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Porcupine Tree - Up The Downstair CD (album) cover

UP THE DOWNSTAIR

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.92 | 725 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars " I will remain in the deafness of your silence"

As with Porcupine Tree's debut "On the Sunday of life", "Up the downstair" is essentially a solo album by Steve Wilson. Even the drums were originally provided via a drum machine, although this was changed in 2004 when Wilson asked the band's current drummer Gavin Harrison to record drum parts during the remastering of the album.

Where "Sunday.." was a collection of eclectic ideas, "Up the downstair" is a far more coherent and complete album, benefiting greatly from the fact that it was planned and put together on that basis from the outset. Here we have about half a dozen feature tracks, linked together by shorter pieces. The brief introductory track "What you are listening to.." sees the narrator (the same voice as appears on the concurrent "Voyage 34") describe the music as being psychedelic and narcotically influenced.

Quickly we are into the type of music we have in retrospect come to associate most with Porcupine Tree. "Synesthesia" has an incessant pulsating rhythm (emphasised by the drum overdubs) and the slightly understated vocals which have become Wilson's trademark. "Almost never" is one of Wilson's first songs to deal with dislike and hatred, a subject he would return to on a regular basis. Lyrics such as "I feel no pain 'cos I'm an island, I will remain in the deafness of your silence" would return in varied form on future albums.

Lyrically, the title track is about as obscure as they come, clearly emanating from a less than fully conscious state. The female vocals are provided by Suzanne Barbieri, while Richard adds electronics. The track is primarily an instrumental though, very much in the way of "Voyage 34" and the rhythmic psychedelic sounds which characterise the band's work during this period. The alternatively loud and softer guitar riffs which are a feature of the track would be repeated on other Porcupine Tree tracks, and be used to great effect in their live performances.

"Small fish" is a divine soft piece with superb lead guitar. It effectively forms an extended intro to the longest track on the album "Burning sky". This instrumental piece fits in well with the rest of the album, its length simply being through a slightly more elaborate arrangement. The album closes with "Fadeaway", a melodic, slightly spacey vocal piece with drifting guitar.

"Up the downstair" sees Steve Wilson taking giant leaps forward, resulting in the creation of his first coherent album. The content may not be what more recent fans of Porcupine Tree might expect, the album perhaps being closer to post rock than the metallic sounds the band now tend to favour. Nonetheless, for me this remains a highly enjoyable work.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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