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Porcupine Tree - Voyage 34 - The Complete Trip CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.34 | 449 ratings

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3 stars 'Voyage 34: The Complete Trip' is considered a compilation album only because it combined two albums which were comprised of the first 2 phases on one album, released in 1992, and phases 3 and 4 on another album, released in 1993. All of the phases are collected in this album in a remastered version and released in 2000 and then again in 2004. The music is completely instrumental, except for some spoken word passages, some voice samples, and samples from Dead Can Dance's 'As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins' can be heard throughout the entire album. It is all psychedelic and spacey. The music is not like most of Porcupine Tree's other albums in that it is more like space rock and more akin to Steven Wilson's earlier projects (Altamont, Karma) and some of his experimental projects (I.E.M., Bass Communion). The main thing is, don't go into this album thinking it's typical PT music, because you will be disappointed. SW even says this was meant to be experimental and trippy. All of the instruments are played by SW except for some of the keyboards in Phase IV, which also features Richard Barbieri, who would later become a permanent member of PT. Each phase takes up a complete side of the records in this two record set.

Another thing to note here, is that the first 2 phases are comprised of original music, while the second 2 phases are remixes. Phase III is remixed by the British electronic group 'Astalasia' and Phase IV is remixed by Wilson and Barbieri, with the original material being the source material in both cases. The first 2 phases were originally supposed to be released as a single 30 minute track as part of the album 'Up the Downstair' which would have made that album a double album. This music was also released towards the end of the 'ambient' movement, and SW feels that it fits in better in that trend of music than anything else. The music definitely has that ambient feel, especially in the third and fourth phases.

I was lucky enough to find this CD in a discount bin, and I couldn't believe my eyes at the time because I knew how hard it was to find. I also knew what the music was about because I was trying to explore everything Porcupine Tree at the time. So, I went into this album knowing what to expect. I still had a hard time listening to it at first, but it grew on me over time, especially when I was able to get more information about it. The booklet that is included with the CD has all of the words from the narration in the first phase and the words from the spoken samples in the 2nd phase along with some pictures that fit the music perfectly.

Phase I starts off with the spoken word passage that explains the nature of the music which illustrates a LSD trip experience by a person named Brian and his friends. After the short introduction, the foundation is established for the first section of Phase I, which some will recognize as being very similar to the foundation of the song 'Run Like Hell' by Pink Floyd. There are also atmospheric sounds and other vocal sounds which represent the people involved in the LSD experiment. This phase is somewhat similar to PT's 'The Sky Moves Sideways', which is also a long instrumental, but which is also more interesting music wise than this more ambient music. At 6 minutes, you enter into the second section of the track with another narration explaining the progress of the trip. You can hear singing from time to time, that is the Dead Can Dance sample. The foundation has changed now, no longer resembling Pink Floyd's song. At around 8 minutes, SW's guitar kicks in and things get more interesting as he begins a melodic solo. This is probably the most melodic passage in the entire collection as the rest of it remains quite space and ambient, and it also makes Phase I the best of the bunch, even if the narration is a little off- putting.

Phase II gets rid of the narration, but still utilizes voice recordings of Timothy Leary and other samples throughout the piece. It builds from atmospheric sounds and some exotic sounding percussive noises are introduced as different vocal samples swirl around with the music. At around 5 minutes, percussion and guitar come in with the repeating notes similar to the first foundation in Phase I, so there is that connection to Pink Floyd again. There is some sustained and psychedelic guitar chords and keyboards added, making things more interesting, but not as melodic as the first. The feel is more improvised than it was in the first phase thus making it more like Krautrock as everything is based off of one chord and a 4/4 meter. At the 10:30 mark, things turn more ambient and psychedelic as vocal samples continue. Then at 12:00 minutes, drums and bass kick back in with guitar and keyboards again.

As I said before, Phase III is a remix of the first 2 phases by the band 'Astralasia'. This explains why this track sounds more ambient and less like the first 2 phases. The samples used throughout the original material and chopped up and made into echoing noises. This is the type of music that you can easily meditate to or used as background music. It is built on a simple repeating 2 chord pattern with the small sections of the original looped and layered repetitively and the changes are subtle throughout. There is nothing melodic about it, just simple ambient music with a light beat. This goes on for more than 19 minutes. Yes, it is hard to sit through.

Phase IV is also a remix done by SW and Richard Barbieri. It is a foreshadowing of the 'Bass Communion' sound. It starts off with eerie sounding drones, atmospheric loops and vocal samples. Things turn more psychedelic at 4 minutes when things start feeling a little brighter with flute loops (sounds like a breakfast cereal). Atmospheric guitar notes swirl around with a subdued percussive noise in the background. This pattern repeats for quite a while as this track isn't in a hurry to get anywhere. Around 9:45, the repeating loops end and we are left with a subdued tribal percussion with bubbly, synth sounds and the return of vocal samples. Once again, a drone starts and echoing sounds begin and the eerie feeling starts again. At 13:40, there is silence. This lasts until 18:45 when synths fade in creating a final psychedelic atmosphere until the end at over 20 minutes. There is a little more going on in this phase than the last one, but it is still quite ambient for the most part.

So, the album is more of a curiosity for the more devoted fans of Porcupine Tree, or for the fans of Steven Wilson's more experimental music. The first 2 phases are the best and the last 2 are more ambient without a lot going on in them. Many have said that 'The Sky Moves Sideways' and 'Moonloop' are better examples of good psychedelic space rock in the PT discography, and they are right. However, we have to remember that this album was released early on in SW's and PT's career. Because half of it is good and the other half is more for background music, this will at least get 3 stars. But hopefully after reading this, listeners can understand the entire work a little better.

TCat | 3/5 |


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