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Porcupine Tree - Staircase Infinities CD (album) cover

STAIRCASE INFINITIES

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.82 | 146 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars The early releases by Porcupine Tree are highly valued by certain pockets of their fanbase, loved for their endless variety and unpredictability, covering a range of genres and styles. `Staircase Infinities' is a companion album to their early release `Up The Downstair' - they even share the same cover, just with different colouring - however this one stands perfectly well on it's own. The music is not particularly deep or complicated, but it's highly melodic and easy to unwind to. Still essentially a Steven Wilson solo project at this point, there's a real looseness and uplifting sound to his playing, and he fills the predominantly instrumental album with endless guitar solos and tasteful keyboards.

The improvised `Cloud Zero' begins with swirling disorientating effects and jazzy drumming. A lovely ambient piece, within seconds Wilson weaves a loose and tasteful guitar solo around shimmering glistening keyboard effects. I miss those old melodic Wilson solos, a lot of times these days he seems more interested in using distortion and noise! `The Joke's On You' is a semi-acoustic ballad with nonsense lyrics, but a dramatic chorus and big guitar moments turns it a little more serious. `Navigator' features a moody programmed drum and eerie organ backdrop behind some searing guitar work. It's minimal and simplistic, but still very effective and highly emotional. `Rainy Taxi' opens with a floating electronic section that reminds me so much of side B of the Klaus Schulze `Blackdance' album, perhaps due to the similar mournful organs. Wilson would later reincorporate this section into his first two Bass Communion albums and a No-man album to great effect. When the strummed acoustic guitar enters near the end it has a similar pattern to the final section of Pink Floyd's `A Saucerful Of Secrets'', but it's equally reflective as it is sad here. `Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape' has a great slow build, with plodding bass, ghostly unnerving synths and whispered fragmented voices, before a tempo increase mid-way as Wilson launches into grand and inspiring never-ending guitar solo, similar to P.Tree's later `Moonloop' that's completely joyful and unrestrained.

I have the original Delerium Records/Blueprint release, but this album is much easier to find now in the expanded 2 CD re-release of `Up The Downstair'. There was some slight remixing for the new version, though it's only slightly noticeable in a few brief moments, certainly not as extreme as replacing all the programmed drums on `Downstair' was. Essentially getting the album as a freebie these days is unbelievably good value!

Listening to this album again reminds me of a time when a new Porcupine Tree album meant something totally different from the last. From the quirky psych-pop of `On The Sunday Of Life', the trance elements of `Voyage 34', the moody dark prog of `Signify' and so on, there's a reason why the band is still considered such an important and exciting modern progressive act from their formative days. As much as the more recent releases and Wilson's solo albums have generally keep up the quality, I miss these early days of the band, when Steven Wilson was putting out records for the sheer joy of it, something that is completely obvious on this release.

`Staircase Infinities' is not only a reminder of how good Porcupine Tree were so early in their career, it's also another example of how anything released on the Delerium Records label was a sign of quality in inventive and unpredictable modern psych/prog/space artists.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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