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Porcupine Tree - Coma Divine CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.45 | 466 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Porcupine Tree's "Coma Divine Live" 1997 album has become a double CD extended release as from 2003 and it is a grand excursion into the deep bowels of psychedelica and dreamy space rock. The members at this stage were of course the visionary Steven Wilson on vocals, organ, mellotron, guitars, Richard Barbieri the Synth wizard, Colin Edwin wonderful on e-bass and double bass, and Chris Maitland, powering out the drum beats. The foursome work well together totally unified and even in the jamming sections are able to compliment one another with perfect timing and instrumental placement.

The production quality is crystal clean and of course Wilson has become one of the most sought after engineers from the likes of King Crimson and Pink Floyd box sets and remasters. While we are dropping names, Pink Floyd and King Crimson style musicianship abounds during this performance. It is some of the spaciest music from Porcupine Tree, drifting along entrancing and mesmirising the captive crowd in Rome. At the time of release there were no other official live documents of the group, though these days the band are highly revered as shakers and movers of modern prog so many recordings including 2 DVDs are on the market.

The set list is composed of some of the earlier more psychedelic material with the likes of 'The Sky Moves Sideways' an ambient 12:40 exploration of serenity. 'Moonloop' is almost 12 minutes of drifting beauty with some incredible spaced out atmospherics. 'Up the Downstair' was always a favourite of mine and it sounds as dark and ethereal as it can on the live stage, along with 'The Moon Touches Your Shoulder' and 'Waiting Phase One' and 'Phase Two'. The band were not into the more aggressive metal side of things during this era and Wilson had not begun to smash ipods yet; they were raw and experimental and it is a delight to hear them in this most exciting chapter of their career.

Of course some of the fan favourites are here such as 'Radioactive Toy', and 'Signify' is definitely one of the more popular Porcupine Tree tracks. The band are very patient with their music, building gradually to intense soundwaves of guitars that crash down forcibly. Wilson's vocals are at some points in a shoegazer mode, reflective, wondering, gentle and then he lifts to the high register and belts out on a more powerful chord. There are moments of dark juxtaposed with light, intensity and release permeate the concert as though taking the audience on a journey. During the performances the audience are gravestone silent intently soaking in the atmospheres generated by the band.

In some cases these live versions are superior to the studio versions,as is the case with many live albums. The versions on "Coma Divine Live" are more aggressive and exploratory, and as a result more interesting in terms of musicianship and interpretation.

'Signify' is a quiet contemplative ethereal piece, Wilson delivering vocals with a gentle timbre. The next few songs drift by with very slow cadence and dreamy keys and guitars, and Wilson's dreamy vocals flowing over. This is a very sleepy part of the show but the atmosphere is mesmirising and spacey on 'Waiting Phase One', 'Waiting Phase Two' and 'The Sky Moves Sideways'. The latter track has an early Pink Floyd vibe, especially those crystal clear guitars chiming over sustained mellotron soundscapes. At 7:20 the pace picks up with a pulsing bassline by Colin Edwin and 70s style keyboards of Richard Barbieri emitting very spacey motifs. The heavy distorted guitar cranks over soon waking up the crowd, and it has an incredible keyboard break gliding over the jagged rhythms.

To hear a tremendous wah wah charged lead solo 'Dislocated Day' is a prime example, a very spacey drifting song and the guitar is absolutely phenomenal, emitting sparks as Wilson shreds. It ends with a stirring drum solo from the wonderful skill of Chris Maitland.

'The Sleep of No Dreaming' feels more like the Porcupine Tree of more recent years, the lyrics as downbeat and poetic as Wilson can get, "At the age of sixteen I grew out of hope, I regarded the cosmos through a circle of rope, So I threw out my plans, Ran on to the wheel, And emptied my head of all childish ideals, The sleep of no feeling." This song has an excellent lead break and cosmic atmospherics, and an endearing melody to latch onto. The ideas of becoming someone in a blank space is explored, a person falling into the abyss of depression, a theme that surfaces often in subsequent albums; "I married the first girl who wasn't a man, And smiled as the spiders ran all over my hands."

'Moonloop' is a pyschedlicatessen of almost 12 minutes of patient instrumentalism; an organic landscape of haunting keyboards and a fractured bassline. It feels like vintage Pink Floyd, the only thing missing is Roger Waters' menacing whispers and insane screams. It even builds with a bass line similar to 'Money' and ends on an uptempo rhythm. I believe the band would be influenced by Pink Floyd instrumentals with such a spaced out musical piece, along the lines of 'One of these Days', 'Careful with that Axe, Euegene!', 'Interstellar Overdrive','Marooned', 'Atom Heart Mother', and 'Terminal Frost'.

Disc 2 opens with the pscyh passages of 'Up the Downstair'. These are beautiful trance prog songs with extended passages of serene guitar and keyboards over gentle pulsing ryhthms. 'The Moon Touches Your Shoulder' is also a soft spacey track that builds into some towering guitar riffs. This leads to the ethereal atmospheres of 'Always Never', Wilson sounding hypnotic on vocals.

The rock returns on the intro of 'Is... Not', with crunchy guitars and then it lapses into more psychedelic keyboards with mindbending spaciness. 'Radioactive Toy' is awesome as always, a favourite in the live arena, and this version clocks 15:26. I love the flowing melody, the build up to the instrumental section, and Wilson's jamming guitar licks. It is great to hear the audience yelling out the title in places. At 5 minutes it changes the vibe and we are treated to an improvised passage of whacked out King Crimson madness. 'Not Beautiful Anymore' closes the set with another lengthy instrumental section in an upbeat tempo.

Overall this is the spaciest official live Porcupine Tree recording and it is a sheer delight. The tranquil relaxing music is mesmirising, with lots of lengthy jamming akin to early Pink Floyd or any other space rock from the 70s. Of course Porcupine Tree became a lot heavier as their sound progressed, but here they are captured in time and space rock glory and it is well worth taking the cosmic journey.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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