certain level of technology while retaining the human beat. I still cringe whenever I see a band with a computer on stage. To me, a computer is not an instrument.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

It would be nice to think like the Wyld Stallyns; our music will bring about world peace but… Original music for art’s sake is good enough for me. Maybe I will get the chance to shed some light on great music of the past. If anything, I think most people, even self professed music fans lack an understanding of music history. We all stand on the shoulders of past giants.

Do you have plans to tour in support of the album?

As of yet we have no tour dates but we do plan on playing, sometime in the next 5 billion years.

Arcadea is out on June 16th via Relapse Records; pre-order the album here. Follow Arcadea on Facebook.

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This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/porcupine-tree-albums-worst-best/
Porcupine Tree

It’s been several years now since Steven Wilson decided to put Porcupine Tree on hiatus and work on his solo material. For some people that’s terrible, and it seems that it’s going to stay like that for at least two more years, considering that Wilson announced his fourth solo release for 2015.

Prog Sphere ranked Porcupne Tree albums from worst to best, although that sounds a bit harsh. Check the list below and make sure to tell us what are your favourite Porcupine records.

10. On the Sunday of Life (1992)

Before you look at this album as a Porcupine Tree album, understand that it can be better described as an hour-long experiment. Essentially, it’s Steven Wilson‘s science project, just for music. He explores many different aspects of progressive and psychedelic rock without committing to one particular idea or theme. Since the album is a primarily a compilation of songs that he recorded during the two years prior to the LP’s release, the record is far from cohesive and only scratches the surface of the band’s later styles. Nonetheless, On the Sunday of Life has a few notable and intrepid ideas.

One thing that detracts from the album’s quality is its conspicuous untidiness. Despite its very interesting moments, On the Sunday of Life is jumbled, confusing, and disorganized. Aside from a few strange musical bridges like “Hymn” and “Begonia Seduction Scene,” there is nothing really linking these tracks. The album quickly leaps from one idea to the next with no sense of handling. That would not be such a problem if the album wasn’t so long. However, it is formatted similarly to a progressive concept album when, in reality, it is simply a long trek through Wilson‘s various musical inclinations. As an experiment, On the Sunday of Life operates in a “trial and error” fashion; some things work, while others don’t.

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09. The Incident (2009)

It is noticeable to those familiar with Porcupine Tree‘s discography how there is a lack of anything especially ‘new’ about The Incident. Whereas the previous nine Porcupine Tree albums each added something to the band’s sound this does not, preferring instead to focus on blending sounds to create something close to the definitive Porcupine Tree record.

What is truly remarkable about the album’s first disc, consisting entirely of the fifty-five minute song cycle The Incident is that the songs are so memorable. The likes of “Blind House” and “Drawing The Line” are catchy enough to be radio favourites, they won’t of course because commercial radio only plays things from the Top 40 but that’s not the point. Even short interludes such as “Great Expectations” and “Your Unpleasant Family” etch themselves into the brain on first listen. Wilson has always been a fantastic songwriter above all else and he really does prove it here with the epic eleven minute “Time Flies” sounding accessible enough for the mainstream audience of today to not have a heart attack while listening to it. Wilson‘s skills are further emphasised on the second disc which, despite being slightly weaker than the rest of the album, features four very decent songs with “Flicker” and “Remember Me Lover” being the highlights.

The overall tone is a huge factor ensuring the albums success. PT have always excelled in keeping with the darker elements of the human psychology through the use of creepy samples and keyboards, this album is no different. The opening track creates imagery of a dark forest full of mystery and repressed trauma; the song exemplifies the whole concept of The Incident perfectly before delving into the perfect blend of hard and soft rock that is “Blind House.”

Sure the album stumbles in the lyric department and there aren’t many standout tracks to be found, but this album demands your undivided attention. It is best heard from start to finish, makes sense really.

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08. Signify (1996)

This is the first Porcupine Tree album with a full band to perform with Steven Wilson. Right from the opening of the surprisingly heavy title track, there’s a strengthened sense of unity and focus in the material; while the trippy arrangements and vast soundscapes of previous records return here as well, they aren’t always the main focus this time around. As suggested by the shorter running times of the songs, a lot of musical fat is trimmed and the psychedelic aspects are a bit toned down, but instrumental tracks like “Idiot Prayer” and “Intermediate Jesus” play with the group’s spacey side with extended atmospheric jams. One of the best things about this album (one thing that plagued previous records by the band) is that there’s a great stylistic balance; the album combines multiple genres and sounds, but distributes them all very well. You’ve got the first real song “Signify” (the first track is just an intro) which kicks things off with a hard-hitting riff and gets the listener pumped, only to be followed by a beautiful ballad in “Sleep of No Dreaming” as well as multiple improvisational jams and other ballads. “Sever” is the track in which the harder-rocking sound comes back into play, and it’s brilliantly placed in the middle as a good way to kick up the volume at just the right time.

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07. Up the Downstair (1993)

There is no denying that Steven Wilson‘s chops, his talent especially shines through on this record, him being the sole songwriter and playing the majority of the instruments. His guitar work especially is extremely impressive and at the top of its game on this record, his heavily Gilmour inspired leads blend magnificently with the dark brooding rhythm section. His lyrical output is also vastly superior to his later conceptual offerings. The production is also more pleasing than the bands later outputs, being less harsh and overblown which gives the subtle samples, synths and instruments room to breathe.

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06. Stupid Dream (1999)

Stupid Dream is basically Wilson‘s first foray into more commercial pop and alternative rock music, complete with shorter songs and much cleaner musical arrangements. The instrumental work is incredibly tight and crisp, but many of the songs are much more uplifting in tone (especially “Stranger by the Minute” and “Piano Lessons”) despite some very depressing lyrical themes. Traces of the old Porcupine Tree sound are definitely present, especially in longer tracks such as “Tinto Brass” and “Don’t Hate Me.” The lyrics also happen to be a strength of the record despite Wilson‘s unfortunate track record of having consistently weak lyrical work in other records, ranging from subjects such as survival (“A Smart Kid”), tragedy (“This is No Rehearsal”), complacency (“Stop Swimming”), and multiple other subjects throughout the experience. Interestingly enough, however, the atmosphere of the record usually remains pretty sunny and light, making the whole thing a comfortable entry for newcomers to progressive rock music in general. However, just as with most Porcupine Tree albums, there are still many complexities and inner-workings that serve to make Stupid Dream a compelling listen; Richard Barbieri in particular has wonderfully layered keyboard work that melds wonderfully with Wilson‘s melodic guitar lines. The production is also a strong reason for this, being exceptionally lush while highlighting every instrument perfectly; it’s clean, but has enough edge during the heavier and more distorted moments.

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05. Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)

Fear of a Blank Planet rests in a perfect balance between a sense of cohesive flow and distinction between songs. The title track gives a dense blast of dark art rock and introduces the subject matter. “My Ashes” and the spacey piano-driven “Sentimental” are a more relaxed slice of Porcupine Tree, toning down the energy and heaviness without losing any of the feel. “Anesthetize” is the album’s seventeen-minute cornerstone, an absolute monster of a track that summarizes everything the album is about, featuring both the album’s most mellow, and most aggressive moments all within one composition. “Way Out Of Here” is possibly the most immediately appealing track, with the melancholy now amped up to 11. Finally, “Sleep Together” ends the journey on an ambiguous note, with exotic string sections blazing and dark electronics filling up the sound. The album ends with Wilson singing about relieving the pressure, and burning his possessions. Has he found enlightenment and broken through his apathy, or killed himself? These things are left up to the mind of the listener, and makes Fear of a Blank Planet the greatest statement from one of today’s most impressive rock groups.

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04. The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)

The Sky Moves Sideways is the band’s first masterpiece, and arguably one of the finest examples of a band establishing their presence in their genre early into their tenure. While it may not be the best album by Porcupine Tree, it definitely s way up there and is a clear display of just how talented, and maybe even mad Steven Wilson is, and also shows how well he works when given the right musicians. At 65 minutes, never is a single second wasted, and it also serves as a great tarting point for future PT fans and even prog-rock newbies.

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03. In Absentia (2002)

As Wilson‘s influences grew and Porcupine Tree began to have more full-time members, and quit being a Wilson solo project, the band slowly changed towards a more rock and progressive sound that would dominate their later releases.

In Absentia is one such release and it showcases a lot of variety. The Pink Floyd influences are not altogether gone from the scene, they definitely have remained, in such pieces as “Lips of Ashes” or “.3,” but Steven Wilson‘s genre has become more refined and explored different types of music. In Absentia truly has metal riffs, which can be attributed to his work with Swedish metal giants Opeth, and some other riffs (like the one in “Blackest Eyes”) are very reminiscent of Tool‘s staccato guitar techniques as well. Many bass lines in songs seem to fit in very well with Awake/Falling Into Infinity era Dream Theater, parts of “Strip The Soul” being very reminiscent of “New Millenium.” The band somehow manages to combine those harder influences, with the Pink Floyd sound already mentioned, and mixes in some Oasis and Radiohead touches for good measure.

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02. Deadwing (2005)

A lot of the songwriting elements that made In Absentia such a fan favorite are still here in spades, but there’s a bit more emphasis on metal here than on their previous records. “Shallow,” “Halo,” and “Open Car” are all songs that one could imagine getting airplay on alternative metal radio stations; hell, “Shallow” actually made its way into the action movie Four Brothers! But despite the presence of intense and almost grungy riffing, the same old Porcupine Tree we all know and love is still on this record. Even the heavier songs have softer and more atmospheric portions to even them out, such as the beautiful piano-driven pre-choruses of “Shallow” or the drumless outro of “Open Car” which features some nice harmonized vocals from Wilson. Speaking of “piano-driven,” Richard Barbieri was really given the chance to shine on Deadwing. He was always widely regarded as a great keyboardist, especially when he was in the new wave band Japan, but he was often reduced to just providing background atmosphere with his layered effects and sampling. But here, there’s much more of a balance as tracks such as “Lazarus” and “Start of Something Beautiful” (mainly the second half of the latter) showcase much more traditional piano playing in which Barbieri displays his virtuosity a bit more. Bassist Colin Edwin and drummer Gavin Harrison are fantastic as usual, providing a very solid and proficient rhythm section for Wilson to work with.

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01. Lightbulb Sun (2000)

I strongly believe that this is Porcupine Tree‘s best work. Bridging the gap between the band’s spacey progressive past and their metallic, riffy future, Lightbulb Sun handpicks the best things about Signify and Stupid Dream and melds them into one jaw-dropping, life-changing package. Utilizing the unsettling soundscapes and tight instrumentals of Signify (“Last Chance To Evacuate”, “Hatesong”, “Russia On Ice”) and the bright, poppy melodies of Stupid Dream (title track, “Shesmovedon”, “The Rest Will Flow”) this album is an amalgam of influences, and a melting pot of ideas that begs to be heard.

Most songs here have strong hooks, quite poppy choruses, most of them don’t exceed five or six minutes (with two exceptions), the use of acoustic guitars is liberal, and there is an almost obsessive reliance on vocal harmonies and layering.

In fact, this album has less in common with Atom Heart Mother or even Close to the Edge than it does with OK Computer. “Lightbulb Sun,” “Shesmovedon,” and “The Rest Will Flow” are all conventional pop/rock songs, very subdued and mellow, with a sparing blast of power chords here and there to get a head slightly nodding, but nothing mind-boggling; it might be one of the easiest Porcupine Tree albums to get into (which, on the whole, is a bit nicer than the artistically fantastic but damn-the-conventions approach of Fear of a Blank Planet).

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