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Porcupine Tree - In Absentia CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.26 | 2619 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "The music of the future will not entertain. It's only meant to repress and neutralise your brain"

Continuing the trend of more recent albums, the tracks on "In absentia" are generally shorter than the lengthy prog pieces of their early albums. Love them or hate them though, for me there is no doubt that this album warrants the accolade "prog" in no uncertain terms. Gavin Harrison makes his debut on drums here, but this remains of course very much a Steve Wilson led project.

The opening "Blackest eyes" is a heavy but commercial piece with a strong hook, very much in keeping with the direction for the band Wilson appears to have decided he is most comfortable with. The softer mellotron soaked "Trains" which follows has some fine acoustic touches including an odd hand-clap section.

"Lips of ashes" must surely be the gentlest song recorded in the name of Porcupine Tree, the layered harmonies and lilting guitar being akin to something Crosby Stills and Nash would be proud of. "The sound of musak" offers a worryingly cynical prospect for the future of music, with lyrics such as those in the heading above and
"The music of rebellion makes you wanna rage, but it's made by millionaires who are nearly twice your age".

I am sure we can all come up with names for those Wilson is alluding to here. Ironically, the track itself is for me the weakest on the album.

"Gravity eyelids" is a nod back to the band's earlier days, particularly the riff heavy latter part of the track. Initially, Wilson's high vocals suggest this is to be another soft number, but the prog structure of the track results in a reassuringly dynamic song which is drawn together nicely before it concludes.

No explanation is given as to where the "Wedding nails" title comes from. The track is another nod to the past with some basic riffs being developed in a jam-fest of improvisation bordering on the indulgent. "Prodigal" is another commercial piece with a superb arrangement. Wilson adds some of his most dynamic guitar work here, providing the track with a grand conclusion. ".3" segues straight in from "Prodigal", the track effectively being an instrumental part 2. Most unusually, the piece features strings, providing a highly atmospheric backing for what is undoubtedly a highlight of the album.

"The creator has a mastertape" has the most obscure lyrics of the album, no mean achievement given the nature of some of the other lyrics here. "He raised a proper family so he could tie them to a bed" gives an indication of what to expect. Musically, the track is not one of my favourites, the distorted vocals and punk guitar leaving me cold.

"Heart attack in a lay-by" puts Wilson's vocals firmly up front of a soft reflective song which describes a train of though rather than an actual event. The track features some nicely constructed vocal harmonies. "Strip the soul" is only the second track on the album to breach seven minutes running time. The song has a heavy rhythm and the now familiar distorted vocals. Overall, the piece is slightly looser than its peers. The album closes with "Collapse the light into earth" another track which features strings. This delicate piano based song makes for a downbeat end to the album.

The "European special edition" includes a second disc with two further tracks, and the video for a shortened version of "Strip the soul". "Drown with me" is another lightweight, rather inconsequential number with layered harmonies on an acoustic base. "Chloroform" is a slower 7 minute PT epic which is easily strong enough to have been included in the regular edition of the album.

Overall, another fine album by Porcupine Tree, with a number of genuine highlights. While the band continue to refine and develop their sound, I rate this release slightly below those it immediately follows. It remains recommended though.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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