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Porcupine Tree - The Sky Moves Sideways  CD (album) cover

THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.09 | 982 ratings

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stonebeard
5 stars Here we have one of my favorite recordings from one of my favorite progressive rock bands. The Sky Moves Sideways and it's precursors Up the Downstair and Voyage 34 make up the majority of Porcupine Tree's most psychedelic music, and this style of space prog is just what I want from the genre. Obviously Pink Floyd's work from Dark Side of the Moon through Animals was a huge influence for Steven Wilson at the time, evident in the Gilmour-esque soloing and evocative atmospheres. While some older prog fans may this this is simply idol worship or tribute, I strongly disagree. Perhaps it's my generation, but I think music from this Porcupine Tree era, especially this album, takes aspects of the Floyd's sound I love, leaves behind those that I don't like, and throws new influences into the mix. We have the spacey soundscapes with a clear Floyd and 70s-80s Tangerine Dream influence and more of an overt psychedelic influence (as opposed to Pink Floyd's move away from this area during their classic albums from which I detect influences in the compositions on TSMS. There is also an electronica/trance influence that crops up from time to time in this era (think Ozric Tentacles and you're in the right direction). It's hard to summarize this era of Porcupine Tree's sound--I don't think I'll make another attempt at it for reviews of Up the Downstair or Signify--but I suppose the simplest summary would be Pink Floyd, replacing the blues influence with an electronic influence in a modern setting.

I'm writing this review using the reissued digipack of The Sky Moves Sideways, which looks like such a better buy than the original (though I'd be surprised if you found a copy of the original now even if you wanted to). We get an decent length version of "Moonloop" and its coda, as well as "Stars Die," which I am very surprised to see wasn't on one of the original pressing versions. Such a shame for an amazing song--glad it's here now. There is also a version of the title track not split into two parts, but seeing as I often don't have the time to listen to the full version on the go, and that I often love to skip to the second part because it has one of my favorite segments on the record, I don't bother much with the long version. So I suppose I'd rather have gotten more unreleased tracks instead of the long version taking up 35 minutes on the second disc, but I certainly won't detract from the rating for this.

For the two or so years I've had this album, I have associated it with certain things which might help one understand its significance for me. This also happens to apply to most Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd as well. The spacey atmosphere always reminds me of driving along the countryside in Indiana. If you are not familiar with my state, we have cornfields, silos, and not much else in the country. I couple spacey atmosphere with the rather blank landscape and the overwhelming blue sky above. At high speeds, the sky really does move sideways. When driving on an empty road with only el cielo above above me, I tend to become very peaceful and let my mind take me beyond the sky into space, or sometimes to memories from my past which are much more grounded in the earth and countryside. On reflection, it seems this album and this type of music is enhances time I have to myself, to fill the gap in what otherwise might be a lonely situation. It is the soundtrack to a personal journey.

On to the songs:

The title track is unique in Porcupine Tree's discography for its epic length, and though it has various movements or shifts in atmosphere, it is certainly far away from something like Close to the Edge. Perhaps a more apt comparison would be to Shine on You Crazy Diamond, though there are numerous shifts in atmosphere that wouldn't make sense to me if divided into parts. That so many shifts and ideas are packed so well into this song to keep it interesting with only a few verses at the beginning is a testament to Wilson's ability as a composer. The music flows perfectly, and this is perhaps the song that best showcases the atmospheric side of Porcupine Tree. The second part also has one of my favorite Porcupine Tree riffs as it jumps from relaxing to nervous and chaotic in a heartbeat. This moment almost requires a headbang or two. Definitely a top Porcupine Tree track!

It took me awhile to warm up to Dislocated Day. It is the most tension-persistent tracks inPorcupine Tree's discography, along with Footprints from On The Sunday Of Life and The Creator Had a Mastertape from In Absentia. It is easily the heaviest song on The Sky Moves Sideways, and would not be out of place on the later, heavier Porcupine Tree albums like In Absentia and Deadwing. The Moon Touches Your Shoulder and Stars Die are more typical rock songs, with a very spacey and melancholic edge. Stars Die is definitely a classic song from the earlier era, and certainly worthy of having Porcupine Tree's box set compilation Stars Die: The Delirium Years named after it. Prepare Yourself is a short little interlude which serves only to add to the atmosphere of the record. I don't really look forward to hearing it when I play the album, but I don't skip over it either. It is good, no more, no less. Moonloop (Improvisation) is an improvisation (go figure) relying on a rather constant bass and drum groove, with intermittent guitar soloing with different keys from time to time. Compared to the improvised material on Metanoia, the 1998 live album by Porcupine Tree, I prefer Moonloop, as it just seems more cohesive and less stretched for ideas. I suppose that it was recorded at a time of inspiration. Moonloop: Coda is a short little...coda...for the song with a guitar riff now as the main frame for the song. These are again songs that I love to listen to while on relaxing drive in empty spaces.

Did you like that track-by-track brakedown? I don't usually do that so enjoy it if you did and rejoice that it won't return for awhile if you didn't!

Summary: I love this album, 5 stars. :)

stonebeard | 5/5 |

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