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

THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1243 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
5 stars Although it all began as a joke, by the time Steven Wilson and his now official band called PORCUPINE TREE made it into the 90s, the popularity of their Floydian inspired space rock was taking off like a rocket ship to the moon. After a number of demos and two fully fledged space rock albums to get their feet wet, the band was really more of a solo project but starting with this one, a real band was in play with a style that reached the culmination of the psychedelic space rock sound on the third album THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS. Your listening experience for this one may depend on which side of the Atlantic you reside because of the fact that two different versions exist. THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS was the debut album in North America and showed the band mastering their full potential as they also unveiled various aspects of the different styles they would take on future releases. The European version which came out first contained the seventeen minute track "Moonloop" as the second to last track whereas the US release nixed it in favor of a shorter running time. Since the US version is the one i've grown attached to, it is the one i prefer so all my gushing admiration for this album is based on it.

It was never any secret that 70s Pink Floyd was the biggest source of inspiration for Wilson and company and that was never more true than on THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS which has been compared to "Wish You Were Here" for having two sprawling tracks that begin and end the album with shorter tracks sandwiched in between, however a careful listen will yield all kinds of influences from the Floydian world up to "The Wall". Likewise, all the tracks flow together relatively smoothly making it in reality a long series of movements that culminate into larger suites and extended musical motifs. Although Steven Wilson remained ringmaster and creator in chief even at this point, this was very much a real band effort on album number three which allowed a blossoming of musical expressions to make a much richer album than the previous two. Most importantly added to the lineup was ex-Japan keyboard wizard Richard Barbieri who deftly mixes his best Klaus Schulze styled progressive electronic backdrops over the hypnotic space rock grooves. Likewise, Wilson's alter ego in the art pop outfit No-Man found him a steady drummer with Chris Maitland filling the spot. With all musical spots freshly manned with eager talent, PORCUPINE TREE was ready for prime time and THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS shows them honing their chops into highly addictive seductions of sound.

THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS starts off rather chaotically with sputtering electronic effects that belie Floydian space groove that soon steals the show. A false flag to throw the listener off? Not sure, but once the Floydian rhythmic flow begins, it grooves with a vengeance. While the "Phase 1" of the title track gently rolls on with a sensual rocking groove as "The Colour Of Air" movement strives to lull the listener into a hypnotic state, it does however evoke a call and response that makes me want to scream "Hello, Is There Anybody In There?" at times. Perhaps too comfortably close to "Comfortably Numb," but even with such brazen Floydisms slapping the listener in the face, somehow the electronic wizardry derails any cached earworms from the past and keeps PORCUPINE TREE sounding like distant cousins of the Gilmour and Waters team rather than mere imitators. The near nineteen minute suite churns on into a gentle space rock groove with Wilson belting out his unique fairy tale narrations before the track goes into an upbeat psybient and psytrance mode that summons a high intensity percussive drive and multidimensional atmospheric turbulence in the "Wire The Drum" movement. Tribal drums meets staccato keyboard sequences while a bouncy bass illustrates spaced out blissful melodies. The suite finds resolution with the "Spiral Circus" finale which drifts off into the clouds and exits with a soft acoustic guitar riff with a fluttering flute run flapping around like a pretty butterfly in the breeze.

Sandwiched in the middle of the lengthy title track suite that begin and end the album are three shorter tracks (plus the "Moonloop" jam if you have the European version). "Dislocated Day" debuts a more familiar sound heard on future PORCUPINE TREE albums and the first of the band's career to demonstrate heavier rock with hefty guitar riffs, biting percussive drive and much increased tempos. This also provides the gateway into their progressive rock leanings that would culminate on albums like "In Absentia." "The Moon Touches Your Shoulder" on the other hand is a totally chilled out acoustic guitar on codeine type of track with a catchy melody and poetic lyrics from Wilson's most chilled singing style. "Prepare Yourself" is nothing more than a short spaced out bluesy soloing sequence that serves as a fluffer for the the "Phase 2" of the title track, unless of course you have the European version with "Moonloop" inserted between. This track is my least favorite and i'm happy to have the edition without it (or at least thrown onto the second bonus disc). It is nothing more than a drawn out spacey sequence of synthesized loops and effects.

The final "Phase 2" is begins much like "Phase 1" with non-committing electronic atmospheric effects only finding stability after a drum roll coaxes them down to Earth. The opening "Is?Not" segment displays more love of classic Pink Floyd as it generates a heavy connection to tracks like "Have A Cigar" with restless electronica and eventually a banging bass. Once a melodic development is allowed to form, it bursts onto the scene with a dramatic guitar riff which calms the atmospheric presence into an obsequious counterpoint. Nice guitar work on this one for a while but eventually as "Off The Map" continues the suite, an estrogen filled siren seduces a rambunctious guitar to come out and play. As it arrives it begins to perform a rather spunky blues workout around the ostinato bass line. It performs all kinds of tricks yanking every emotional heartstring with a mere bending of a note or two. It gets wild and woolly before the track slowly wends down as it reprises the initial Floydian bass dominated riff that began it all, not after more bizarre excursions into ambient electronica however.

On THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS, Steven Wilson and PORCUPINE TREE not only joined the ranks of the progressive rock revival that was unfolding alongside bands like Anglagard, Opeth, Dream Theater and the neo-prog bands like IQ and Arena but were also fundamental in the revival of good old fashioned 70s psychedelic space rock alongside other space tripping bands like Ozric Tentacles. While Pink Floyd was still around in name only, it was really just a David Gilmour solo effort milking of the enterprise and tarnishing of the name with mediocrity in the form of albums like "The Division Bell". PORCUPINE TREE on the other hand were uploading an entirely new operating system into the space rock paradigm by adding all the relevant 90s influences of neo- psychedelia and chilled out electronica such as trip hop and as well as bass heavy stoner rock in tandem with the tried and true chill pill elements of 70s psych and electronica.

While never really intentionally wanting to steal the baton away from the great Pinksters, somehow on THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS, they did just that and created one of my personal favorite albums by the group and the absolute best of the 90s output. The 2 CD re-release is well worth the time as it has a brilliant alternative mix of the title track suites as well as the "Moonloop" tracks that went missing on the US release. I've been holding off on reviewing this one since i couldn't decide if the Floydisms are too derivative or not but when all is said and done, they are no more derivative of Pink Floyd than Floyd was of the blues artists who came before them and this is one of those rare albums that i literally never tire of because Wilson's brilliant mixing and production skills weave such a massive sonic web around any similarities that it keeps them in their own unique musical territory while respectfully conjuring up warm fuzzy memories of the past. This is where PORCUPINE TREE came to fruition as a band and a trend that would only continue to develop into a more distinct musical entity.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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