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

THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.09 | 958 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

CCVP
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Majestic journey through the skybound bays

Porcupine Tree, in the late 1980's, started as a small project of Steven Wilson's whose objective was to simply play good psychedelic-influenced music. Quite a noble task, if you ask me, since the genre has been decaying since the mid 1970's (even though some say that true psychedelic music died to never come back in the late 1960's) and enjoyed little to no appreciation among the general public. Regardless of those challenges, Steven pushed onward and kept his project going, eventually getting together with former Japan keyboard player, Richard Barbieri, whose combined love for psych, krautrock, sonic experimentations and other such things made come into being a more mature Porcupine Tree sound with their 1993 album Up the Downstair.

Downstair, however, although already having some of PT's most striking characteristics (imposing keyboards, dreamy guitar lines, inspired compositions and a new outlook to psychedelia and psychedelic rock), was not quite as fully developed as it could be, musically speaking.Yes, it is a strikingly good album (specially the 2005 re-release), but still the record wasn't as good as it could be; the band's next release, The Sky Moves Sideways, came to both fill all the gaps in Up the Downstair and take their music way beyond their 1993 opus ever was.

Indeed, wile in Up the Downstair the band (still mostly a one man's band, with Richard still on the side) focused on both the experimental (with songs like Up The Downstair, Small Fish and Burning Sky) and accessible (with songs like Synesthesia and Always Never) side of psych (which eventually divided the album in two parts; the firsts songs were more accessible and the lasts had a more experimental edge), in Sky Moves Sideways Porcupine Tree switched to their full- blown prog gears.

In spite of the musical excellence achieved on this album, it gets some considerable criticism from some for the direction Steven and Richard decided to take on Sky. Here, they went for symphonic and atmospheric soundscapes, a side of space rock made famous all around the world by Pink Floyd with the albums Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here; the latter in particular is seen as the album's main source of inspiration, specially due to its song organization. Some even put Sky Moves Sideways as a plagiarism of Wish You Were Here, but I disagree. First of all, Pink Floyd was not the only band that made that kind of music during the 1970's, they were simply the most famous (other big names of psychedelic prog who also went down that road are Nektar, Eloy and Hawkwind); second of all, other bands managed to renew this kind of space rock and could have been (as I believe they are) influences in this record (the biggest name here is Ozric Tentacles); third of all, Pink Floyd's music is much more melodic and simple than the music presented here, which is stylistically more similar to German artists such as Neu! and Ash Ra Tempel, even though Sky is not as experimental.That said, I would also not go so far as to say there is not influence whatsoever from Pink Floyd, but the only part where it is clearly visible is in the first few minutes of The Sky Moves Sideways - Phase 2.

Now, to talk about the music more directly, it would be important to note that the version I have is the 2000's re-release, with two CDs. Starting with the album proper (the first disc), the whole thing sounds like as if it is one whole piece of music, with one song melting and merging into the other perfectly, even if they have different tones, which is the case with The Sky Moves Sideways - Phase 1 (where the keyboards and synthesizers are in the forefront and the song develops slowly, adding electronics, percussion and flutes) and Dislocated Day (where the guitars take the lead, playing eastern/Indian melodic lines and the atmosphere is heavier). It is as if Dislocated Day is the aftermath of the title track's first phase.

The other three songs, however, build up towards having the album's conclusion with the title track's first phase. Actually, Prepare Yourself sounds much like an introduction to the final song, with Moon Touches Your Shoulder being the bridge connecting both ends of the album. maybe because of that, Moon Touches Your Shoulder is so diverse, having both the dreamy motifs akin to the album's main song, the heavier guitars similar to the ones in Dislocated Day, plus some samples from God knows where.

I should also point out that the original versions of The Sky Moves Sideways has considerable influences from German artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schultze.

The second disc is also really good, though not as good; it also has the only sub-par song in the whole album: the alternate version of The Sky Moves Sideways. Starting with the alternate version, I do not think it does justice to the original for many reasons. First off, the keyboards lose most of their place, now serving merely as something to hold all the band through the song. Secondly, there is too much guitar; now there are some parts where that works out great, like in the beginning, where they overlap each other, complementing their melodies, but for the most part they replace the keyboards and can't create the same mood the keys did. Another negative point about it is that it seems that some parts have been changed, cut or discarded and replaced with different musical ideas, mostly in the song's second phase. Lastly, and this may be because the keyboards have been diminished, the whole song sound flat, as if the whole body of sound lacked depth. Don't get me wrong here, the song IS NOT bad, it's just not as good as the original version, which I consider to be perfect as is.

Stars Die is the odd one out here. It does not sound like any most of the album for being a more straightforward song, being more similar to something that would belong in Porcupine Tree's next album, Signify, being stylistically similar to that album's epic Waiting, phases one and two. However, Stars is also not as depressive and dark as Signify is and it also has the space-sounding guitars and keyboards as the rest of the album.

Lastly, the album's most experimental song in the original version has been relocated to the last places of the second disc, divided into two songs and profoundly changed, what can be clearly seen if you compare it with the original version. In spite of that, I view this as something very positive for two reasons: 1 - it allowed for the original album to maintain its flow and be as coherent as possible; 2 - it made possible to change some parts of the song that were unnecessary, although it would have been great to have both new and old versions. Nevertheless, I feel that Steven Wilson, nowadays, is not as happy with the end result in the older version of Moonloop, because it has been changed two times, the first in the American release (where the song was cut down by half) and the second in the re-release (where the song was completely remade).

The remaster of this album also made it possible to vastly improve its sonic proprieties, much like it was done with Up the Downstair. In Sky Moves Sideways, however, there was not such an extensive re-recording, with most of the work being made with already existing recording material.

Rating and Final Thoughts

Psychedelic rock is one of rock's oldest genres and, for being around for over 50 years, it is hard to innovate, to make something new or to reinvent something that has been done to death. Even though they tried just that in 1993, it was only with their 1995 album that PT would accomplish that. Sky Moves Sideways in an impressive piece of space rock that manages to impress even the most experienced listeners and amaze those in search of some deep experience in the field of progressive rock and beyond. A perfect album nobody should miss.

CCVP | 5/5 |

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