GUEST: Jansen Barbieri Karn — Seed

October 1994

“While pretty much every trend of the early 90s now seems horribly dated, the hip-hop-influenced R&B genre called new jack swing now seems wonderfully dated!” —Todd “in the Shadows” Nathanson, 2015

Seed is not a new jack swing album, nor do I particularly want to see these three release a new jack swing album. Let’s put that out there right now and move on.

However. I distinctly recall the first thought I had when I listened to this little mini-album for the first time. I queued it up on my phone, hit play and WHAM. Full nineties. Right in the face.

Growing up in the 90s, my musical DNA consisted of a few disparate strands that don’t necessarily mesh well. Wilson has spoken many times about how his family was one in which Pink Floyd coexisted with Donna Summer. My family was not like that, but if we take Donna Summer as a synecdoche for whatever music was popular in our respective preadolescence, then her role is filled mostly with video game soundtracks. This album sounds more or less what the soundtrack to SimCity 3000 (ayyy) would have been like if the video game was actually set in the year 3000, and I therefore can’t help but love it.

The standout here is self-evidently the first track, an unashamedly trip-hoppy remix of Beginning to Melt that slowly unfolds over the course of eleven minutes. Well, okay, it’s only a remix in the most superficial sense of the word. They took the original song and threw on slapped on a seriously groovy bassline and programmed drum loop. You can’t help but bob your head rhythmically while listening to it. The effect is to pull the song from its original timeless void (one of the few JBK songs up to this point about which this can legitimately be said) and situate it solidly within John Major’s Prime Ministership. And, to be clear, when vaguely downtempo-y music is pretty firmly embedded in your DNA, the sudden temporal grounding works in the song’s favor. If someone made a video for this song, it would probably overflow with every cheesy fish-eyed oversaturated video effect in vogue at the time and it would be wonderful.

The other three tracks are considerably more electronic and chilled-out than the opener, and there’s a direct correlation between how good they are and if all three worked together on them. This, then, means that The Insect Tribe is the most successful; a song in which we get to experience in real time the hesitant feeling out of new sonic territory and then growing comfortable within it. The transition is marked with the introduction of Mick Karn’s bass. He only plays two notes in the song, repeated at critical points, but those two notes are powerful. They’re not so much heard as felt, the sort of bass that makes your bones vibrate. They give the song a depth that it had previously lacked…and are, since it’s Mick Karn, sexy as all hell.

In the Black of Desire and Prey are both strictly Jansen/Barbieri collaborations and sound appropriately chrome and futuristic. Wilson once again has a minor part in the latter, here contributing some electric guitar that’s about as close to funk as you can get without actually being funky, and does a pretty good job of giving the song some punch.

How appropriate that we round out 1994 with an album that screams 1994 from its every pore. While Jansen and Barbieri would collaborate again the next year, as would Barbieri with Karn, both times with Wilson tagging along, the three men wouldn’t release another album as JBK until 1999. This is a bit of a shame, but Barbieri’s been a little preoccupied lately.

Advertisements

Porcupine Tree – Moonloop EP

October 1994
Transmission IV, December 2001

We aren’t going to talk a whole lot about the Moonloop EP in the post we’ve explicitly dedicated to the Moonloop EP because the EP itself is not all that interesting. It’s got two tracks: Stars Die and Moonloop, both of which can be found in some capacity on some version of The Sky Moves Sideways. We are instead going to talk about the song that gave the EP its name.

But first, Stars Die, because this is technically the song’s canonical appearance in Porcupine Tree’s discography (it only shows up on The Sky Moves Sideways’ American release). It’s one of the Space Era’s signature songs, popular enough to name a 2002 compilation album, the American release of this EP, and a preeminent PT/SW fansite, back in the day. I rate it highly. It is indeed a chilled-out space-rock tune that crystallizes the more ethereal aspects of PT’s sound at the time. I feel like I’m at peace, calmly floating in a warm void when I listen to it. But it still isn’t the best thing Porcupine Tree had made up to that point.

No, the real standout of the late Space Era is Moonloop. On 28 June 1994, Wilson, Edwin, Maitland, and special guests Rick Edwards and Markus Butler marched into the Doghouse recording studio outside of Henley and pounded out forty solid minutes of gold, which Wilson then banged into shape two days later at the home recording studio he carved out of his childhood bedroom. Chunks of the result would be released piecemeal for the rest of the 90s until the fan club release of Transmission IV in 2001.

If Voyage 34 is the best thing Space-Era Porcupine Tree released period, the full Moonloop improvisation is the best thing Space-Era Porcupine Tree released as a band. Most of us are already familiar with the cut that shows up on The Sky Moves Sideways, a nice spot of jazzy, trancey space rock that leisurely builds and releases over Edwin’s bass and Edwards’ percussion, and which fades out to archive audio of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. (Hence the name.) It’s great. And, critically, it forms a complete song on its own that fits right in with the atmosphere The Sky Moves Sideways is going for. If the whole forty-minute improvisation showed up on the album it would have overpowered everything else. But just this movement…perfect.

No, the whole schmeer is meant to be enjoyed on its own. The Sky Moves Sideways version fades out after the moon landing, but the Transmission IV version follows that sample up with Richard “Dingbat” Nixon’s phone call to the astronauts, the one that would find a home on Stars Die. This may partially explain why that song stayed off The Sky Moves Sideways’ UK release; two songs in a row ending with audio from the moon landing is probably only appropriate when they’re the only two songs in an EP about the moon landing. But anyway, after the second moon landing sample we move into the song’s second movement, which is basically similar to the first movement except the trancey elements are switched out for something bluesier and funkier, accentuated with harmonica, organ, and chunks of the moon landing sample buried so far back in the mix it sounds like the guitar at first listen. While the bass in the first movement was deliberate and methodical and repetitive, allowing for a template upon which the guitar can squeal however it wants, the bass in the second movement joins in the fun, skipping and jumping and clearly enjoying its newfound freedom…while at the same time remaining the song’s rhythmic backbone. The overall effect is eye-opening. We’re amazed that this was something the song was capable of doing, while at the same time wondering where this had been for the past seven years.

After that, an ambient segue into the song’s third and final movement, a coda in the “traditional-rock-freakout” subgenre. Think the last part of Godspeed’s Providence or Pendulum’s The Tempest and you’re about there. This bit would eventually evolve into the coda found on the 2-CD edition of The Sky Moves Sideways, and in many ways the version there is superior, but what we have here gels better with the song it’s ending, so I can’t complain too much.

In many respects, Moonloop, both song and EP, are pretty good indications of where Wilson and co were headed going into The Sky Moves Sideways; bringing back those Voyage 34 influences (there it is again) and producing something more jazzy and trancey than what we got up till now. And out of it we got the band proper’s first masterpiece and the signature song of the Space Era. This is also the point where Porcupine Tree finally, finally completely severed all links to its joke-band past. Both songs were a full-band endeavor. Both songs were new compositions instead of something dusted off after lying around for a few years. And neither song has lyrics by Alan Duffy.

But we’re still warming up. The true masterpiece is yet to come.

Porcupine Tree – Staircase Infinities

December 1994
Remastered 2004

We’re gonna step out of time for a second here. Technically, the next release after Flame should be the Moonloop E.P., released October 1994, but that’s a not-really-preview of The Sky Moves Sideways, and I don’t want to go on before tying off the last little bits of the Up the Downstair era with a neat little bow.

Once in a while, following an album, Porcupine Tree will release a supplemental EP consisting of some worthy leftovers from the album sessions. Futile followed In Absentia, for example, Nil Recurring followed Fear of a Blank Planet, and The Incident has its second disc. Up the Downstair has Staircase Infinities, which was originally supposed to be the album’s other other back half, and yes we do ~geddit~, with the title, you can stop nudging me now.

There’s five tracks. Cloud Zero, the opener, is an interesting little number, in that it opens and closes with these weird haunting strings and synth noises, with a breezy guitar jam in the middle. Normally those two aspects of the song would clash, but the way the jam fades in in the beginning makes it seem like a very literal definition of escapism.

It’s pretty clear why The Joke’s On You was ultimately left off Up the Downstair: in the same album as Always Never, it would come off as a bit repetitive. But its real antecedent isn’t that song or the otherwise unrelated Karma misfire that gave the song its name, but (of all things) Footprints. The structure is similar: verses sung in the lower register with acoustic backing, while the choruses are more psychedelic and not sung so much as wailed. But here—and like with Small Fish, a lot of this can be attributed to the more polished production—it is as though we’ve rejoined our journeyman from Footprints after an absence of several years, during which time he’s sobered up and matured. It’s like he’s reflecting upon his drug-addled youth, mostly shaking his head at his attempt to find an enlightenment that he now realizes wasn’t there…but at the same time he still feels a twinge of nostalgia for those days and some of the things he’s experienced along the way. There was no destination, but some of the memories are still worth salvaging. I’d say something corny here about where the true enlightenment lies but it’s pretty clear that despite the occasional flashes of light and radiance it was all rather crap.

Navigator is a decent little instrumental that would have been one instrumental too many if it were included on the album. The one big thing Rainy Taxi has going for it is its mood—the title is very appropriate—and one of the earliest appearances of the Patented Porcupine Tree Heavy Vocoder Voice, here repeating “this rainy taxi” or somesuch like a malfunctioning numbers station.

And, of course, there’s Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape. Part of me doesn’t believe this song was ever seriously considered for Up the Downstair because there’s no earthly way it could be included on that album and not cause severe whiplash. Yes, some stuff has changed—there’s a bit more atmospherics, and the on-stage banter is now so distorted it’s unintelligible—but this is in general the same song we remember from Tarquin’s Seaweed Farm. Including the applause. Just like with The Joke’s On You, it’s like we’re checking back in on the fake band after a few years, this time discovering that they’ve graduated from mid-size venues to stadiums. We’re proud of them.

Here’s a nugget. Staircase Infinities was recorded between February 1992 and May 1993. Porcupine Tree became a proper, fully formed band in December 1993, in the middle of recording The Sky Moves Sideways. Between Staircase Infinities and The Sky Moves Sideways only one other thing would be recorded under the Porcupine Tree name: the final two phases, technically remixes, of Voyage 34. Therefore, one could argue that this update of Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape, recorded as it was at this particular fulcrum of the band’s career, released as the final track on the final record Porcupine Tree would make strictly as a solo project, suddenly harkening back to the Fake Band Days long after those pretenses were dropped, was in fact a magical ritual meant to transform Porcupine Tree into a real band.

Yes, Wilson’s not a magical thinker. Neither am I, really. But sometimes you don’t know your own strength.

GUEST: Richard Barbieri and Tim Bowness – Flame

29 August 1994

This is not a big album. There’s not a whole lot in the way of big moments or expansive soundscapes. This is the result when two acquaintances get together and jam for a little bit.1 Flame is a modest record with modest ambitions,2 and in many respects, this is of a piece to the sort of albums that Barbieri worked on with Jansen and (occasionally) Karn at about this time: some small, simple melodic noodlings,3 with a little help from their friends.4 The musical personalities of the two men at the center do show though in the music; through his vocals, Bowness injects a particular delicacy and vulnerability into Barbieri’s darker, more dispassionate synths and keyboards.5 Beyond that, though, there’s not a whole lot to recommend here.6


1 The obvious comparison to Storm Corrosion is both accurate and inaccurate. Accurate in the sense that you should probably expect a one-off collaboration between two progressive-minded musicians to be a jam session, and inaccurate in that people—rightly or wrongly—were expecting Storm Corrosion to be something completely different, and that the album Wilson and Åkerfeldt actually produced is still pretty good.
2 Spoiler alert: I don’t like Flame all that much. But let me be clear, I’m not knocking Flame for being a modest record. Worlds in a Small Room is a modest record and it’s fantastic. So’s Lightbulb Sun, when we get to it. The problem is in the execution, not the concept, and here the execution is…considerably less than the sum of its parts.
3 I feel like if you’re gonna make a modest record, what it lacks in terms of ambition it should make up for with mood, and here they’re only partially successful. In other words, when Flame falters, it falters in the same way acoustic coffeeshop covers of pop songs falter.
4 This round the friends include common denominator Steven Wilson, Steve Jansen, Mick Karn, both Chris Maitland and Gavin Harrison, and Michael Bearpark. Wilson contributes some appropriately spacey guitars to Flame and Song of Love and Everything. And, just like last time, I didn’t notice that was him at first listen. That’s not a strike against his work at all, it just means it fits.
5 In other words: this is an album that only could have been made by these two people in particular. I will be honest, this combination is only partially successful. Bowness’ voice is better suited for songs that are brighter and airier than the stuff Barbieri & co compose for this record. It’s not a coincidence that the song featuring Bowness’ best performance, Brightest Blue, is also the album’s, er, least dark song. But all the same it’s an interesting experiment.
6 I lied. That sax in Time Flown is pretty cool.

Porcupine Tree – Spiral Circus

April 1994

Editorial prologue: it is around noon on April 28, 2018. I’m in Union Square in New York on what is by all accounts a lovely green spring day. I’m sitting under a bright pink flowering tree, mooching off city wifi, giving this entry a final passthrough before posting. In about six hours I will make my way to the PlayStation Theater in Times Square, where I will see Steven Wilson live for the third time in five years.

This both is and is not a coincidence.


“The principle behind the project is to drag progressive rock kicking and screaming into the nineties.” —Steven Wilson

“And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say, ‘Man, what are you doing here?’” —Billy Joel

Just a little over twenty years after the release of Porcupine Tree’s first live album, on my way home from the then-final Blackfield concert in New York City, I had the distinct good fortune to share my bus with a few people who’d come from the same show. I never encounter any Steven Wilson Fans in real life, so it was nice to geek out for a bit while we were all momentarily stranded within Port Authority’s decaying bowels. One of the other people on the bus had mentioned that she’d been following Steven Wilson up and down the East Coast for literal decades, and talked about how back in the early days the man had basically zero stage presence.

To which my immediate response was “Uhhhh…”

steven wilson in a dress

I honestly wish performing in a dress was something he still did from time to time. For one thing, he and Nick Beggs could be twinsies. For another, although we can’t see how he carries himself in the first Porcupine Tree live album, his mumbling, taciturn demeanor between songs gives us a pretty good idea of what the outfits were meant to compensate for.

I do kind of respect the minimalism in that sort of stage presence, though. Get up, do your thing, get down. No theatrics. No fuss. Let the music speak for itself. And honestly, when you’re playing expansive, psychedelic music in a small venue such as Borderline or The Nag’s Head, that gets the job done. You’re allowed to be unpolished. When you’re playing prog metal at a sold-out Royal Albert Hall, however…not so much.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It is December 1993, and we have a band now, so we can go on tour and play these songs properly. Thus, Spiral Circus, their first live album, showcasing their first live performances, and the first steps toward becoming the formidable live act we’d see in Anesthetize and Octane Twisted.

First thing to probably mention is that these guys aren’t like wet behind the ears when it comes to live performance or anything. Wilson’s been performing live in some capacity or other for about a decade by this point, Barbieri even longer. Statuesque stage presence or no, the Tree boys already know how to recreate something perfectly in a live setting. We only say it’s early days because it’s early for this particular project, which wasn’t anyone’s first.

Piggybacking off of that, thing two: the performances may be excellent, but the audio quality on this album is atrocious. There’s pops, there’s hiss, there’s distortion, the sound feels expansive and brickwalled at the same time…that sort of thing. There is some fluctuation thanks to the different recording equipment used in different places, but in general we’re roughly where we were during Tarquin’s freaking Seaweed Farm. That bad.

Third thing to mention is the contribution of the other band members. It irritates me to no end when people think of Steven Wilson as the sole reason the projects he’s involved in are great, which is why I try and bend over backward to highlight the contributions of others when they contribute something great too. For instance: Colin Edwin’s bass, which to me is consistently the greatest thing about Porcupine Tree in the 90s. Boy howdy does that man know his way around the low end. Maitland’s drumming and Barbieri’s keyboards are no slouches either. Wilson may write the songs, but it’s the band that performs them and makes them their own. And even in these first three shows it’s clear that Barbieri, Edwin, and Maitland’s little flourishes have all given something to these songs that we didn’t know they were missing until just now.

And that alone makes this album worth listening to. These are their first three live performances as a band, and already it’s clear they have unbelievable chemistry. These aren’t seeds of promise we’re listening to here. We’re already great, we just have to wait for the rest of the world to catch up…and give us some live recording equipment that isn’t garbage.

No-Man – Flowermouth

April 1994

Flowermix, September 1995
Remastered October 2005

In the entry for Lovesighs: An Entertainment, I wrote the following:

“If I were to choose between those two sides of No-Man, I definitely prefer the trip hop side, largely because the failure mode of trip hop isn’t a formless mush the way it is with ambient music, so it was welcome to see an album where No-Man pulled together all the things they did in that vein, even if it wasn’t 100% successful. Might also explain my response to what they’d get up to later.”

This is, upon further reflection, not quite a true statement. Flowermouth sees the band upsetting that delicate balance, drifting more toward ambient-influenced music, and creating a stronger record for it. Part of the issue with what I said earlier is that the trip-hoppy aspects of their sound evolved largely from the time and place (80s/90s England) where the band was formed, whereas the ambient parts of their sound form an emotional core. It provides a path forward when trip hop becomes decadent and ossified. The other problem with that statement is that while it’s much easier to screw up ambient music, the reward for doing it right is something transcendent, almost spiritual. And god help me, they did it.

In addition, leaning on the ambient side of their sound short-circuits another concern I had. In the entry for Ocean Song, I wrote the following:

“Honestly, in a typical No-Man song the violin is doing quite a bit of the work […] He [Coleman] is, at this stage, the glue holding No-Man’s artistic output together, and I think I’m going to sorely miss him once he’s gone.”

Yes, at this stage, meaning that period between 1990 and 1993. His relative absence was deeply and profoundly felt in Loveblows and Lovecries. Not quite so much here. He’s featured on seven of the album’s nine tracks, but he’s no longer shouldering so much of the responsibility for making them good. Nor are they wheeling him out to do a violin solo when they need to fill space. (…usually. *Looks askance at Shell of a Fighter.*) His parts are actually accentuating the music now. So while I’m still going to miss him once he’s gone, especially because this album gestures in a direction their music would have gone if he stayed with the band, it’s clear No-Man isn’t going to fall apart without him.

In a 2000 interview with Anil Prasad, the band said that Flowermouth was an attempt to go back to making “pure No-Man music” after spending the previous four years playing the Music Industry Game by the rules with little to show for it except serious record label tension. In many respects the attempt was successful. However, in listening to this album it becomes quite clear that the trip hop sound didn’t come from their heart as much as their attempt to mold themselves in One Little Indian’s image in the hopes they’d sell more records. (But what about Wild Opera, you say. We’ll get to that next time.) The verses of You Grow More Beautiful and Soft Shoulder in particular sound forced, almost perfunctory, like the disintegration of their relationship with their old label left behind a malfunctioning autopilot and they’re still playing what’s expected of them. The choruses of both songs, however, are soaring and beautiful. If not for the characteristically melancholy lyrics, they’d sound downright anthemic. They sound like how No-Man want to sound.

It would be reductive to say that all the electronic performances were soulless or done without passion. Simple, for instance, is a taut, tense piece of trancey dance pop majesty. Richard Barbieri’s contributions to Shell of a Fighter are what make (or, less charitably, rescue) that song. Going back to the Soft Shoulder chorus, its almost shoegazey wall of sound is brilliant. As clear as it is that their wheelhouse is firmly on the organic side of things, and they know it, they can do something harsher when they want to.

Speaking of stuff that’s organic, Mel Collins. His soprano saxophone solo on the first track sounds like it wandered in from a Dave Matthews Band jam session, and in the twenty seconds it works its magic it injects more urbanity to the album than a million programmed 90s drum beats ever could. (The first track in general is excellent, really.) His flute solo at the end of Animal Ghost is no slouch, either, pulling the track it’s on in a different, more natural and ethereal direction. The horn boy only shows up on the album three times, but he contributes some of its greatest moments, and is arguably as integral to the Flowermouth sound as Ben Coleman.

And finally, there’s the last track. Things Change is a brutal, merciless, gut-wrenching portrait of a dead relationship’s very final moments, slowed down second by excruciating second. It is, to its credit, very hard to listen to, especially with Tim Bowness’ repeated, pleading refrain of “You’re leaving me behind” reminding us exactly what’s going on here. Twisting the knife further, this breakup is reframed as the culmination of a slow drifting apart, an occurrence as natural as changing seasons, underscoring that Bowness is powerless to stop what’s happening. He can only stand and watch as his lover moves on without him. Ouch.

The drums are by Chris Maitland, who you may know. It is, in fact, partially on the strength of his work on this album that Maitland was invited to join Porcupine Tree. Well done, lads.

  1. Flowermouth
  2. Loveblows & Lovecries: A Confession

*record needle scratch* We’ve forgotten something.

A big problem with pulling together the No-Man bits of this retrospective is that their supplemental stuff, remix albums, EPs, and such, are stupid hard to find. In contrast, I was able to listen to every single album in that JBK post all the way through. But No-Man has pretty consistently had the largest proportion of Stuff That Can’t Be Found On The Internet Without A Torrent Or A Paid Spotify Subscription, and it’s given me a lot of problems. And that includes Flowermix, this album’s now-deleted companion remix record.

Between the cassette and CD versions, there are twelve songs that are featured on this album. YouTube, as of this writing, has four: Angeldust, Faith in You, Sample, and Why the Noise. All four are worth listening to at least once, but Angeldust is my personal favorite, largely because it takes that lovely soprano sax solo (soprano sax is the true sex sax) and lets it permeate the rest of the track the way it wants to. It’s not quite its centerpiece, but it’s pretty dang close, and I love it for that.

I wish I could find the others.

[Update 10/12/18: Glory hallelujah, here’s the whole thing. Flowermix, it turns out, is about an hour of trancey goodness, sounding roughly like what would happen if Bowness had substantially contributed to Voyage 34. A lot of the songs on here are elevated when they’re presented as their own standalone thing instead of as a remix of something else. The first track is still the standout, although the closer, Born Simple, is no slouch either. I actually might like it better than the source material.]

Porcupine Tree – Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape

Recorded 1989-1991, Released 1994, Remastered 2013

INTERVIEWER!SW: “You did mention recently in an interview in New Musical Express that you were considering issuing a box of unreleased demos and–”

MUSICIAN!SW: “Well, the thing at the moment, the way the money’s going, I think the box will be as far as we get, an empty box.”

[Ten solid seconds of laughter]

INTERVIEWER!SW: “I see.”

There’s a lot of stuff that happened between the release of On the Sunday of Life and this thing, don’t think we’ve forgotten, but this thing consists of most of what didn’t make it on Sunday, so we may as well knock this out while we’re here.

Most of what was relegated to Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape are some of the more ambient/experimental tracks from Tarquin’s Seaweed Farm and The Nostalgia Factory, aka the ones primarily responsible for wrecking their flow and causing them to drag. This is not to say that the songs, when considered in a vacuum, are terrible. Mute, for instance, is very good and performs spectacularly in its role as album opener. An Empty Box, The Cross, and the title track are also excellent. But (a) it’s no coincidence that those three are some of the more structured songs on the album, and (b) I have a very hard time finding a place to slot them in on Sunday. So here they are.

Furthermore, even though this album contains some of the more filler-y entries from Tarquin’s and Nostalgia Factory, care has been taken to make sure things progress smoothly. The more ambient tracks fade into each other. They do the same thing they did on Sunday where some balance is struck, structurally, between shorter ambient intermissions and longer Actual Songs. Having the title track be the second to last song on the album as opposed to the closer allows Music for the Head to function as a sort of epilogue that allows us to catch our breath after the thundering wall of sound has abated. The improvement here is considerable.

Other random notes. Listening to these songs again in their new context got me to pick up on certain things I didn’t notice the first time around. For instance: No Reason To Live, No Reason To Die has audience applause and chatter spliced in; so before where I thought it functioned as a sort of spiritual sequel to Radioactive Toy, it now feels like a real song the fake band is actually performing live in all its technicolor glory. Radioactive Toy itself, now that the ten-minute version exists, feels incomplete if it’s not closed out with a five-minute solo (although the fuzz effect over the vocals lends a particular air of desperation to the smart kid’s situation, as it makes it sound like his equipment is dying). Colours Dance Ang—er, “Track 11”—is able to do more to justify its existence when divorced from Linton Samuel Dawson. Hokey Cokey becomes considerably creepier when it’s called “Execution of the Will of the Marquis de Sade,” as the effect is less “haunted house phonograph on LSD” and more “sadomasochistic torture chamber on LSD.”

Now for the two songs that weren’t on the first and last tapes. The first is Out, which only shows up on the vinyl version, replacing the Prince cover for probably obvious reasons. I…honestly prefer seeing The Cross there. It’s a better fit, and also, quite frankly, a better song, probably the best from this point in Wilson’s musical career. Out belongs on a much tighter record, like the one it was yanked from. Speaking of Love, Death, & Mussolini, it’s also pretty obvious why that version of It Will Rain For A Million Years, good as it is, can’t be found anywhere else: it doesn’t fit anywhere else.

The second is An Empty Box, which has somewhat of the opposite problem of It Will Rain For A Million Years, in that it clearly didn’t fit in any of the demo tapes, but its thundering drums and wailing, squealing guitars work great here.

And that’s it. That’s the detritus of the early era dusted off and released. Most of it’s filler, but there are some serious gems here that shouldn’t be overlooked. Now the ghosts of the past have been dealt with and Porcupine Tree can finally move on as a proper band. This was, after all, released not long after Barbieri, Edwin, and Maitland formally joined and Porcupine Tree ceased functioning as a Steven Wilson solo project.