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Porcupine Tree - Signify CD (album) cover

SIGNIFY

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.83 | 1177 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars PORCUPINE TREE's fourth album SIGNIFY displayed the perfect title upon its release for it really did declare that the project that had begun as a joke and had developed into a bona fide solo project of Steven Wilson that continued to gain steam and popularity and to his surprise an amazingly successful career. With a three album run of twisting and teasing Pink Floyd inspired psychedelic space rock and electronic experiments that culminated with the extraordinary "The Sky Moves Sideways," it became apparent that the next step was to incorporate the session musicians who performed on these albums and turn the project into a bona fide band that delivers a distinct band sound that would be supported by touring and audience interaction.

With the official band member status of Richard Barbieri (piano, synth, tapes, sequencers), Colin Edwin (bass) and Chris Mailand (drums, percussion), main man STEVEN WILSON found a new wellspring of creativity which allowed the band to expand beyond the simply tagged psychedelic space rock that dictated the feel of the first trilogy of albums. SIGNIFY is the transition album that didn't jettison what came before but rather married it with a larger palette of musical ideas. The compositions first and foremost became more cohesive with more traditional song structures that were obviously designed to sound more commercial than the free for all psychedelic meandering of the past although certain tracks on SIGNIFY do allow for the same experimentation as those albums.

Perhaps the most startling contrast are the more rock oriented guitar hooks which comes into full prominence on the introductory title track which is a more heavy rock rendition of the Neu! track "Hallgallo" from their 1972 Krautrock classic debut. While the title track rocks out and points to the future, the second track "Sleep Of No Dreaming" seems to get cold feet and point back to the past with a more sedated chilled out feel however it simultaneously shows another direction in conjunct with the heavy rockers. It finds Wilson creating a more lyric centric form of songwriting which displays his tender carefully uttered vocals with the fullest implementation of production value allowed by law. The addition of softer passages that utilize acoustic guitar and dream atmospheric background sweeps would be another major deviation from the psychedelic space rock years.

Many of the tracks on SIGNIFY were actually demos for previous albums but were sitting idle in the backroom and dusted off and rebranded for the new PORCUPINE TREE. Wilson explained that the bass and percussion parts were re-recorded by the now permanent members and they were given liberties to add their personal touches which allowed the full band effect to come to fruition. Colin Edwin contributed many interesting bass lines as well as a stellar double bass run on "Sleep Of No Dreaming." While the albums would continue to get more into the rock scheme of things on SIGNIFY, there are still experimental electronic ambient sections such as "Waiting Phase One" which display the nebulous sound squigglies as heard on the earliest of albums but "Waiting Phase Two" clearly demonstrates the new PORCUPINE TREE with gently strummed acoustic guitars, a soulful Steven Wilson singing his heart out with softened percussion and interesting verse / chorus changes.

Much of the psychedelic holdover was due to the fact that the band recorded this album during the tour of "The Sky Moves Sideways" and the process of switching gears sounds like it was happening organically rather than a forced escapade into the harder rocking world. One could say that these are cleverly crafted pop songs in prog clothing as the basic song structures are actually quite simple but Wilson has always had a gift for milking the potential out of any three chord strum along with outstanding production ingenuity and his unique stamps such as his guitar solos and counterpoints. Tribal rhythms are implemented at times which offer an interesting contrast to traditional rock drumming norms.

Despite not being a solo album, SIGNIFY was recorded as such. Wilson recorded much of the album as a solo project the way he envisioned it and then let the other band members re-record their respective parts separately which basically saw a finished product shift gears one instrumental part at a time until the final product emerged. Even after the album had been released Wilson was never happy and remastered all the original albums to create an even crisper and clearer listening experience. While SIGNIFY is dominated by many sing along type songs, there are plenty of simple zone out moments when the pop rock cedes into space rock and the vocals take a breather and let the instrumental and electronic sections cast their mesmerizing spells.

SIGNIFY is in effect project #1 of the Phase Two era of PORCUPINE TREE which would include the following "Stupid Dream" and "Lightbulb Sun," a trilogy of albums that equally merged the hard rock potential of the future with the earliest psychedelic space rock sensibilities. PORCUPINE TREE has been nothing but consistent in their output over their career and SIGNIFY is no exception. An excellent slice of Mr. Wilson's unique progressive rock outlook with strong catchy hooks that evolve into solid compositions that implemented lyrics concerned about late 90s issues and the addition of those atmospheric emotional tugs and interesting sound effects that allowed the perfect chilled out progressive rock experience. While i find this style would peak on "Lightbulb Sun," SIGNIFY is quite the solid release with tracks like "Sever" providing catchy ear worms and a throw back to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" to boot.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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