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Porcupine Tree - Insignificance (K7) CD (album) cover

INSIGNIFICANCE (K7)

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.29 | 69 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Seeing as how "Insignificance" is no more or less than a select sample of Steven Wilson's basic demos recorded sometime before 1996, it really can't be fairly graded on the same level of a normal Porcupine Tree studio album and I won't. It's most easily available as a bonus CD that comes with the 2003 remastered version of "Signify" and it is significant, indeed, because it gives the listener/fan an intimate look inside the inner workings of Wilson's mind and a glimpse of the creative process he employed at that stage of development. I prepared for writing this review by listening to the CD through headphones while gazing out my dining room window on a wet, blustery morning and I can tell you without reservation that this is excellent rainy day music and there's a lot to be said for that kind of album.

"Wake as Gun I" starts things off with basic acoustic guitar and vocal, giving you the feeling that Steven could be sitting across from you, playing one of his trademark moody, dark songs in person. No drums ever appear but there's plenty of interesting musical decorations coming and going, giving the tune its own charm and character. Next is "Hallogallo," an instrumental that sounds as if you are standing next to some warm, humming electric generator at the outset. Wilson utilizes a drum machine with tasteful restraint here (and throughout the proceedings) as he builds the song layer by layer over an unadorned guitar. It then segues seamlessly into the bigger, fatter guitar tones of "Signify" which is a slightly rougher version of the slick studio track. Here you really get the feeling that you're getting to observe this gifted composer/arranger patiently honing his craft as he experiments freely with various voice snippets and loops. "Waiting" follows and it's another homemade version of a song appearing on "Signify." It doesn't have any new angles other than the fact that the programmed drums aren't as good as Chris Maitland's (Well, duh!). The ending is a bit more psychedelic but that's about the only noticeable difference.

"Smiling Not Smiling" has a loose, somewhat folky progression that evolves into a Pink Floyd-ish floating segment and then repeats itself. Just something a little different from Steven's secret repertoire. It slips very naturally into "Wake as Gun II" which, as you would expect, is a reprise of the opening tune but here it develops into a much more experimental number using free form, arrhythmic drum patterns with disassociated noises and voices drifting about. "Neural Rust" is an intriguing instrumental that reminds me of his earlier material in that it starts with a 7/8 drum beat for a few measures, then moves into a straight rock tempo, breaks into a funky riff for a while, drifts into a dreamy feel and then expands to a dramatic finale. "Dark Origins" not only begins with another 7/8 time signature but it stays with it throughout this cosmic piece. The droning bass and wordless, almost mournful vocals create a thick, spacey atmosphere that is perfect to lose yourself in for 7 minutes. It's old-school Wilson the astronaut at his other-worldly best and the highlight of this CD. I actually like his demo of "Sever Tomorrow" better than the studio version because the repeating drum line and cymbal crash is more subdued and not as irritating. I do miss the stacked harmony vocals on the chorus but the tinkling piano lead, though buried in the mix, is captivating and I wish it would have been featured more prominently. An acoustic rendition of "Nine Cats" ends the album and it's pleasant enough to warrant inclusion but there's not a lot here except some chords and odd, subliminal lyrics about blue baboons and other animals.

While I can't see myself listening to this all that often, I can easily envision cloudy days in the future that will invite introspection and this would be a fitting soundtrack for the occasion. I think it's great that Steven shares his private laboratory work with his followers like this and it adds welcome value to one's investment in Porcupine Tree's "Signify" package. While the casual fan may not care for its rawer nature much, the true fan will find plenty here to contemplate and enjoy.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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