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Porcupine Tree - Tarquin's Seaweed Farm (K7) CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.39 | 66 ratings

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3 stars The story of Porcupine Tree's strange and unique first recording starts back a few years before the album was recorded. It all starts with Steven Wilson, of course, who, when he was 15 years old and the year was 1983. Wilson recorded some music along with Si Vockings on keyboard under the band name 'Altamont'. Alan Duffy, who ran Imaginary Records, sent Wilson some lyrics inspired by the love both of them had for Syd Barrett, and wondered if Wilson could provide the instrumental and music background for them. Wilson says that the music on Altamont's first album was really a compilation, two tracks from Duffy and two tracks that he (Wilson) recorded on his multi-tracking equipment in his own home along with Si. (Another album was released in 2002 that had more Altamont music on it that was originally improvised live onto cassette tape from 1983 ' 1985). Although there weren't too many copies made, there were a few tracks that actually got put onto sampler albums, and these tracks started the underground following that became Wilson's first fans.

There was also another band that Steven helped form along with 3 of his friends in school called 'Karma'. In October of 1983, this band released a demo tape called 'The Joke's on You' which features the original 15 minute version of 'Nine Cats' which became a popular Porcupine Tree song. It also contains the original version of 'Small Fish' another track that was used by Porcupine Tree. Another demo tape was made by this band in 1985 called 'The Last Man to Laugh'. The psychedelic music produced by Altamont and Karma was circulated in the London musical underground and these tapes were creating quite a name for Steven, so even that early, he was on his way.

Finally, in 1987, Wilson formed two projects. One of these is the well-known 'No-man' who he formed with Tim Bowness and Ben Coleman as an art-rock trio, who, in the early years, remixed many of their songs to make them usable in dance clubs. The 2nd project he formed was done as a joke, or fake band, known as Porcupine Tree. Steven and a friend of his created a fictional band made up of non-existent band members with ridiculous names and backstories. The band was supposed to be a fake, legendary seventies psychedelic band. To back up this story, Steven recorded music and compiled it onto a cassette known as 'Tarquin's Seaweed Farm' and a 2nd one known as 'The Nostalgia Factory'. Copies of these tapes were sent out to various people, including the magazine 'Freakbeat' which was run by an individual who was setting up a record company. A few tracks were used on some compilation tapes and that sparked even more interest in the London underground.

Steven continued to distribute these two tapes while the record company was being formed. He was eventually invited to be the first artist signed to one of the labels (Delerium) and they wanted to release the two Porcupine Tree cassettes on 2 different double albums. Wilson decided instead to compile what he felt were the best tracks and released what would become known as 'On the Sunday of Life'. That would become PT's first original album. The remainder of the material from these first two cassettes would eventually be released on the collection called 'Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape'. Both of these albums would be remastered and a lot of the music from YHD would be re-recorded.

So, there you have a brief history of the beginnings of Porcupine Tree, who would become one of the most influential and important progressive rock bands to arrive in more recent years. This review is for the first demo tape called 'Tanquin's Seaweed Farm' also sub-titled 'Words from a Hessian Sack'. This was originally an 80 minute tape released with a booklet of fake information about the band. It was reissued by Delerium in 1991 with a limited run of 300 copies. All of the tracks were performed by Steven Wilson (so in actuality, it is a Wilson solo album). The tracks were also all written by Wilson except for 'Jupiter Island' which was cowritten by Alan Duffy, 'Clarinet Vignette' cowritten by Tim Matthews and 'The Cross' which was written by Prince.

Side A of the tape is supposedly all studio recordings while Side B is the live recordings. Side A consists of mostly psychedelic music inspired by those bands from the 70's. Many of the songs from side A are on 'On the Sunday of Life' (hereafter abbreviated as OtSoL) which can still be found quite easily. There are a few of the titles that are changed, but most of the music remains the same. Starting with 'Music for the Head (Here)' we get a psychedelic instrumental introduction to the album. It is minimalistic and it creates suspense for the following track. You get woodwind effects and sitar over sustained synth drones. This leads into 'Jupiter Island' which has a real 80's sound to it, upbeat with high speed vocals. It is said that Wilson didn't think his regular voice was good enough, so he had it sped up, and that is the case with most of his vocals on this album. The percussion is programmed, there are a lot of spacey effects and the vocals come in. There is a guitar solo on the instrumental break. The tune is pretty basic leaning towards space rock.

There is a slight difference in the naming of the tracks here between the original and OtSoL. On this album, the track is called 'Nun's Cleavage ' Left' while on OtSoL it is called 'Third Eye Surfer', but the music is the same. The track is another psychedelic instrumental with improvised percussion overlayered by synth improvisation and effects. The 2 tracks on the original are 'Clarinette Vignette' and 'Nun's Cleavage ' Right'. These two tracks were combined on OtSoL and renamed as 'On the Sunday of Life', but again, the music remains the same. The former track is more ambient with a lovely clarinet solo that eventually fades into more psychedelia of the latter track.

At this point, OtSoL places the title track from the 2nd album 'The Nostalia Factory' as the next track. After that, it returns to the same sequence as Tanquin's Seaweed Farm with the scary, yet funny satirical track 'Space Transmission'. This one has spoken word vocals that have been processed through synths and is a first person telling of a strange prisoner trapped by an even more evil entity. This should raise the short hairs on the back of your neck. After this, 'Message from a Self-Destructing Turnip' is a short and silly track.

At this point, both this album and OtSoL have the popular track 'Radioactive Toy', but the versions are quite different. 'Tanquin's Seaweed Farm' has the original version which is much shorter and missing the amazing guitar solo that is on OtSoL. So if you are looking specifically for that song, I would suggest getting OtSoL. If you are a collector interested in the original version, then you will want this album. The remaining tracks on Tarquin's Seaweed Farm are not on OtSoL, but most of them are on 'Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape', but in slightly different versions. The remainder of the tracks on OtSoL are from 'The Nostalgia Factory'.

Most of the rest of the album is instrumental with a few sections with processed vocals. 'Towel' is the next track and it returns to instrumental psychedelia. This track is more guitar driven than previous instrumentals on this album. It is a bit more melodic with some wild percussion, at least up until the last 45 seconds when it gets quite haphazard sounding. 'Wastecoat' is more psychedelia with synthesized effects, warped and spacey sounds, very glitchy sounding. Finally, we come to a longer track at over 8 minutes, a mostly instrumental track called 'Mute'. Some very strange sounds start this off which sounds like it might have come off of The Residents 'Eskimo' album. Other than that, it has some ambient sounds with minimal drones and effects, some lovely synth improvisation and whatnot. It builds to a nice space rock style similar to the instrumentals on 'Up the Downstair' and 'The Sky Moves Sideways', so its very melodic and lovely, mostly produced by guitar. In the middle, the music fades needlessly into the background and the track gets ruined by some stupid spoken vocal effects. The music fades back in again later though. (The version of this track that appears on Yello Hedgerow Dreamscape is a different version than this one.) This side ends with another version of the beginning track this time called 'Music for the Head ' There' which is more psychedelia and ambience.

This is where Side B finally starts. There are only 3 tracks on this side, but they are all quite long. This is supposedly the Live part of the album, but I am pretty certain that the 'live' part is only pre-recorded crowd noises. This starts with the 11 minute track 'No Reason to Live, No Reason to Die'. This is pretty much an improvised instrumental music inspired by space rock and psychedelic bands with the guitar being the main instrument while everything else is support. The beat is moderately slow with synths playing sustained chords and notes. The keyboards help with improvisation later on and they alternate with the guitar for the lead instrument. As the track continues, the rhythm slowly picks up in tempo. Before you hit the 9 minute mark, the music becomes ambient and atmospheric for the remainder of the track. 'Daughters in Excess' is another psychedelic instrumental track lasting almost 7 minutes. It starts off minimal, but after a few minutes, it gets quite loud with screaming guitars and effects and wild percussion.

The final track is actually a combined track of 3 songs. 'The Cross' starts out the track which actually has vocals which were written by Prince (this is a cover). The 2nd part is called 'The Hole' and it is a short spoken word vocal that sounds like someone trying to get the crowd excited. This section is not available on any other compilation and is left off of Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape, but you aren't really missing much as it is part of the original 'joke' of the fake band trying to get the crowd excited. The last section is called 'Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape' and it makes up most of this 20 minute track. It is all instrumental and contains more space rock style music driven by the guitar. This finishes off the album.

This album will not appeal to a lot of people, unless they are already fans of Porcupine Tree. Remember, this is the band (or at least Steven Wilson) at the beginning of his career. It is not a recording you want to start out with if you are planning on exploring PT's discography. It is pretty much a document of where Steven's head was in the beginning and shows you where this amazing band started out. Nevertheless, for a young Steven Wilson, it is still somewhat astounding, especially considering that he taught himself how to play guitar and keyboards. If you are interested in this music, you would be better off searching for On the Sunday of Life and Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape, as you will most likely not find this recording. If you must hear it, your best bet would be to try to find the recordings that are on You Tube, but be aware that those recordings are not always the originals.

Since I am a rabid Porcupine Tree fan, I find this recording to be very interesting and entertaining. It definitely is not my favorite by the band, not even close, but I enjoy it for the historical aspects and being able to hear Steven Wilson when he was starting out. I find a lot of gems on this recording, and, since I am kind of a purist when it comes to SW, I want to hear it in the order that it was originally intended, with the untouched recordings. So it is important to me. But, I got to keep this all subjective, so, the actual recording is obsolete as far as most of the public is concerned. But because SW is so talented, and there are a lot of treasures here, I have to at least give it 3 stars. But in reality, to me it means a lot more than it would to others. As far as the length of this review, I just had to get it out of my system and hopefully add some insight into the beginnings of this amazing artist, and maybe it will help others understand Porcupine Tree's early music and the growth of the band.

TCat | 3/5 |


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