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Porcupine Tree - Up The Downstair CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree

Heavy Prog

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4 stars I really love the way Steve Wilson creates a feeling of proximity and space on this album, the pieces are awash with mood and atmosphere and aren't really song based, with the exception of Always Never and Fadeaway which have more traditional verses and a chorus and build more tension and emotion than the spacey more instrumental passages. Slightly marred due to the drums being a machine but he has even taken care to make them sound acoustic and succeeded to a degree. A great listen.
Report this review (#9454)
Posted Sunday, December 28, 2003 | Review Permalink
4 stars Now here is a recording which works very well on a multiple of levels and to this day still confuses me when I listen to it. Steve WILSON blends techno-pop with psychedelia and creates a real prog classic. This is one of PORCUPINE TREE most complete works and offers the listener quite a wide variety. Several songs transform into dark techno sounds, but WILSON ensures that he does not cross over into the Hip-Hop genre. This is what really makes the album work so well for me. All songs are well written and delivered with a high degree of musical talent as exemplified in all of PORCUPINE TREE's releases. "Up The Downstair" is a fitting title for this album and I love the journey everytime...
Report this review (#9455)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I gave a try to this album recently (it was my first PT cd) and it really blew me away. I dunno the reason why I did not give much credit to this band during the '90, but definitely I did a big mistake. Elegant, fascinating, brainy, conceptual: they have everything I really love in music. "Fadeaway" is a achingly beautiful psychedelic ballad.
Report this review (#9456)
Posted Monday, March 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars PT's second full release, and guest artists who will later become the band are starting to show up.

This is a very different album to 'On the Sunday of Life', being a coherent whole (although it still works better as two sides of an LP) but much darker and heavier in feeling, especially on the first side (tracks 1 to 5).

For those who prefer their prog lighter then things start to get better on side 2. The short instrumental 'Siren' leads into the enigmatic 'Small Fish' which takes you straight into the blistering 'Burning Sky' (which by the way is 11.06 long, not 1.06 as listed above). This monster instrumental is fantastic, and can possibly be taken as the 'dummy run' for the Epic 'Sky Moves Sideways' - need I say more. 'Burning Sky' is awesome, and it is worth having the album for this alone - although I know of many people who would disagree with me - whilst still oving the album. 'Fadeaway' is a classic PT depressing lyrics last track...

Report this review (#9459)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I just got done listening to this album and I must say that steven wilson plays his heart out. The guitar work on up the downstairs is amazing it's a 5 star masterpeice just based on guitar itself. Everysong is will blow you away. MY FAVORITES: synethesia is a great song, it's one of the first songs steven wrote the words for, all the other words are written by alan duffy. The song will grow one you more and more.-always never has a great beginning, middle, and end it's like it has 3 phases with a brilliant guitar solo. -Burning sky a 11 min. song that just takes no prisoners. The most brilliant part of the song is how small fish goes into burning sky and then in burning sky theres a riff from small fish.-fadeaway was a great why to end the album in my why of thinking steven could of ended the album in two whys , he could have choses to end the album with not beauifull anymore which is a fast aggresive song but I think ending the album with fadeaway leaves you wanting more. 5 stars up the downstairs.
Report this review (#45674)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Porcupine Tree are a band that never really clicked with me. At times they sound like a progressive band, other times they sound like an alternative rock band that somehow never reached fame like Radiohead have. This is one of the earliest works from this band that I own and i see a big Pink Floyd inspiration here. The production isn't as good as on other albums, yet it still has the signature PT sound (which happens to vary from album to album).

This album has some interesting moments, but i never really managed to be wowed by anything on this album. The guitar work, vocals and production are all very good and i love Steve Wilson's contribution to Opeth albums later in his career, however this album failed to really hook me into the band, though there is great potential here. There are 3 or 4 really good tracks on this album but nothing very memorable. Interesting, yet gets boring quickly.

Report this review (#52841)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars After "Voyage 34", Wilson performed another 'conventionally structured' record, consistent in three lenghty instrumental tracks and a collection of more or less long vocal or instrumental pieces. In some sense, this album has a similar spirit to "On the Sunday of Live". but this one has the cohesion and power than the other lacked in some way. Although this record is still fairly experimental, Wilson seems to have clearer ideas this time.

You may say this album is quite of ambient', since it has a lot of atmospheric and relaxing spacy songs, although this was a constant pattern is Wilson solo works. He again works with a mix of synthetizers and guitar, and again he doesn't use his voice much here (maybe at this stage he thought it was not necessary) resulting in a solid, virtually flawless space rock composition (I said virtually because "'Always Never" is indeed a weak link, although fortunately the only one).

So, this album was another of the yet to come efforts that proved that Porcupine Tree is a strong force in contemporary rock.

Report this review (#57002)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is from the psychadelic era of Porcupine Tree, back when Porcupine Tree sounded like a trippier and heavier version of Pink Floyd. This is their second album from that era, and also my favorite of the three. While TSMS has more of an album feel and overall is a better album...this one is just more enjoyable. TSMS focused on layering tons of sounds and producing a dreamy, ethereal effect while playing some good music in the background. It succeeded greatly, and likely would appeal to any Pink Floyd fan, but like some Pink Floyd I find it a bit boring. This is just more enjoyable.

The two main pieces here are Burning Sky and the title track, clocking in at over 10 minutes. Both are completely instrumental, besides some female speaking on the title track and breathing on Burning Sky. The title track focuses on more of the things that TSMS did so well, layering and building a psychedelic, albeit with slightly dark mood. Burning Sky is more of a long jam with a psychedelic chill-out section in the middle that somehow keeps oyu interested. It really shows how talented Steve Wilson is.

Fadeaway and Always Never are very similar in structure as well. Both pieces are laid back Pink Floyd-ish songs, with some good singing by Wilson and great layering as usual. Great relaxing pieces. Not as memorable is say Even Less, which rocks, but great nonetheless. These tracks would get a 4/5 each. Synthesia is a rather bland pop song that still manages to be moderately entertaining, but it's not nearly as good as the rest of the album. Small Fish is a small lead-in track with nice vocals as usual to Burning Sky, and it serves its purpose perfectly. Nice track, definitely not skip-button worthy. The last track worth noting is Not Beautiful Anymore, which a great jam with a nice funk feel going on. Short fun instrumental, killer drumming too.

The other three tracks, all the < 1 minute tracks, are basically throwaway psychedelic burts to keep that feel of trippiness intact all throughout.

Overall, this album an excellent addition to any prog collection and a must-have for fans of Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd...or simply anyone fond of atmospheres that really build a dark, psychedelic atmosphere or something of that nature. Highly recommended, 4/5.

Report this review (#58980)
Posted Friday, December 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A wonderful album I recently discovered... After a few recommendations I gave a listening and it amazed me. The sound reminds me a lat about Steve Hillage, Ozric Tentacles, even Floyd and Depeche...and at the same time their music is absolutely distinctive. A really great discovery for me.
Report this review (#66185)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars There aren't many records that come this close to being "perfect", but out of the entire Porcupine Tree catalog, "Up the Downstair" is very, very close to being "perfect". The songs are terrific, the flow of the record is very precise, and the production is very, very good.

Steven Wilson has recently remastered this album and replaced the drum machine on the original recording with real drums (played by Porcupine Tree's current drummer, Gavin Harrison). I can't fault the reasons that Steven Wilson wanted to remix, remaster and record new drum parts, but if you really want experience the majesty and beauty of this record, seek out the original version on Delerium records. The new remastered double CD is good, but in my opinion, it's not as good as the original. And if you are lucky enough to find the Delerium version of this CD, check out the version of "Fadeaway" and compare it to the remastered version. This is a masterpiece of a record, but specifically the Delerium version. Not the remaster.

Report this review (#72331)
Posted Sunday, March 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The line up shown above for this album is, in fact, incorrect, as the band was, essentially, still just Stephen Wilson at this point, (although Colin Edwin appears on Always Never, and Richard Barbieri is on Up The Downstair.) I have the 2004 remastered version, which comes in a digipak, along with the EP that came out round the same time, Staircase Infinities as a bonus disc. Gavin Harrison has replaced the original drums on Up The Downstair with real ones, and, although I haven't heard the original, I have to say this is magnificent. Typical Porcupine Tree we have here, full of atmosphere; strange whirling, cloud-like keyboards, act here as a bed on which is overlaid Wilson's distinctive and rather excellent guitar playing, full of echo and feedback. The album opens with the very short 'What You Are Listening To', a brooding atmosphere, building up to an American voice introducing, well, what we are listening to! This leads straight into 'Synthesthesia', with its dark yet slightly humorous lyrics dealing with a soldier, obviously dying, and writing home 'while he still has time'. a typical PT melody here, with nice guitar work. Then comes another very brief atmospheric affair, 'Monuments Burn Into Moments' which acts as a bridge leading into 'Always Never', which I already knew from the live double album Coma Divine. Excellent guitar work again here, with another typical Wilson melody, almost trance like in its Edwin-led bass work and pulsing rhythm. 'Up The Downstair' I also knew from the live album, and it's in its full glory here, with Suzanne Barbieri adding her voice at the beginning with the line 'Monuments Burn Into Moments'. This is another trance-like song, but with enough melody to keep it interesting. 'Not Beautiful Anymore' is an instrumental, again recognisable from the live cd. It has a female American voice here, talking about it's just enough to hold hands and talk, and not to worry about sex as that will just spoil things! Interesting! Then we have another minute piece, Siren, which bridges into the magnificent 'Small Fish', one of my favourites on the album. A classic PT track this, with Wilson's voice almost whispering the verse and catchy chorus. I love it! This in turn leads to 'Burning Sky' another long instrumental which is hynotic but in a superior way. Wonderful stuff! Finally, things calm down again with 'Fadeaway' which Wilson himself in the liner notes says is one of his favourite songs. Another strong melody here to end this tremendous album. As the the bonus disc,well...I won't spoil things for those who haven't got it, or are in the process of getting it, but, let's just say it's just possibly even better than the album just reviewed! Amazing guitar and keyboard work from the maestro. And full of memorable melodies. Log off, leave the room, go out and buy this. You won't regret it!
Report this review (#77050)
Posted Wednesday, May 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars In more modern times, music is totally different than how it was a couple-few decades ago. Artists and bands have branched out in different genres, all influenced by others from the past who "pioneered" their particular styles. Most of the products vary in result, good or bad, but in my opinion, a great deal of what I hear these days seems fairly dull and uninspired. But...

Artists like Porcupine Tree don't come around very often. If there's one band that's given me hope for the future of truly inspired, heart-felt music, they would be that band. Steven Wilson has nearly single-handedly carried the torch of Progressive Rock into the future, maintaining the meaning of the word "progressive" in just about every aspect imaginable. Everything he does sounds different - none of it is very much the same; however, everything he does is inspired - everything PT does is inspired. It's unbelievable.

Up The Downstair is definitely no exception. I've listened to every single studio release by Porcupine Tree, from the early cuts to Deadwing, and no other album has the same effect on me as this one. It was largely a Wilson project, with the future members of the band itself only appearing as studio musicians in a handfull of the tracks. That said, it also had the largest heart. Mr. Wilson performs his ideas and ambitions well, taking it seriously, but rightfully so.

Anyways, onto the individual tracks:

What Are You Listening To is simply an introduction to the album, but it gives you a feel for the psychadelic mind-trip you'll feel like you're taking throughout the album. There really isn't much to say about this one. Great intro.

Synesthesia is one of PT's early classics. Here, you're given a taste of Wilson's excellent guitar work, along with his harmonic vocals, with....himself, and metaphoric lyrics. Oh well, it's still an awesome, aebit catchy track. This one proves that psychadelic and progressive music can be catchy and still fantastic.

Moments Burn Into Moments is just psychadelic filler, but it's friggen cool sounding in headphones. It's the perfect length for the type of affects displayed.

Always Never is where the dreamy, atmospheric, and ambient soundscapes really begin to take full affect. Again, Wilson's guitar is excellent, as always. A very dreamy song, especially during the middle section. Doesn't progress as much as following songs on the album, but what's here makes up for it.

Up The Downstair - now THIS is what I'm talking about. This lyric-less track progresses from a quiet, haunting ambience with a woman's voice-over to sort of a electronic, multilayered, symphonic masterpiece, complete with dazzling, psychadelic effects. The future keyboardist for PT makes his debut here, providing an excellent synth texture to the fantastic bass line throughout this track, eventually leading up to the explosive climax, explodes into your ears. This album is worth hearing this song alone. It's great insight into the multilayered, textured work of the future. This is head music, for sure.

Not Beautiful Anymore is another display of Steven Wilson's multilayered, heavy guitar work. In addition, the interludes between feature a woman explaining the effects of LSD from a personal perspective. The song's worth both, but moreso on the guitar riffs. Cool stuff.

Siren is another psychadelic interlude, but this one's easily the strongest of those featured on the album. The fifty seconds progress well into the next track...

Small Fish is the weakest link on the album, but thankfully, it's one of the shortest songs as well. It's more of an introduction into the mammoth epic that follows. It's a pleasant song, but it feels slightly out of place on this record.

Burning Sky. They saved the best for the end of the album. This is the toughest song to describe on the album, mainly because I don't think that'll do it needs to be EXPERIENCED to be understood. This is an unbelievable display of musical compsing talent, by far. If you love guitar wor, get ready, this has some of what I believe to be the most amazing guitar work I've ever heard in my entire life - believe me, I've heard some enchanting stuff.

Last, but not least, we have Fadeaway. The strongest elements of the album are all displayed here, in a very dreamy and almost anthemic overtone. Like the former song, this one is another one to be experienced. I will tell you this though...this is one of the best album closers of all time, of any album, any genre, period. Just listen; open your mind.

Overall, Up The Downstair outdoes itself in all ways possible for the genre. It gives the listener a sense of accomplishment, along with the common "what the **** did I just listen to?" reaction. Rock lovers, ambient lovers, and psychadelic lovers alike will find something out of this that's some sort of holy grail. It also has a nice, comfy spot on my top ten albums of all time, and that's saying alot. Give it a listen. I dare you to be unsatisfied.

Report this review (#83866)
Posted Sunday, July 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars this is where it all actually began for PT.. On The Sunday Of Life was a descent attempt but Up The Downstairs shows the talent of Mr Wilson... pop, psychedelia, rock, ballads all under the eye of the Floyd god...the first one of a series of great albums that defined psychedelic rock of the 90's...

i have to admit that Synesthesia is too much for me, the rest of the album is brilliant with a sense of a time passed, romantic, deep...

let the journey begin...

Report this review (#85889)
Posted Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars After "On the Sunday of life.", (which was intended to be a joke), gained some unexpected success Steve Wilson decided to put out another Porcupine Tree studio album, and see where it went. And what it turned out to be was a shorter, more polished, just plane better album then "On the Sunday of Life.", but still keeping the spacey feel that the debut album created.

Now to the Tracks: What are you listening to kicks things off. Its basically a spacey intro to get you in the mood, and leads quite nicely into Synesthesia. Synesthesia is a nice rocker to get things going, and has some nice lyrics. Monuments burn into moments is a spacey bridge, leading into the highlight of the album, Always never. Always never starts off slowly with some atmospheric effects and then Steve stars singing, which leads things into great hard rock riff. Some more spacey affects follow, which slowly builds into another hard rock riff, that ends the song. Up the downstair, the first epic of the album. A great instrumental ranging from, space rock to hard rock, to techno. Not beautiful anymore a short instrumental, with a girl talking in the background. Siren another spacey bridge, that leads into another great track: Small Fish, this one is fairly mellow, with a great lyrics, and an excellent guitar solo half way through. Burning sky, the second epic of the album in the same vein as the first, but with less techno and the hard rock riffs that almost verge onto metal. Fadeaway is another excellent track, and a great way to end the album. Sad lyrics, and fairly mellow throughout most of the song.

So all in all a very good album, probably worth five stars, but I'm only going to give it four, because it has many "Pink Floyd clone". Recommended to most Prog fans.

Report this review (#89448)
Posted Monday, September 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great!

This is not my favourite PT phase, but i appreciate their early records pretty much, althought they were not a "band", as the proper term gives name, we can still rely on Steven Wilson genius to get enough satisfaction for our ears (awesome guitar playing!). Collaborations of Barbieri, Maitland and Edwin round up the sound of the album a little more, but i can´t give it the status of masterpiece, such as let´s say, "Stupid Dream" or "Lightbulb Sun"; their sound in those records have a stronger definition and unique style achieved by a more mature and properly established band, early PT records are really good but they don´t leave me with such an intense feeling as their last acomplishments...

Something is missing, but indeed, this Wilson record is worth at least 3.7 or 3.8 stars...

Report this review (#104167)
Posted Friday, December 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Fight Club
5 stars Porcupine Tree is one of those bands who has never released a single dud in their entire career. I've heard everything the band has been able to put out and still with each new album, words can barely describe their sound. Up the Downstair is probably their first "official" album whereas On the Sunday of Life was just kind of experimenting. This is one of those albums that just enables you to float away into another dimension. Few albums come this close to being perfect. It's just one of those things you can sit down and listen to over and over again without a single stray thought entering your mind. From the opening track which sets the mood and captivates the listen until the dreamy melodies of Fade Away, you will be sucked into an entirely new world that few people ever explore. I think that is a quality that justifies an album being a masterpiece. So sit down and listen to some nice ethereal music for about an hour!
Report this review (#107040)
Posted Wednesday, January 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Upon receiving a gift certificate from a certain unnamed company's website that I don't normally patronize I did some comparison shopping and only found a few music selections that weren't ridiculously overpriced. This was one of those items. I was floored by the greatness of "In Absentia" and "Deadwing" so I wasn't averse to picking up more stuff by Porcupine Tree but, from reading the reviews on this site, I knew that this was going to sound totally different from those two. After all, this album was created about 15 years ago when Steven Wilson was in his early twenties and in a very experimental stage of musical growth. In fact, according to the liner notes, this was recorded before there was even a performing band at all so I have to admit that my expectations were somewhat low. I'm glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. The two CDs are full of music that is short on vocals and long on instrumental passages. That's not usually what I prefer to listen to but I found the overall creativity and lack of pretense very refreshing. Steven Wilson wanted to create large-scale "soundscapes" and he succeeded quite well.

I like a little humor mixed in with my prog so the droll, authoritative voice that introduces the first CD ("Up the Downstair") with "What You Are Listening To" is a perfect way to set out on this psychedelic journey. "Synesthesia" is a peppy little song that belies the dark, macabre lyric that glides beneath. It's probably the most infectious song of the whole set. (Before I continue I have to say that Gavin Harrison's new drum parts that he added for this 2004 re-release really lift these songs into the 21st century. He has quickly become one of my favorite drummers in the world.) "Always Never" reveals the lack of confidence that Steven admits he had in his young voice in those early years. It features an airy beginning with lyrics that are barely mumbled before a rock guitar riff comes into play. After a quieter spell the guitar plays an extended lead as the tempo speeds up until the end. "Up the Downstair" reminds me of music one would expect to hear at an ultra-hip fashion runway show, complete with the dominant disco-like downbeat. There are lyrics being softly spoken by a female voice underneath that gives it an avant-garde flavor. Gavin plays his tail off when he's called upon to turn up the excitement and the whole thing ends up in a gigantic wall of sound. Normally I wouldn't pay much attention to an instrumental like this but there's something very engaging about this cut and I like it more every time I hear it. It's like some kind of guilty pleasure.

"Not Beautiful Anymore" also features a woman talking before an up-tempo guitar effect dominates the tune. There's not much going on here but it's over before you know it so no harm done. "Small Fish" demonstrates why this band is so often compared to Pink Floyd. It has a melancholy, leisurely pace and a very subdued vocal with harmony that is an obvious derivative of Pink Floyd's unmistakable sound. It's most likely a sincere tribute and it's not bad but I'm thankful it's the shortest song on the CD. "Burning Sky" takes off with a repeating guitar pattern that moves across various keys before the spacey keyboards arrive. Harrison's straightforward and powerful drumming makes this instrumental rise above the ordinary. A different riff arrives to usher in an excellent guitar lead from Mr. Wilson before the whole pattern starts over again. It's a fun tune. "Fadeaway" ends the disc on a beautiful note with a gorgeous backdrop of sound backing a mournful slide guitar. In this instance the restrained vocal is perfect for the sad, forlorn lyrics. Once again GH's drums punctuate perfectly placed accents on the way out. He is a joy to listen to.

The second CD is "Staircase Infinities," an EP from the same era. These songs are mostly leftover pieces from the "Up the Downstair" sessions but they fit in well as a bonus disc. The first thing you notice is the absence of Harrison and it's not easy to adjust to the electronic drum samples. It doesn't ruin things but it brings the dynamics down a notch or two for sure. "Cloud Zero" is a guitar jam with a few pauses followed by a space-music fade out. Nothing special. "The Joke's On You" is a better song. A nice acoustic guitar starts it off, then Steven's thin, unsure voice sings some obscure lyrics before the stronger, full chorus kicks in. (His vocal ability has come a very long way since then.) "Navigator" is a curious composition based on an arrhythmic loop that features an organ. It's very simple with no discernable changes and it creates an uneasy, eerie ambience. "Rainy Taxi" is absolutely beautiful. The phased keyboard and acoustic guitar make for a dreamy, precipitous atmosphere and it's the best tune on this disc by far. Wonderful mood music. "Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape" has a bit of everything. A throbbing bass drum accompanies cosmic sounds, then tom-toms start a slow build up. The snare kicks in with the lead guitar as the song's tempo quickens, taking us to a noisy and frantic finale where the beat slowly decays into oblivion.

I have to reiterate that if you only know this group by their more recent albums this may not be right for you. These songs are what gave them the label of psychedelic/space-rock prog and they are cerebral and indulgent for the most part. I'm amazed by how much I like them but I do. However, it isn't an album I will slip into the changer as often as "Stupid Dream." I still prefer the incredible music this band is making now but it is interesting to know where their roots lie.

Report this review (#110226)
Posted Thursday, February 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3 1/3 stars

The first serious Porcupine Tree album, and while better music was to be written in their music, the songs in Up The Downstairs are generally solid, have good production, and tend to be quite well arranged and constructed. This is mainly a space rock/psychedelic album with some good hooks and melodies to keep it somewhat accessible and hold interest until multiple listens makes the album enjoyable. The album is short and mostly instrumental. When Steven Wilson sings, his voice is not as strong and confident as later in his musical career.

There are 10 tracks, but only seven are songs. These short tracks are used for coherence reasons between songs. The first one is an introduction to the psychedelic pop of Synesthesia. the second short track is an avant garde piece that leads to Always Never, an very good which mixes dreamy atmospheres with hard rock guitars at the beginning, then turns into a sort of Pink Floydian soundscape (very similar to the typical Porcupine Tree soundscape) that builds up into a superb guitar solo. The title track (instrumental) following it begins with a groovy bass line that alternates with a moderately heavy guitar riff, and ends with another riff. My problem with it is that three riffs don't make a ten minute long song, though the music is captivating enough to keep my interest most of the time.

Another instrumental "Not Beautiful Anymore" follows it, with a female voice and multi-layered guitar playing. "Small Fish" is a very short tune with acoustic guitars and nice vocal harmonies, and also features a simple and effective guitar solo. That song segues into another long instrumental which showcases Steven Wilson's compositional and guitar talents. Overall, a fun song with some great riffs and solos. The album ends with a decent depressing slow ballad, better than other album closers of Porcupine Tree, but still a bit dull sometimes.

1. What you are listening to.... () 2. Synesthesia (C) 3. Monuments burn into moments () 4. Always never (B-) 5. Up the downstair (B-) 6. Not beautiful anymore (C+) 7. Siren () 8. Small Fish (B) 9. Burning sky (B+) 10. Fadeaway (C)

Recommended to Porcupine Tree fans and people who can't get into porcupine tree's more commercial albums with prominent vocals.

Report this review (#119736)
Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The original version of this album was recorded with computer drum and this version (2004) was replaced by real drums played by Gavin Harrison. It depends on you whether the use of real drum does matter or not. In my case, I never got the original version so I got this 2004 version and I'm really satisfied with the sound and the music. According to my friend who also had the original version, this 2004 edition sound quality is much better than the original.

This album is a psychedelic music exploration by Steve Wilson and friends which brings the psychedelic music into the next level. The whole album creates a unique experience to the listeners as it has successfully combined components of Ozric Tentacles music in its simplest form into various styles in smooth compositions with great combination of keyboard, drum and floating keyboard styles. A good example of this is "Burning Sky" which comprises repetition of chords but in every movement of the music segments, the textures are enriched through sound effects augmented with guitar solo that makes the whole music is cohesive in style. As the music moves, the guitar work takes it to the peak and flows back to the ambient part. It's a wonderful experience!

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Fans of Pink Floyd will love this album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#121041)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Up the Downstair is still very much a Steven Wilson solo album, though for the first time Colin Edwin and Richard Barbieri appear (however briefly). They will both go on to be incomparable members of, and contributers to Porcupine Tree. This is a large step up from the previous effort, very much a hasty, low-budget, effort. This one is an exceptionally produced, very polished psychedelic album, with varied, clean riffs. The music gives you the illusion that it is a band jamming, improvising, when it is usually programmed and completely planned. The cosmic, ethereal effects, now legendary with this band, are seen and properly experienced for the first time. The vocal melodies, another signature of Tofu Bush, are firstly crafted here. This seems to be the album where Wilson really found his sound, and decided that this is the vein of music he would make.

The sound quality is quite good, but the quality of the instruments are sub-par at best. There still a very stale, synthetic drum sound: nails on a chalkboard for any drummer! If you've purchased the 2005 remaster with the lordly Gavin Harrison drumming up a storm, than that last is a moot point. The atmosphere is still strong, however, and the imagery produced by the album is capturing. Unfortunately, the largest problem with this album, is that there isn't quite as much diversity, and it's not quite as dynamic as is key in other Porc Tree albums. This causes it become a tad repetitive at times. But, still, it is much more coherent and much more solid than the decent debut.

Report this review (#128962)
Posted Monday, July 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Psychadellia at it's absolute best!

Following 1991's debut album/compilation "On the Sunday Of Life" Steven Wilson decides on which road his then solo project would take. The result is a mostly instumental, mostly long song format freakout. While the album mixes short intro-outro tracks as did it's predicessor the real difference here is the strucure as a complete album, and the compitence of the tracks. The two biggest standouts here are the title track, UP THE DOWNSTAIR, which has some brilliant guitar work, mixing spaceoutedness with format to give a song a catch that still feels true to prog, and the other long-track, BURNING SKY. The latter mentioned track does the same kind of thing as the former, but in a more aggressive, storm forming kind of way.

Of course, no PT album would be complete without Wilson singing a few lines, and he does. Among the tracks given vocals, the opener SYNESTHIA, which is very genuinely psychadellia, the haunting, yet somehow upbeat ALWAYS NEVER, the intro-outro SMALL FISH and the closer FADEAWAY. Each of the vocal tracks has it's charm, but each is easily overlooked in the grander scheme of things when waiting for the longer bits. Also to note, thrown into the mix is the quick and heavy instumental NOT BEAUTIFUL ANYMORE, which acts more as an outro to UP THE DOWNSTAIR, but is still a very well done track none the less.

Throw in a couple 30-second tracks and you've got the album. A very strong offering. If you're fortunate enough to have the remaster edition, you also get the experimentaly interesting EP "Saircase Infinities", which features some outtakes for the album, which is a nice bonus, but not at all better than the album itself. But for all you collectors out there I hear the EP itself is very hard to find, so if you want to listen to it, this is likely the only way.

Anyways, to conclude: This is a great album from a great band in it's early stages of life. If you're more into the "Deadwing" or "Fear of a Blank Planet" Porcupine Tree this may not become your favorite album, but as goes general prog, this is definately a highlight. 4 stars.

Report this review (#133700)
Posted Sunday, August 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars The 2004 edition that I own is a double cd with the second disc ("Staircase Infinities") being the EP that was released originally on a Dutch label called "Lazy Eye". These two discs really are companions anyway as the songs from the "Staircase Infinities" were actual leftover pieces from the "Up The Downstair" sessions. That is except for "Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape" which is from the earlier cassette days.The reason Steven Wilson had these leftover songs in the first place was the fact he was going to make "Up The Downstair" a double album with "Voyage 34" as the centerpiece. Instead he released "Voyage 34" as a single and then decided to make "Up The Downstair" a single album release instead. The title "Up The Downstair" actually is a line in the song "Voyage 34". Steven Wilson has said that "Up The Downstair" is really the first "proper" PORCUPINE TREE album as "On The Sunday Of Life..." was really a collection of the best songs from his earlier cassette days from 1988-1991.

"Up The Downstair" opens with the short intro track called "What You Are Listening To". The synths build then spoken words come in as the song blends into "Synesthesia". This is an uptempo song with a catchy beat. The guitar is aggressive as Steven fires off some scorching solos. "Monuments Burn Into Moments" is a 22 second intro to "Always Never", which is such a great spacey, dreamy song. Acoustic guitar and synths lead the way until the outbreaks occur which are fantastic ! The drumming is so crisp (and real, haha) with some cool guitar.The song turns atmospheric and spacey 4 minutes in, while a minute later Steven blesses us with some ripping guitar melodies. Nice. "Up The Downstair" has some spoken words from Suzanne Barbieri, while her husband Richard impliments some electronics on this song. It is very spacey for 2 minutes, and then we get a beat, and then a full sound 1 1/2 minutes after that. This is great ! Spoken words come back 7 1/2 minutes in and what a powerful sound 9 minutes in. What a song !

"Not Beautiful Anymore" has more spoken words as pounding drums come in.There is such a powerful sound to this one as well,and the spoken words come and go. "Siren" is a short intro to "Small Fish". This song has vocals and an amazing spacey soundscape.The drums sound so good and the guitar soars to heaven. "Burning Sky" are the last two words that are sung from the previous song "Small Fish".This is an instrumental with some blistering guitar and more fantastic drumming from Gavin Harrison. Synths arrive before the song calms down for a spacey interlude. It kicks back into gear with some incredible guitar before 9 minutes.The song builds to the point where you think it's going to explode. "Fadeaway" is one of Steven Wilson's favourites off this album and mine too. It's like waves of pleasure rollong over me again and again."You are only coming through in waves, your lips move but I can't hear what your saying..."

Disc two the "Staircase Infinities" begins with "Cloud Zero", it opens with various sounds as drums rise out of them and are joined by guitar. Nice melody as synths arrive as well. "The Joke's On You" has some very psychedelic lyrics, and is the only song on this second disc with lyrics. Acoustic guitar is strummed as reserved vocals come in. I love it when Steven really sings out as the soundscape also gets louder. It sounds incredible ! This contrast continues. "Navigator" features drums, synths and some guitar melodies that sound incredible.The song has a spacey ending. "Rainy Taxi" opens with spacey sounds that continue for 3 minutes when the guitar joins in. Beautiful. This song reminds me of "The Sky Moves Sideways" it's just so darn emotional, there is some organ as well. "Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape" is a live song with drums pounding slowly as waves of synths come and go.The beat speeds up before 4 minutes as the guitar lays down some good melodies. It feels like the song is going faster 7 minutes in.

"On The Sunday Of Life..." was a collection of diverse songs that often brought to mind the Syd Barrett era of PINK FLOYD. This double album brought to mind the "Dark Side Of The Moon" era of PINK FLOYD, if only for how melodic, dreamy and spacey it is. I have never heard Steven play as aggressive as he does on these discs either. I love that combination of great guitar with spacey soundscapes. And Steven just blazes a trail through space on this one folks. It's tough to even pick the top three songs here because they are all so amazing.

This is my favourite of his Psychedelic period. A masterpiece !

Report this review (#137507)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The introduction is almost like if PT wouldn't like you to listen to their work but since it last for only less than a minute, you'd easily go over it. There will be several of these extremely short breaks on this album. I am not quite sure about their use. Anyway, the first of them will lead you to the synth-pop ..."Synesthesia". Not really brilliant, to say the least...

Things get better with "Always Never". Almost a hard song; heavy beat, calm vocals. It's not truely a memorable piece of mucic but just a good one. The first of this album which is a bit a deception so far.

The title track starts real bad : some electronic pop of the poorest vein. Synthetized vocals (which I really don't like) when featured. It'll get harder and much, much better after three minues (thank god !). It's an extremely repetitive number which unfortunely will bring us back to these horrible vocal moments later on. I have a rather mixed feeling about this song.

PT will go on with the same "from the outer world" type of feminine recitation during "Not Beautiful Anymore". I don't like these, at all. Fortunately, they are only an introduction to this very good fully psyche song. Wild rhythm. Hypnotic song. Great PT moment. But these recurrent vocals are really boring. These will be avoided during "Small Fish". Standard Floydian vocals, nice mood, great guitar : at last a PT song like I was expecting (but it only lasts for just over two minutes).

"Burning Sky" is a great trip (musically of course). Floyd on the hard side. Spacey, psychedelic, hard-rock (at times), truely rocking for the most of it. It will also featured some beautiful guitar breaks. The epic piece of this album is also the best number so far. A great and obsessing finale.

"Fadeaway" is also a very good number. Very straight-forward, guitar-oriented although backing keyboards are present as well of course. Very obsessional. Vocals are as they ought to be : smooth and from "human "origin. This album is saved by the last two tracks.

IMHHO, the best tracks of these sessions were left over and only released on the EP "Staircase Infinities". You can read the details under the appropriate entry if you want to. Fortunately for the PT fans, all the songs will be grouped in the remastered editon released in 2005.

Three stars as such. Four stars as the remastered edition.

Report this review (#138491)
Posted Saturday, September 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars A huge improvement over PT's eclectic debut featuring much stronger songwriting, playing and production values which will appeal to a wide variety of fans with its masterful blend of trip/psych/pop/hard rock. Memorable melodies and guitar moments abound, with outstanding effects and spacey ambience to fill the gaps, all of which combines to take the listener on a real musical journey.

The comparisons to Pink Floyd is tired and, in my opinion, patently untrue-- Floyd oozes bluesy classic rock style and sounds nothing like Steven Wilson's experimental guitar work. The listener will almost certainly feel much more excited and charged by Wilson's playing throughout than on the laid-back elegance of Gilmour's guitar solos. However, I think it is a given that fans of Floyd will find a lot to like in early Porcupine Tree, but they shouldn't expect "Up the Downstair" to play anything like "Wish You Were Here"-- it is much more dynamic and filled with more varied sounds.

"Up the Downstair" is filled with memorable moments, and will not disappoint; a gem in the group's catalogue.

Report this review (#149277)
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pure genius.

I enjoy this more than any other PORCUPINE TREE release. While I'm prepared to admit STEVEN WILSON has come up with better music and more acclaimed records than this one, I find this record, even more than 'The Sky Moves Sideways', fulfils my latent post-FLOYD space-rock yearnings. There are a myriad of records out there with the tag 'For fans of PINK FLOYD' associated with them, but none is more deserving of the (perhaps unwanted) tag than this.

At this point PORCUPINE TREE was still STEVEN WILSON fiddling about mostly on his own, and what he did was to combine soaring guitars, subtle, spacey keyboards, warm bass lines and electronic percussion (replaced by drums in the 2005 re-issue) with thoughtful, sometimes whimsical lyrics. His songs have their own sound, largely due to his embracing the rhythms of the then-current dance scene, but the comparisons to PINK FLOYD come because of the shape of the songs. Simple beginnings, slow builds, fabulous shining guitar solos, interesting segues, with short song fragments interspersed with longer epics.

Nothing illustrates both the his interpretation of the classic space-rock sound and the FLOYDIAN shape of the compositions more than the beginning of the album. A short, spacey intro segues into 'Synesthesia', a repetitive track built around a dance rhythm but with enough vocal and guitar complexity to see us through five minutes. It doesn't sound like 70s PINK FLOYD, but it's the sort of thing 1970s FLOYD might have done if they were young in the 1990s.

'Always Never' is simply a stunning track, with its synth and acoustic beginning, along with WILSON's understated, BOWNESS-influenced vocals. This track reveals a growing compositional confidence, with the song having enough space to incorporate a fabulous solo as well as an excellent chorus. WILSON has never been afraid to combine his BEATLEsque pop sensibility with whatever project he's working on. For me this is the most valuable of attributes: whether a song is prog or punk or jazz or whatever is only a matter of arrangement. The engine that drives a song is its ability to get into you, not how it is arranged, and 'Always Never' does just that.

The title track is a proper space-rock epic, with blissed-out tranquillity, enigmatic samples, weird keyboard motifs, burbling synths and galaxy-wide soundscapes, augmented with a pulsing techno beat.I'm reminded of nothing so much as STEVE HILLAGE and THE ORB working through remixes of their early 90s material: WILSON's more recent influences are clear when listening to this track.

The next three tracks form an extended piece, the first and third substantial enough to have their own haunting melodies. Oh, and a guitar that could tear your soul to pieces with yearning. 'Small Fish', in particular, is a wonderful CAMEL-like sub-three minute song. Then 'Burning Sky' offers the best guitar workout on the album. WILSON's guitar, like GILMOUR and LATIMER before him, doesn't bedazzle with technical proficiency, it woos with beauty. There's a bit of OZRIC TENTACLES about this track, but much more happens here than in a typical OZRIC piece. 'Fadeaway' proceeds in a dreamy fashion, performing as advertised, closing the album with a final heavenly guitar hook.

I'll draw your attention to one other point. This came out not long before PINK FLOYD's 'Division Bell'. For those interested in comparisons, I find every track here to be superior to anything on that album. Space-rock clearly had a new standard-bearer.

The particular triumph of this album is it sounds like something you've heard all your life, yet at the same time it bears repeated listening. I'm certainly not tired of it. Most amazing of all, PORCUPINE TREE was at this point a side project for STEVEN WILSON: his major compositional effort was being poured into the techno-pop of NO-MAN. All the more reason to be astonished by what this man could achieve in his spare time.

Report this review (#151573)
Posted Sunday, November 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars " I will remain in the deafness of your silence"

As with Porcupine Tree's debut "On the Sunday of life", "Up the downstair" is essentially a solo album by Steve Wilson. Even the drums were originally provided via a drum machine, although this was changed in 2004 when Wilson asked the band's current drummer Gavin Harrison to record drum parts during the remastering of the album.

Where "Sunday.." was a collection of eclectic ideas, "Up the downstair" is a far more coherent and complete album, benefiting greatly from the fact that it was planned and put together on that basis from the outset. Here we have about half a dozen feature tracks, linked together by shorter pieces. The brief introductory track "What you are listening to.." sees the narrator (the same voice as appears on the concurrent "Voyage 34") describe the music as being psychedelic and narcotically influenced.

Quickly we are into the type of music we have in retrospect come to associate most with Porcupine Tree. "Synesthesia" has an incessant pulsating rhythm (emphasised by the drum overdubs) and the slightly understated vocals which have become Wilson's trademark. "Almost never" is one of Wilson's first songs to deal with dislike and hatred, a subject he would return to on a regular basis. Lyrics such as "I feel no pain 'cos I'm an island, I will remain in the deafness of your silence" would return in varied form on future albums.

Lyrically, the title track is about as obscure as they come, clearly emanating from a less than fully conscious state. The female vocals are provided by Suzanne Barbieri, while Richard adds electronics. The track is primarily an instrumental though, very much in the way of "Voyage 34" and the rhythmic psychedelic sounds which characterise the band's work during this period. The alternatively loud and softer guitar riffs which are a feature of the track would be repeated on other Porcupine Tree tracks, and be used to great effect in their live performances.

"Small fish" is a divine soft piece with superb lead guitar. It effectively forms an extended intro to the longest track on the album "Burning sky". This instrumental piece fits in well with the rest of the album, its length simply being through a slightly more elaborate arrangement. The album closes with "Fadeaway", a melodic, slightly spacey vocal piece with drifting guitar.

"Up the downstair" sees Steve Wilson taking giant leaps forward, resulting in the creation of his first coherent album. The content may not be what more recent fans of Porcupine Tree might expect, the album perhaps being closer to post rock than the metallic sounds the band now tend to favour. Nonetheless, for me this remains a highly enjoyable work.

Report this review (#154441)
Posted Thursday, December 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the interesting debut of On the Sunday of Life, Steven Wilson followed up with the amazing Up the Downstair. Wilson's sophomore release was the perfect marriage of psychedelic and contemporary rock breathing new life into the dreadful state of affairs in the music world of 1993. Although still a solo project, future Porcupine Tree members Colin Edwin and Richard Barbieri make guest appearances on this album.

Up the Downstair was originally intended to be a double album that would have included the Voyage 34 12-inch single and the material that would later end up on the Staircase Infinities EP of 1994. In 2004, a remastered and remixed edition of this album would be released that included the Staircase Infinities material on the second disc. Voyage 34 would later be re-released with all its phases (four in total) in 2000.

Wilson clearly shows maturation on this album as the music is more elaborate, better produced, with the whole album having much better cohesion in themes and moods. Wilson again shows strong Pink Floyd influences, but I also hear some similarities with the Ozric Tentacles, Steve Hillage, and the Orb in places. The Pink Floyd influences are more or less apparent from Wilson's layout of each sound. They usually have slow, simple beginnings that build up to soaring Gilmour/Latimer-like solos, and then fade back into slow, simple segues into the next track, often with sound effects or strange psychedelic guitar noodling. Synesthesia is probably the only song that doesn't quite fit this musical form, instead being more of a driving keyboard riff over an almost danceable beat; very electronic sounding. Wilson's guitar work is amazingly skilled.

The original album had programmed drums, but being that the music is not overly complex, it's almost unnoticeable that these were programmed at all. I'm not sure if Wilson was using real samples on a sequencer or some other program, but they aren't a distraction at all. On the 2004 remastered and remixed version, Gavin Harrison adds drumming to replace the original electronic drums. Having not heard the remastered and remixed version, I can't really comment on if this was an improvement or not.

Easily a five-star masterpiece (for the original release), which later was superceded by the even better The Sky Moves Sideways. An essential acquisition for those of you interested in the psychedelic side of progressive rock, especially if you want to hear something better than Pink Floyd. Very highly recommended.

Report this review (#157458)
Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars At this point (of my review) this is the least reviewed true studio release by PT and to me that's a bit surprising because this is not by far their least of the nine albums. Well, that's partly true because this album consists of two almost masterpiece-like tracks (Always never and Burning Sky) and a few nice ones. Ok, the title track is pretty good as well but not as good as the two mentioned.And remember this was their spacey era and not their heavy. Having said that, Signify and Sky moves Sideways are much more psychdelic/space than this issue. I will give a short discription and ratings for the (significant) tracks.

Synesthesia: a spacy one with nice rhythm, good track (3,25*).

Always never: space combined with superb rock and skilful guitar. Wilson at his best ! (4,25*).

Up the Downstair: Instrumental track, a bit like previous but more monotonous, more spacy and less brilliant (3,5*).

Not beautiful anymore: psychedelic, somewhat weird track. Interesting but no more (2,75*)

Small Fish: ballad-like track with in the 2nd minute a theme that will come back in the next song. Sort of connected songs probably. Not really outstanding this one (2,5*).

Burning Sky: great rocking track also with nice rhythm, significant psych/space and tremendous guitar (4,25*).

Fadeaway: Another ballad, somewhat slow song. Not essential (3*)

After some maths coming to almost 3,4 so I will have to round down. Still a very good effort by Porcupine Tree, great improvement compared to the debut.

Report this review (#159399)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Porcupine Tree´s second album Up the Downstair is a clear improvement over their somewhat weak debut album. The drums are once again programmed, and I think it spoils a bit when the rest of the music are pretty organic but I guess that it is an aquired taste.

The overall production is much better than on the debut and Steven Wilson´s vocal perfomance is also better here. The vocals are pretty sparse though as the emphasis is generally on the instrumental parts of which there are plenty. Mostly soloing.

I can´t help being happy after listening to the two first songs What you are listening to.... and Synesthesia the drug reference is just so funny even though Synesthesia reminds me a bit about some of the silly songs from the debut. Always Never and Fadeaway are also highlights to me while the two long songs Up the Downstair and Burning Sky is a bit too repetitive and drawn out for my taste.

Overall this is a good prog rock album, but not special in any way. 3 stars will be my rating.

Report this review (#161916)
Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Porcupine Tree - 'Up the Downstair' 4 stars

My review is based off of the re-mastered version. I treat to those late PT fans.

This is truly Porcupine Tree's first 'true' album, unlike the debut which was merely a collection of some songs Steven Wilson cooked up in minutes and hours. 'Up the Downstair' had the aim of being an actual album this time around. As a result, the album is more cohesive and made into a considerably shorter and stronger record. Richard Barbieri and Colin Edwin make their first appearance on this album also. Richard does the electronics on 'Up the Downstair' and Colin plays the bass guitar on 'Always Never'. Both of these men will later become official Porcupine Tree members for a long time to come. On the reissue, Gavin Harrison would fix up the drum-work, without taking any attention away from the music that was displayed on the original.

Again, I do not listen to that much psychedelic music, but I found this album to be an excellent one. There are a few traces of Wilson's hard rock influence that is abundant in future releases on some of the songs on the album. The drums are a lot more fitting to the music and not over indulgent like on the debut. There is also a bit of trip-hop and some space rock added in here as well. One of the songs even seems like it is an Ozric Tentacles track, one of my favorite bands.

Since I know little of the genre, it is very hard to describe psychedelic music. This album is clearly a huge step above the debut though. Recommended also for the bonus material, which is the 'Staircase Infinities' EP. I will make a separate review for the CD. I'll fix this review up eventually when I know how to put this crazy genre into words.

Report this review (#163702)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, for me this album is very special, because it was the first '90s-era PT album I ever gave a listen to. This is clearly not IN ABSENTIA or FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET, rather something very different. How different, you ask? Well, if you are used to hard-rocking radio tunes in the vein of ''Shallow'' or ''Halo'', you will be surprised at this content, and possbily even very dissapointed in the early Porcupine Tree work. I, however, found it to be just what I was looking for.

You see, I have retained the strong belief for sometime now that Porcupine Tree in is fact not a Heavy Progressive Rock band, and are instead a Psyechedelic/Space-Rock act capable of going many different directions within their genre. This album further helps to support that. Steve Wilson's own brand of musical mastery can stay psychedelic, yet go on a slightly different path from time to time while enevr truly deviating from the original idea behind Porcupine Tree. At the present point in his career, Wilson is delving into the Hard Rock/Metal side of things a bit, but his band is still making quality modern space-rock, as far as I am concerned. Why, then, is Porcupine Tree categorized incorrectly on this site as 'Heavy Prog'? I think the most obvious answer is that based on the band's latest three studio efforts (IN ABSENTIA, DEADWING, and FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET), the music seems to be going along those lines, but in UP THE DOWNSTAIR we are able to see that the band is in fact much more than just a hard rock band with progressive tendancies.

This particular album demonstrates the capability of Wilson's composition and playing techniques to take the listener somewhere that feels like it could never be located on this planet, and while the Pink Floyd influence is very prominent from time to time, there is enough originality to be found here that will hopefully allow even the most die-hard Floydian to accept Porcupine Tree as the modern day Psychedelic rock act. On this release we get a little bit of everything; from soaring soundscapes via atmospheric keyboards to hard rock jam sessions with groovy distorted guitar to the now signature-PT acoustic guitar ballad, there is nothing on here that wouldn't appeal to any listener. Something there for everybody, basically.

I happen to have heard the remastered double-album edition, so that is the one I am going to review. I understand that the only real differences between the two are that Gavin Harrison performs drums here in place of the original Wilson-programmed machines, and also, the STAIRCASE INFINITIES EP is now part of the album proper. So this review should be helpful and accurate, whichever version you happen to find yourself listening to.

Here we go:

''What You Are Listening To'' is an introductory ambient track that features keyboards and backward- recorded instrument playing preceeding a rather humorous voice introduction.

''Synesthesia'' (Yes, I did spell it correctly) Is the first actual song on the album, and while the vocals may sound a bit monotone, I like it. It is probably the most straight-forward track on the record in terms of song structure and presentation. The guitar work on this is as usual amazing-- a true testimate to Wilson's talent, as he wasn't bringing in accomplished guitar playes as guests at this point in the band's career; it's all him. The second solo in particular is very spacey and I find myself escaping into the wonderful musical world he has created with his sounds every time I hear it. Not a bad way to start out another great PT record, is it?

A flawless segue, and we are off into another great interlude in ''Monuments Burn into Moments''.

''Always Never'' is the first song I actually enjoyed the vocal work on the first time I listened to the record. Very mellow, but accompanied by a heavier counterpart during the crunching chorus. More soundscapes, more weirdness, more space-rock! At a minute forty-two, an absolutely mind-blowing guitar riff breaks in, inducing my first 'head-bobbing' moment on UP THE DOWNSTAIR. Truly wonderfull work by Mr. Wilson. Halfway through the song we are treated to a great ambient interlude using keyboards and a very atmospheric bass line courtesy of Colin Edwin, who was then only a friend of Wilson's who guested from time to time on his records. Amazing drum beats follow that, along with some flanged-out guitar chording. It all comes back around again exactly at the five minute mark where Wilson proves that he is a master sound-painter, nomatter how paltry his guitar playing skills themselves may be. Truly, he may play simply, but the solo that he plays at the end of this song sends more emotion into me than people like Vai or Petrucci ever will. Quite honestly, the emotion that the man can evoke from people through his instrument rivals even Gilmour, which is saying alot indeed. Everything calms down before the title tracks comes out of nowhere . . .

''Up the Downstair'' Is a song that hit me in the face with it's beauty and intensity from the very first listen. It's always goood when something like music can jump out of it's confinements, slap the listener about for a little while with a surprising twist, then somehow manage to keep everything feeling concise and complete by the track's end. The title track does that and more. Yet more ambient keybord sounds through the use of beeps, voice-mimicking and a whole lot of attitude. Richard Barbieri makes a guest appearance here lending his gifted fingers to Wilson's cause. Incidently, Barbieri's wife, Suzanne, provides some spoken word elements to the song. Otherwise it is completely instrumental. Two minutes in and it starts to sound liek something one would hear on an Ozric Tentacles album. At the mark of two minutes and thrity-seven seconds, the keyboards solidify that similarity, yet this doesn't feel like a blatant rip-off; I assume this is because Steve Wilson has the capability to be inspired by something, yet mold it into something of his own, unlike a certain other band, who I could mention, but I won't because I'm a nice guy, and even pompous, self-indulgant garbage has it's fans. At three minutes and thirty-seven seconds, the guitars come in, introducing an element that has remained in the band to this day: repeating, catchy grooves that are so contagious that I find myself humming and head-bobbing to them even days later. The section of the like found at that point in ''Up the Downstair'' is no exception, and it returns at five minutes forty seconds to give the song that groovy punch once again. My God, I just ADORE these moments in Porcupine Tree's music, and I am glad that Steve Wilson still has the ability to write this sort of stuff today!

Finally at six fifty, the madness stops and the song gets fairly quiet again. It seems that Wilson has an uncanny ability to know just when to stop and when to keep going, so nothing seems to go on for too long, but I also feel satisfied with how long the repeated riffs do last. It takes true musical genious to be capable of such accuracy and timing. Wilson is just the man for that. Before long, the synth effects come barreling in again and the music becomes a wall of sound that is most effective when one is lying in their bed at night with the light off, the heaphones on and the sound up. Indeed, this is the circumstance that should be practiced for every Porcupine Tree album listening session, at least the first time. The same can be said for the other luminaries of this genre, classic or modern, such as Tool, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, etc. These guys, along with Porcupine Tree, make music that isn't so much meant to be heard, but to be experienced. To truly understand the weight and granduer of this epic music, you must be surrounded by it; ewngulfed by it. Headphone listening makes certain things on this album and indeed this entire genre 'pop' or 'stand out' where as with normal everyday car listening the minute details would not be heard. Yes, there is a method to Wilson's madness, and when one comes to fully appreciate it, there is nothing else on the planet that can compare to a Steve Wilson opus. It isn't just doodling, my friends; it is mastery. Finally at around nine minutes and twenty-three seconds the music sounds very eastern in vibe, and then the remaining twenty-four seconds of song help calm the listener with some voices through the use of the keys. There you have it, the title track of a magnificent album that is just as magnificent even if heard on its own (Which I have done on occasion).

''Not Beautiful Anymore'' reminds me somewhat of some of the stuff I have heard off of the Robert Fripp album, ''Exposure''. I suppose it is because the track utilizes sampling and sound-clipping to mesh freshly recorded music with previousely-recorded dialogue from a presumably unknown, obscure source. Here, there is a girl talking about how sex isn't necessary while under the influence of a certain substance. Very, very strange, and nothing like the Porcupine Tree we all know today. But not necessarily better or worse; just different. The bass playing here is great, as well as the spacey guitar work. It is a shorter track (only 3:25 in length), but it isn't a song that compelles me to hit the '>>|' button in the slightest. A good track, a solid track. Best song Porcupine Tree has ever done? Never, but it is worth listening to.

''Siren'' may be just another tracked used to segue the parts together, but it is actually a song I would most likely enjoy listening to on its own from time to time; it has that sort of atmospheric quality to it that makes it have meaning on the album, not just another throwaway interlude like you will find on most other Space-Rock albums, sadly.

''Small Fish'' is simply beautiful, with great clean and acoustic guitar work from Wilson, great vocal work from Wilson, and a great, heartfelt, moving distorted guitar solo by, you guessed it, Wilson. I especially like the moment in the solo at one minute and fifty-nine seconds. Just . . . great. Wonderful. Wordsa cannot dexribe this man's brilliance. Ever. Period. If this song (this entire album, for that matter) doesn't prove that Wilson IS Porcupine Tree, nothing will. It is clear to me now, even more surely than before I listened to this record, that Steve Wilson is another one of those rare artists who can do anything at all they try and be at least moderately successful at it. Many experimental musicians have tried to do do different things throughout their career, yet only succeeded at a few of their attempts. Wislon is a different breed altogether; his musical timing and foresight when composing his works are things that many of us may strive for, but never achieve. I have no doubt that he was born with this amazing talent already within him. You can't study to be a musical genious; you either are or you aren't. Wilson is clearly the former.

''Burning Sky'' is the second what you might call 'epic' on the record, and already at the point of the song where the time displays one minute and three seconds, I am already treated to more amazing trippy guitar playing. What Steve Wilson does in his music is impress and mystify the listener with very little; he makes you feel like you have been transported to unexplored worlds and through his music you feel that you are lucky enough to see these places through sound. In actuallity, the man may be playing three notes over and over again, but the attention he payes to those three notes, and power they hold, are what makes the 'grand' or 'epic' experience seem real; it has never been and never will be how many notes a person can play in the fastest amount of time. Music is an artform, not a sport, and Wilson's music is the ultime ride for anyone who is willing to take, because the simplicity somehow manages to awe us, despite the seeming limitations of the instrument's range. The same can be said of Pink Floyd, I think, in that it isn't so much 'where' the musician plays on the instrument, but 'what' he or she plays, and what he or she can make the listener feel emotionally.

At six minutes and nineteen seconds, the song becoms something almost out of a dream, with a wonderfully out-of-this-world guitar solo, and before too long, the accompanying clean/flanged guitar gives that dream-like quality some true life. At seven mintues and eleven seconds precisely, the amazing-yet-simple riff from the song's beginning comes back into play to once again make a potentially messy track have some structure and direction to it. At eight minutes three seconds, Wilson begins a solo that lasts for what seems like an eternity, and it actually gives me the chills when I listen to it. Truly powerfull work. What follows is some great distorted guitar riffing not disimmilar to the harder-edged works that would crop up in Porcupine Tree tree history later on. Then the lead guitar comes in again with a very funky flange effect. A series of strong guitar chords set the stage for the ultimate outro of the song, which features (on the reissue, anyway) a sprawling drum roll that gives this song some real 'might'. Dreamy keyboards lead the song out to it's finallity.

''Fadeaway'' Is the original edition of the album's last track, and serves that purpose well, I think, as the keys, guitars drums and vocals all work really well here to give the album some sense of closure. Genuinely beautiful guitar work to be found here, as well, and it actually reminds me more of Steve Rothery then David Gilmour. strangely enough. Wilson's voice really is a wonder to hear, and it surprises me that he originally did not intend for himself to be the frontman of Porcupine Tree, but I am very glad nonetheless that he chose to take the mic, because Porcupine Tree simply wouldn't be Porcupine Tree without him lending his vocal talents as well as pretty much every other talent. You hear how a band sometimes really 'gels' among its respective members, well, I don't know what you would call it, but Steve Wilson really 'gels' with himself doing everything on his own here, and while having a full band to play the live work for him is a nice conveniance, I have no doubt that if he would leave the band for some reason, the msuci would never reach the high point that it is now at ever again. Wilson is too important to PT, and this album, which is basically a solo album with a few odd guests, proves that the only person really wiriting the music and concepts for the band even now is Mr. Wilson himself. He was just as great then as he is now.

Overall, I can't find much wrong with this album, and I know that what a person needs to to in their review of something is include the good and the band point so the final rating will feel more realistic and 'fair', but to be perfectly honest, this album is truly THAT good. It is now the second Porcupine Tree album out of the ones I heard to truly be flawless. I guess the bottom line is, can I give this thing anything less than five stars?

I feel that I can fairly give this album four stars, because after all, I want my overall reviews list to seem as realistic as possible, and there are only so many albums out there truly deserving of the five star rating, and even if UP THE DOWNSTAIR is another Steve Wilson masterpiece (which it is), I feel that the bulk of Porcupine Tree's work will turn out to all be masterpieces, and to rate all of them five out of five would be unfair to the masterpieces that stand out even from those. IN ABSENTIA is one such album; it has elements such as narrative, production, and musicianship that is even further above par than most other masterworks. UP THE DOWNSTAIR is frankly not such an album; while it hold my interest from beginning to end, and each track is perfect, there is actually nothing about it that makes it very distinguishable from the other PT works, at least for me. So, any bad songs on it? No, but is it really worthy of five stars? Probably not.

So there you have it: UP THE DOWNSTAIR is a perfect album, who's only flaw is that it never felt like a true complete 'album' per se, and rather each song sounded like they could have come from anywhere else. Great music, but not necessarily an epic. I hope my reasoning for the slight contradiction between review-and-rating is explained in this final paragraph. It is full-on Space-Rock, no doubt about it, and I would not reccomend this entry to anyone wanting to turn their friends on to Porcupine Tree. There just isn't enough accessability there to appeal to the casual listener. However it IS in fact now tied with FOABP as my second-favorite PT album thus far. But that is a personal opinion, and should not be taken as a good enough reason to listen to before the modern PT material.

Report this review (#164562)
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars The first Porcupine Tree album... Ok, I know, is their second in time... But the first with their proper and genuine sound!

Although Steve Wilson made almost everything here again, like On the Sunday of Life, the sound is really different... While this album was a compilation of songs and ideas Steve Wilson made through years, this is a compact album, with a clear direction and sound, and a really inteligent one... The alternation between rockier songs, mellow ones, ambiental short pieces and the long and complex ones is really well developed in Up the Downstair, making this album a great and funny experience to listen to.

I have the version with Gavin Harrison on drums... And what can I say? This man really rules behind the drumkit, and his playing toghether with the Wilson's remix and additions make the sound of the album really actual and pleasant to listen to... And the collaboration of Colin Edwin and Richard Barbieri, make Up the Downstair the first real Porcupine Tree album. And an excellent one.

Best songs: Sinesthesia (great keyboard rythm and Wilson's singing), Always Never (typical Porcupine tree: acoustic and mellow verses, and harder instrumental passages, with good riffs...), Up the Downstair and Burning Sky (two long but catchy tracks, mixing psychodelic textures with rythmic and dynamic guitar riffs), and Fadeaway (a typical Wilson's ending: tender and calmed down ending)

Conclusion: excellent second Steve Wilson's release under the name of Porcupine Tree... But the first with the true Porcupine's sound. This is a really funny album, with some memorable tracks and full with different ambients and textures, but well cohesionated. Very good psichodelic-progressive rock album, but not yet a masterpiece.

My rating: ****

Report this review (#166286)
Posted Thursday, April 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars My favorite album from among Porcupine Tree's pre-Signify druggie era. From the opening chunks of sound, you know the band is going to try some awkward things out here, and they always strike me as fun. I have the remastered version, with the human drummer and all, and I think it sounds great. Synesthesia and Always Never stand out as the two more straightforward songs, melody-wise. However, the beauty of this album is in the vocal-free passages (okay, it's mostly vocal-free for the entire album). I was afraid I wouldn't like this one, being more a fan of later Porcupine Tree, and not really being a big fan of trippy ambiance and all that, but this one is just chock full of fun and upbeat cheer, in a way. For some reason, as weird as it is, it strikes me as a rather happy album, which is rather unusual for Porcupine Tree.

I can understand why this would not work for a lot of people, but for me, it's the best thing they composed until Signify, and even now still ranks in the top half of my Steven Wilson library.

Report this review (#168632)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars What a progress can be felt here on Up the Downstair, in comparison with the first album by still solo Wilson's project Porcupine Tree. The production here is much professional, than in On the Sunday of Life. The compositions are compact. The album is less psychedelic than its predecessor. The songwriting is complex and well enough completed, full of long songs.

If we look to the songs inside, we easy can find very much well arranged artistic and dramatic parts; dramatical parts especially in the longer songs (composition type) and artistic manner especially in the shorter songs (intro type), which could be described as the connecting links between the main longer songs.

The most astonishing is the fact, that at the time of Up the Downstair's release, Steven Wilson is still amateur musician. I mean music is not his main job, but instead of that the album characterize as mature piece of work. Surely the best amateur album I've ever heard. After the success of Up the Downstair, Steven Wilson perceived the idea of full-length band, instead of solo project and professional attitude to the business called music.

The album consists of no weak songs, but I shall stand out Synesthesia (the most psychedelic song on the album), homonymous Up the Downstair and Burning Sky as the best three song here. I consider this album to be more psychedelic than progressive like the first one, but the primacy of psychedelic genres on the album is much smaller than in On the Sunday of Life.

Although, there aren't weak song, the album has one flaw - the repetitions; they are all over the album. Despite the fact, all other components are so high, that the album is passing by over the 4 (four) stars: 4.1 - 4.2 stars! First solid record by Porcupine Tree and last as amateur solo project act!!!

Report this review (#196786)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
3 stars I will only discuss the first disc as I have already made a seperate review of the second disc (Staircase Infinities). Porcupine tree is in the middle of their psychedelic era with this album, it's not as psychedelic as The Sky Moves Sideways, but synths and strange noises can be heard throughout the entire album. The album contains two mini-epics and several shorter songs, even several songs of one minute or even less, but they are absolutely no filler.

The album starts with the spacey introduction "What You Are Listening To", which is a very short soundscape that segues into "Synesthesia", an up-tempo song. "Synesthesia" is not the bands most psychedelic work, but the piano combined with the distorted guitar create a very pleasant effect, a pretty good song.

The 20 second long "Monuments Burn Into Moments" takes us from "Syesthesia" to "Always Never". The vocals in this song aren't very special I think, they are pretty cheesy and uninteresting. After a kind of dissapointing beginning of the song Steven Wilson makes everything good by some excellent guitar playing, being joined by Richard Barbieri's atmospheric synthesizers.

The title track, "Up The Downstair" is the first of the two mini-epics on this album, lasting over ten minutes. The song starts out very promising, with strange voices, choir like synths and interesting drums. Soon a bassline comes in and the song becomes a strange techno-like thing. Though at first listen this might be a bit annoying, it doesn't take much time to get completely used to it. The song continues with some powerful riffs and becomes a bit more structured by repeating the techno and distorted riffs, the song ends with spacey synths again. "Up The Downstair" is not a perfect song, but it's a very nice listen.

"Not Beautiful Anymore" is not a very momorable song, though not being a bad one. It lasts only three minutes and seems to fade away a bit, standing between much lengthier songs.

"Siren" is an interlude that takes us to "Small Fish" which is quite the same story as "Not Beautiful Anymore", a short song that doesn't really gets its place between the two mini-epics.

The second of the two mini-epics is "Burning Sky", which starts, just like the title track, with synths and drums. After a short while guitar comes in and the song is meant to become epic, but unfortunately it doesn't. Just like "Up The Downstair", "Burning Sky" has a powerful riff that's repeated several times, the riff unfortunately is not very special and doesn't really succeed giving the song a powerful feel. The only thing that does prevent this song from being totally uninteresting, is the outstanding guitar playing from Steven Wilson, which makes the song in the end a very decent one.

"Fadeaway" is the final track on the album, and it's a great way to close it. The song starts out with Wilson's very Gilmour style guitar playing, and turns into a mellow ballad. This song is very much like what you will hear on the Staircase Infinities disc, but I'm not going that here, great track.

Up The Downstair is a very good album, though it has quite a few flaws. Some songs feel like being on the wrong place and I can't keep my interest at some parts of the album, because of them being cheesy or just feeling unfinished. I rate this album three stars, as it is no masterpiece at all, it's just a good (unfinished in some ways) album.

Report this review (#222265)
Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my first review, and what better then to review one of my first Porcupine Tree's vinyl. This album was made back when Steven was still finding the "sound" he was looking for in Porcupine Tree, and if you notice in this album he kind of bounced around in mellow to just solid progressive songs. From the beauty of small fish, to the brain teasing sounds of the track, Up The Down Stairs. Steven has been all over the place and really hit peak with this album and brought in a great revune of fans. When and if you decide to take the step into purchasing something of past Porcupine Tree because your still so caught up in Stupid Dream and everything after that i suggest this album of them all. You will listen to first two tracks and like me you will probably stop what your doing and just lean back in your chair or stratch your body out and ask yourself, "What did i just listen to?". Experiencing this with more then one song trust me when i say this, when the album name track comes up and you are listening to it, you will want to play it over and over and over agian, awesome everything, Bass, Drums, Atmosphere, Structure you name it, its got it.

4 Stars because later Steven did perfect the Porcupine Tree sound but this was so close and so amazing none the less, pick this album up and i highly suggest you purchase the vinyl and take an hour or 2 to sit back and just listen to it in its entirety.

Report this review (#225383)
Posted Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars What I am listening to? The sound of genius!

For years my only option to listen to this album was using shabby bit rate mp3's. Then finally it got re-released in 2005. Luckily, the reissue was worth the wait. The music suddenly bursts from the speakers, clear and sparkling, with all attention to detail that Wilson put into it finally revealed. I must say it was quite a eye-opener. Until then I was quite ok with the album but not much more then that.

In fact the change in appreciation is quite logical. The sonics are an essential part of this space-rock experience so 160 kbps is more then just injustice, it's sacrilege.

A short introduction sets the tone. Sinister feedback fades into a hodgepodge of metallic sounds. One can't announce one's love for early Pink Floyd much clearly. Synesthesia is simply brilliant. A catchy synth sequence on top of bouncy beats. Wilson does a Porcupine Tree take on the Noman sound from that period and pulls it off better on his own then in the company of Tim Bowness. Reason being that I can so much more enjoy Wilson's dreamy vocals then those of his fellow Noman.

A short interlude prepares us for a trademark Porcupine Tree song. One of the first in a long series of love epics consisting with mellow acoustic parts and heavy rock riffing. (Well at least the riff is heavy, Wilson just didn't know yet where to plug in the distortion pedal). Again it is a stunning piece of music with beautiful Gilmour-esque soloing and an excellent climax. What a composition this is. Genius and nothing else.

Up the Downstair is the first long instrumental and a space-rock tribute of premier league quality. Wilson throws in one of his excellent bass lines on top of a slow tempo chill out beat. Again a heavy rock riff spices things up a notch. It's one big ode to Hawkwind and Tangerine Dream, with a grand Floydian Umma Gumma noise finale.

Not Beautiful anymore is another instrumental space-rocking ditty that would form the skeleton for long live improvisations. It flows into Siren which in turn serves as an intro for what must be one of Wilson most striking early ballads. Man, those melancholic harmonies and sweet layers of sound. They get to me every time again.

Burning Sky is the second extended instrumental piece. More rocking then the dance excursion that was Up The Downstair. Amazing composition. Again. And do I still need to say anything about Fadeaway? No I don't think so. It's what I call outclass your masters at their own game.

When it comes to listing my favourite PT album, I will always end up blurting out whatever album I last heard of my holy trinity: Up The Downstair, Signify or Fear or a Blank Planet. So at this very moment it's obviously...

Report this review (#246899)
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a perfect album for Steven Wilson to debut his full band. All be it on only a few of the tracks but a brilliant glimpse of what was to follow. I can only review based on the re released version complete with Gavin Harrison's superlative drumming and the bonus Staircase Infinities disc. This is without doubt the most played of my entire Porcupine Tree collection. It's not that its any better than the later albums it just has that "magic something" that draws me back time and again to give it a spin. Beautiful atmospheric guitar and keyboard layers and catchy bass grooves. SW is actually pretty handy on the bass. The two discs are notable for some great lyrics by Alan Duffy. I particularly enjoy playing Up The Downstair with its companion Voyage 34 EP. Makes for a very trippy couple of hours listening. Favourite tracks - Always Never,Small Fish / Burning Sky,Fadeaway,The Jokes on You. Easy 5 stars and a must for any Porcupine Tree fan.
Report this review (#259943)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is great. Might as well start on a good note. There are few "flaws" (not really flaws) that i'm sure most people wouldn't even notice. Well, lets start. I will do this song by song.

Oh, and one final note, I am reviewing the remaster with Gavin Harrison.

What You Are Listening To: Good opening, flows great into next track.

Synesthesia: Very poppy, and repetitive. Very flowing, nice guitar solos. One of my personal favorites due to its simplicity and great vocal melody.

Monuments Burn into Moments: Another short, "filler" track, very trippy backwards piano solo.

Always Never: Beautiful song, odd vocals in verses. Nice use of electric guitar in very background. Great bass performance by Colin Edwin on this track. Nice guitar melodies. Very cool solos and riffs thrown around in the track (1:42). Good song, feels a bit long though.

Up the Downstair: Trippy opening, with great vocal (speaking part). Lots of ambient noise. Great use of keyboards on this one, lots of ambient sounds. Percussion/Bass groove starts the track of well. More ambient noise/stuff in the background. The electronic sound on this track give it most of its amazing sound. The next heavier riff is great, with the guitar dominating this part and taking over. One more heavy part (about 5 min later) and a noise build up, then it ends with ambience. My personal favorite off this album.

Not Beautiful Anymore: Another instrumental, with a very interesting quote at the start. Drums kick in with a very driving beat, then the bass and guitar layer in. Quite repetitive as most of the old PT instrumentals are. A few random stops in the middle of the riffs. Overall a solid track.

Siren: Filler, ambient sound.

Small Fish: Good, short song. Not too much to say. Simple, great vocal preformance by SW.

Burning Sky: Very driving instrumental. Great riffs. Trippy opening, thumping drum and screaming in the background. The riff that comes in sounds great for this track. Great use of keys, followed by a sick guitar solo. Then comes a half time, much heavier riff. Then the crazy breakdown, complete with heavy breathing and a clock ticking. This is a very quiet part, but follows a very nice melody. Then it kicks right back in with a very similar riff to what was being played in the begining. Guitar solo, then the heavy riff and its pretty much over. Great instrumental.

Fadeaway: Quiet song, great melody and solos. This song sounds a bit like The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase 1) too me. A quite beatuful song, very flowing. Ends in a psychedelic way. Good end to a great album.

This album overall is very good, a great psychedelic/progressive album. This is a very good addition to anyones CD collection. There are very few things that I don't like.

In fact, there is only really one turn off. It is a little boring. There are a few moments where i want it to just go to the next song, such as towards the end of Always Never. That is the only thing that stops this from being a 5 star CD, but its not that big of a deal, and its easy to get past.

Standout Tracks: Synesthesia, Up the Downstair, Burning Sky

Nasty Tracks: N/A

Report this review (#263203)
Posted Thursday, January 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars There are many layers of Porcupine Tree that need to be considered. When they first started out they were a 'joke' project that Steven Wilson made to create a fictional band. Their (or mainly his) idea was a weird blend of avant garde electronica along with psychedelic music. It's funny to look at what this 'joke' has become.

This being their first real album, the songs were well developed, a lot of focus was on the instrumentation and their was more of a solo effort from Steven, since the rest of the band were only hired as session musicians.

The songs on this album are amazing, really making Steven's foetal creations better than most artists' later accomplishments. There also was a lot of arty implements in this album, making it a lot more thoughtful.

1. What You Are Listening To - A weird intro with a very cool spoken introduction to the album.

2. Synesthesia - Quite catchy compared to their later efforts. The piano loop is very colourful and cool.

3. Moments Burn Into Moments - Another psychedelic interlude.

4. Always Never - I love the calm intro. The instrumental passages are very weird and wonderful.

5. Up The Downstair - The spoken word sounds amazing with the ambient background. Incredibly relaxing to listen to. Has a Chemical Brothers psych vibe to it. Just amazing basically.

6. Not Beautiful Anymore - A cool instrumental with some nice funky pulses.

7. Siren - Does what it says basically.

8. Small Fish - Very Incredible String Band, with some lovely folk like passages.

9. Burning Sky - I love the way it leads in from Small Fish. Amazing guitar work, psychedelic rock at it's best. There is also a weird Rush vibe to the end of the song.

10. Fadeaway - A classic Porcupine Tree song and could have easily have been later material.

CONCLUSION: Although not as good as their later material (which is amazing and some of the best music you may ever hear in your life), this album does have a great spacey vibe to it. Buy it, it really is something.

Report this review (#275182)
Posted Monday, March 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars PT's second effort is much different than the wonderful and bizarre debut album, "On The Sunday Of Life", especially because it's the first Porcupine Tree debut album as a band, while in the previous album the name was only referred to Wilson's one man band. Up the Downstair is the first of many psych albums that PT would eventually create, such as Signify, Stupid Dream, and The Sky Moves Sideways.

The album starts with an interesting intro, followed by the song "Anesthesia", where the band makes a lot of use of electronic music and some ambient and new wave influences, however keeping the track very hearable, enlivened and catchy Brilliant.

"Always Never" uses the same formula as "Anesthesia", even though it's a generally mellow song, but very surprisingly dreamy and floating, with a strong influence of some famous Pink Floyd songs.

the title track is a long an instrumental song, with a guitar riff that appears suddenly, surrounded by hazy and psychedelic atmospheres with large use of synths and such. Being a very long song, it makes the structure of the album very solid and more consistent, since many songs aren't that long.

"Not beautiful anymore" is another interesting instrumental piece, with the typical atmospheres used many times in this album. "Small Fish" finally features vocals, even though the idea of having a pretty big lack of vocals part in the middle of the album was fantastic in my opinion, so SW's voice is believed as almost occasional, but when the moment comes, it feels like it's an unbelievable experience.

"Burning Sky" is very similar to the title track, even though it's much more enlivened and more down-to-ground. It has in fact more guitar riffs that fit perfectly in every part.

"Fadeaway" is a beautiful song, very powerful and cacthy, almost sounds like a melancholic goodbye to us listeners. In other words, a perfect closer.

A great album, which deserves the high esteem that it proudly has, a true hymn to psych prog and romantic melodies mixed together. An excellent addiction to any prog rock collection.

Report this review (#280492)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars "The Joke's On You" for anyone that hasn't given this album a chance.

This is a review of the 2004 Expanded and Re-recorded version and was also my first introduction to this band. Up The Downstair is Porcupine Tree's second album but technically it can be called their first album because it is the first album project to be conceived and recorded for a record label rather than a compilation album of the cassette era like the album On The Sunday Of Life...

As i will talk about through this review and on the review for Voyage 34, towards the end of recording the LP was downsized to a single album due to several reasons including cost and keeping tracks as singles at the time however because of this reason several tracks were dropped from the original including The Joke's On You, Men Of Wood and Phantoms.

I think i appreciate this album so much because i have heard the re-recorded version for which the programmed "fake" drums have been replaced with real drum sections from Gavin Harrison.

Disc 1 has the tracks from the original album of Up The Downstair

1) What You Are Listening To - This track is one of my favourite intro's of all time with its excellent use of sampling.

2) Synesthesia - This is the first song of the album and i was already hooked from the first listen. I thought was is this, this is amazing and why haven't i heard of Porcupine Tree before.

3) Monuments Burn Into Moments - This is a instrumental interlude between songs and this is also an edit of the track Sinatra Rape Scene from the cassette album The Nostalgia Factory. The title of this track is also used as a lyric on the track Up The Downstair.

4) Always Never - This track like quite a few from this album became fan favourites for this era and this also showed the first signs of what the band would become with Colin Edwin on Bass Guitar for this song.

5) Up The Downstair - The title track breaks the 10 minute mark and again would be a favourite and appear on a few live albums with the psychedelic meaning of hallucinogenic drugs. The title refers to lyrics that are on Voyage 34 which again was the epic single that Porcupine Tree produced which in no doubt is about drugs. That said Voyage 34 was meant to be a part of this album but due to several reasons which im sure i'll get round to explaining on that review, it became a single. Richard Barbieri is credited for the Electronics on this track and his wife Suzanne J. Barbieri is credited with the vocals.

6) Not Beautiful Anymore - This track begins with a sampling monologue and again the words are associated with drug use. This track also has a very hard hitting drum line which can blow those cobwebs out.

7) Siren - This track is an ambient/soundscape interlude.

8) Small Fish - This track is definately one that you can just chill out to with excellent use of both acoustic and electric guitar.

9) Burning Sky - This is the instrumental track and the only other track to break the 10 minute barrier and again this track becomes a live favourite appearing on a few live perfomances from this era. The heavy breathing with the ticking clock again associates you with drug use and people will get stoned by just listening to this album.

10) Fadeaway - This track is by far one of the most relaxing tracks that Porcupine Tree have done and for that i agree with Steven Wilson that this is one of my favourite tracks. However thinking about it i realise that the majority of their tracks and albums as a whole are my favourite :)

Disc 2 has the tracks to Staircase Infinities which were the leftover pieces from Up The Downstair and together they were meant to be the double CD album that was originally conceived.

11) Cloud Zero - This track begins with a mixture of noisy instrumental sounds before building into a beat that has a song complexity to it but remains an instrumental with excellent soaring guitar.

12) The Joke's On You - This track is the 2004 remix rather than the 1994 original and has a lovely acoustic piece before exploding into the chorus and back again.

13) Navigator - This is an instrumental track that has an African style beat mixed with soaring guitar and electonic ambience.

14) Rainy Taxi - This is again another instrumental that floats along with a dark mood but yet dosen't put me down but rather makes time fly and then you realise your onto the next track.

15) Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape - This track is a new version to the one that appeared on the cassette albums and in my opinion is the better version. Steven Wilson has taken out the voiceover introducing the fake band members because lets face it this is the beginning of a true band.

Without this album i would have never discovered Porcupine Tree and most likely the band would have never got to the point that they are now. I constantly come back to listen to this album and it always puts me into a good mood. I do hope that they can come back to some of this music in later live performances and saying that, at the time of me writing this they have just brought out there latest live perfomance on DVD called Anesthetize which includes a live version of Dark Matter from their Signify album. I do hope that they bring some of this era with them to the evening with Porcupine Tree at the Royal Albert Hall in London which i will be going to see. The album for me is essential and throughout all their changes in style which i guess makes them progressive i would bring their whole collection with me if i had to stay on a deserted island.

Report this review (#288444)
Posted Sunday, June 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars So ,here we are! I had a disapointing experience with my first PORCUPINE TREE listening ( the incident) but this one fits to me .The main component seems to be the guitar, sinuous, acid and a bit reptilian (a wink to fripp ? ) keyboards,mainly mellotron it seems, are a bit at the background but it's a production choice. The album opens with a funny vocal allusion to some lysergic substance we used in the early seventies folowed by a funny pulsating sequencer patern ( but i can assert we were not so much joyfully at the time using that substance )There are many spacey interludes inside and between the tracks that reminds me of the PINK FLOYD ( live tracks in UMMAGUMMA ).Good sequencer paterns and strong guitar riffs come through the whole album with frequent synthy white noises not so far from STEVE HILLAGE landscapes.Maybe the quiet parts are a bit short but this is a good record, surely more suitable for driving than for dreaming in your room even if some vocal parts are in a nostalgic mood. I give 4 stars
Report this review (#300183)
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm one of the people who enjoy PT allot more after they picked up drummer Gavin Harrison, which is In Absentia and up. That being said I really do appreciate the "Delirium" years as some would call these albums. My favorite being Signify followed by Sky moves sideways. Up the Down Stair on the other hand I find to be quite boring, I just can't get into most of the tracks on here. Basically the album simply doesn't hold my attention and there's not much to get out of it. Sure Fadeaway is a great song and the album has a few other good songs, Always Never, the Jokes on you, to name a few. But overall I believe this album falls flat compared to any other release by this great band except for maybe there first. 2.5 for me, go with Signify Or the Sky Moves Sideways.
Report this review (#301231)
Posted Thursday, September 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "the first album proper"

According to Mr. Wilson this album was the first proper PT album, the previous one being a collection of DIY material from his cassette tape days. That first album grew on me over time and I expect this one might as well. Wilson did some history revision here with the drum parts. Unsatisfied with his own forays into drum sampling, he had Mr. Harrison re-record the drum tracks, giving him instructions to be faithful to the original as much as possible, muzzling his exceptional abilities to maintain some authenticity. A good move because I think Harrison's full ride of fills would clutter the more laid back vibe of the spaciness contained herein.

The tracks are generally 5-11 minutes long with some short interludes breaking them up. They are a mix of electronica vibed, consistent rhythms, space rock atmospheres and fluid guitar leads, mostly instrumental but with some occasional vocals and spoken word sound effects. For the life of me I don't understand all of the claims of this being "like Pink Floyd." I really don't hear the similarities other than they both are enjoyed by fans of spacey prog. The heavier riff based jams sound a bit like the harder side of 90s stuff from Djam Karet or Ozric, while there are a few softer, dreamy sections (like Small Fish, my favorite track) that hint at later PT. The album's hazy, mid gear jamming provides many moments that I find pleasant, yet ultimately it fails to really pull me in or excite me. It just kinds of melts into the background and doesn't sell me as a great album. At least not yet. There are some really nice things happening on this album, but I think Wilson's gift for engaging songwriting had not quite ripened yet, thus we get good instincts here but something missing.

Report this review (#323020)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Up the Downstair ? 1993 (2.6/5 almost 2 stars) 9 ? Best Song: Synthesia/Small Fish

Is it another case of outsourced heart and unsold mind? Apparently they were too busy huffing synthesia to make a gripping record on the first attempt. All's fair ? lots of major groups soiled their pants on the beginning swing and later on recovered in full force. You think a band like Van Halen were hammering out metal brilliance like Running with the Devil on their DEBUT? Wait, well yes they were, but I never much cared for Eddie Van, anywhan. This is Steve Wilson's waste of time- project projected star pocket protector. It's loads of astral psychedelia and alternative hard rock, and this time it isn't fifteen half-minute sound collages in row. 'Synthesia' has some honestly competent hooks to it. Not many, mind you, but you can see the group is actually interested in writing songs this go around.

So there's some wah-wah rock, and some sound effects (you thought you'd gotten rid of them, hadn't you?) and then there's the wimp behind the microphone; with no balls, no range, and no personality to grab ahold of. 'Always Never' is a stumbling waterecho trip, not stirring or rousing or any of that, but a real haven for the 1990's hippies that polluted the streets. Porcupine Tree is the ultimate underground band, because their intended audience is guaranteed to never be able to afford their music.

The title track is boring, recalling Tangerine Dream in a dance club. If you think of outer space and planets and marijuana, it's because that's the only atmosphere they could come up with, as opposed to things folks have a chance of relating to. The goddamn wind chimes are slapped on every song moronically like a big fat fathead flag. Why is that? There is a harder rock sound emerging, but you have to dig for it in the spare instances, like with 'Small Fish', everything else is on the positive side of pathetic.

Report this review (#459146)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars What you are listening to is brilliance!

Up The Downstair is one of my favourite PT albums and came from the best era of the band, before they went too commercial.

Synesthesia: A good opener which represents the psycadelic nature of the album, but my least favorite compared to the rest. - 8/10

Always Never: Really catchy at the start and turns into a slow build up towards a fantastic solo. - 9.5/10

Up The Downstair: Long, interesting, atmospheric and psycadelic. This may take a few listens to appreciate. -8.5/10

Not Beautiful Anymore: This is the heaviest song here and has a great rhythm to provide a very fun listen. It never gets old. - 9/10

Small Fish: A nice short piece with a good solo. It should be treated as an intro to Burning Sky. - 9/10

Burning Sky: A great upbeat journey within this song. It includes a reprise from Small Fish. Arguably the best song on the album. -10/10

Fadeaway: Very majestic and a beautiful close for an amazing album. -10/10

(My review disregards the very small interludes between the songs.)

Report this review (#504598)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The album that makes justice to PT name.

My short review is based off in the original version, not the remastered.

What to say about Up the Downstair, if not a classic prog masterpiece? I was introduced to PT with they´re first albums, in the beginning of 2000. I started to listen Lightbulb Sun, Signify, The Sky Move Sideways and of course, Up the Downstair. I could not help to find similarities to Pink Floyd sounds, but not in a negative way. Musical structures are fairly balanced and in fact, directly providing them in a way, a very unique sound if we check it out closer.

In short, is really sad that some people only discovered PT music through they´re latest albums, but has become a way to discover the pure gold behind them.

I just wanted that they continue down this path now and then, sometimes in the future.

Report this review (#575741)
Posted Saturday, November 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 6/10

The second album by Porcupine Tree (and fortunately the latter as a simple project solo by Wilson) is certainly a big step forward from their debut ugly and confusing, but is still far from doing justice to the band's name. In fact there are highlights relevant here - Always Never was one of the first songs I've heard of the PT and continues to be one of my favorites, and Synesthesia, Fadeway, the title track and Burning Sky are worthy of note - but the potential of Up the Downstair is wasted with a bunch of short tracks and absolutely unnecessary that really do nothing for me. And of course, the album does not have the strength to stand, in our psychedelic moments, either in the passages ambient / electronic. In fact this is not an album as good as I expected. But yes, this is certainly a treat before the crap by Wilson before and with more evidence of what will come later.

Report this review (#587427)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Porcupine Tree returns with the difficult second album. An album that sets them away on their path to stardom.

Steven Wilson cleaned out some cobwebs and overbloated spiders their debut was full of and got them selves a new sound. A much fresher sound. It is obvious that both King Crimson and Pink Floyd is a big inspiration here. Steven Wilson is by all means our generation's Robert Fripp. No wonder they get on so well together and that Steven Wilson has been let loose on remastering of old King Crimson albums. Just listen to this album.....

Up The Downstair is miles more commercial and accessible than any KC album. But the richness in details is still a common theme though. Up The Downstair is a Psychedelic/Space Rock through and through though. Through and through with a large slant of Britpop and 1960s British space rock. Wilson & Co is drawing a lot from The Beatles.

This album is good throughout. My big problem is the lack of any great song and hence my lack of stars for the local star gazers to explore. But this is still an album well worth checking out.

3 stars

Report this review (#599587)
Posted Friday, December 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars If Porcupine Tree's debut, On the Sunday of Life, was the band's nostalgia album (and remember, one of the cassettes its songs were selected from was entitled The Nostalgia Factory), Up the Downstair brings Porcupine Tree into the modern day. Settling on a space rock sound on this release which draws from influences ranging from Pink Floyd to the Ozric Tentacles, Steve Wilson masterfully infuses this sound with carefully selected influences from the worlds of early 1990s dance music and Britpop.

The end result is a progressive rock sound which is genuinely forward-looking and of its time, eschewing nostalgia entirely in favour of saying "well, if we take what's going on now and apply a progressive approach to it, where does that take us"? This has been the secret to the band's success ever since, and as a piece of 1990s prog which is 100% progressive without a shred of "retro" to it, Up the Downstair is an engrossing listen.

Report this review (#610921)
Posted Monday, January 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Porcupine Tree's early album is a surprisingly psychedelic musically driven album with very sombre atmospheres and a great degree of melancholy. Wilson sounds brooding and serious and the music is catapulted by long swathes of synths and gentle vocals. The guitars are often aggressive but as the album progresses the songs get longer and more in the neighbourhood of psych prog with a decidedly spacey soundscape. The music is hypnotic and dreamy overall,

I like the way this opens with a nod towards the Timothy Leary recreation pastime and how essential LSD was to the music of the 60s, similar to what Tool did. 'Synesthesia' is a very good track with some compelling lyrics; "It's only a number, It's only a death, another soldier died in action, The telegram regrets, I'm lying on a stretcher, They're lying to my face, There's no-one left to help me, I'm just a waste of space." The mood is chilling and haunting throughout.

'Up the Downstair' is a mesmirising track with bleak dream of consciousness lyrics "Sleep, Until the colours dissolve, Leave the dream to rain-soak forever, In blessed moments, Viewed from trains of half-truths." The poetic nature of the lyrics is propelled by white hot synth washes and a steady tempo. Another highlight is the improvisational style of jamming as on 'Not Beautiful Anymore' that opens with a woman talking and is experimental and mostly instrumental. I also like 'Burning Sky' with the Hackett like guitars and Ozric Tentacles atmospheres with nuances of Pink Floyd scattered here and there.

Overall, the 1993 album is a very pleasant journey and quite different than other Porcupine Tree albums. I prefer the more recent Porcupine Tree sound but was nevertheless delighted that the band were able to generate such a psychedelic spacey sound back in the early 90s.

Report this review (#714344)
Posted Saturday, April 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The distinct Porcupine Tree sound, which they will perfect in later albums, comes in the form of "Always Never" on this, their second release. By far, a much improved song, than anything from their debut release. "Not Beautiful Anymore" is a nice upbeat, albeit mainly instrumental, piece. So also for "Burning Sky".

While this is an improved offering from the band, it's still not a masterpiece, by any definition. I would award 2½ stars, if there was such a rating, but will give the benefit of the doubt here . . . I always maintained that Progressive Rock music rather grows on you . . . As was the case with a number of the tracks featured here.

Report this review (#1089876)
Posted Saturday, December 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars UP THE DOWNSTAIR is the second official album but really the debut of all original material since "On The Sunday Of Life" was really a compilation of previously released material. After that extremely eclectic album displaying all the possible paths Steven Wilson could steer his faux band turned into the real thing band PORCUPINE TREE, it is this album where he settles on his Floydian space rock sound that not only borrows from the past but also incorporates everything spacey released up to that point. At times this reminds you of Pink Floyd especially in the guitar soloing department but there is also a hint of Ozric Tentacles and their hyper electronic beats, times that remind me of German Krautock and certain passages that show an interest into the heavier riffing that would be much more emphasized on later releases. There is also a smattering of progressive electronic to be found. This was a fruitful time for Wilson. This was originally intended to be released as a double album since in addition to the material presented here he also wanted to include what was released the next year as the "Staircase Infinities" and tripped out material from "Voyage 34" which was released as a single the previous year.

Interesting to see the various opinions ranging on this one. Some praise this album for its prescience of evolving the psychedelic space rock subgenre and others dismiss this as one that is too similar to other surrounding albums being the lesser of the lot. I can see both sides of the debate on this one, however at this point I don't think Wilson had quite developed his space rock sound to the point where it sounds significantly different than his previous workings or other similar bands such as Ozric Tentacles. It is certainly has a Steven Wilson stamp on it but it is one of him at a certain stage of his ever evolving tendencies to add certain sounds here and there. On the other hand I quite enjoy this album even if it may be one of my least favorite of their entire discography. One of the most amazing things about PORCUPINE TREE is that they as a band are incredibly consistent in their quality in both songwriting and production. I find very few peaks and troughs in their music. I find a smooth high quality sound from album to album. This one is no exception. Having said that I do prefer the similar sounding space rock on "Staircase Infinities" a little bit better. The songs are better written and while this is a nice zone out album that you can just surrender and let your intellect dissipate for a while, "Staircase" has more interesting developments for my tastes. 3.5 rounded up

Report this review (#1282808)
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I remember entering this prog-rock forum a few years ago to see which new prog-rock band could satisfy my musical needs, so after reading some reviews I got hold of this disc plus another of Riverside. The latter I only heard twice, as by that time my interest in metal-centered bands would start dwindling. Instead, I was in search for a new sound, which I found in the form of the psychedelic and spacey Up the Downstair soundscapes.

I can't even count the hours I have spent listening to the perfect progression between Siren, Small Fish, and Burning Sky, which in my opinion is the best song progression I ever heard in my life, even surpassing that of Time/The Great Gig in the Sky, which is a hell of progression that now and then plays back in my head. Gosh, I even learnt to play Small Fish with the classical guitar, an instrument with which I seldom play rock tunes.

My love for the soundscape achieved in this album is incommensurable. That trial-speech style intro leading into the powerful chord pattern of Synesthesia is one of Porcupine Tree's finest moments, only to come back in what I regard one of the finest songs of Porcupine Tree's repertoire: Dark Matter. But, let's get back to Up the Downstair. There are two versions: the original with electronic drums, and the remastered one with Gavin and Staircase Infinities as Disc 2. Let's just say that The joke is on you is a perfect match for Up the Downstair.

If you want to listen to Porcupine Tree's rawest psychedelic and space-rock version this is your album. Other albums from the pre-Gavin era don't have that ambient. For instance, "On the Sunday of Life" is playful, "The Sky Moves Sideways" shifts between tight and spaceful, "Signify" is a revolving sound-wall, "Stupid Dream" is light and sorrowful, and "Lightbulb Sun" shifts between acid and mellow. Of course, in Gavin's era Porcupine Tree would add a metal sound-palette that in spite of not being dominant until The Incident, it would provide the band with a more stable soundscape.

Report this review (#1510989)
Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2016 | Review Permalink

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