Porcupine Tree is very kind their fans because apart from the official discography they also have a side-discography plenty of re-releases, remasters, Cd singles and compilations, so we –the fans- are always waiting for new surprises from the band.
Now the band release a wonderful compilation that, as Steve Wilson says, closes a (far in time) stage. This double album arrives late because it was announced time ago. It´s a collection of tracks from the early years of the band until "Signify" album, when they decided to change their musical path and explore new musical territories.
The artwork is great with an amazing cover art (previously released, by the way), a large booklet with lots of photos, the biography of the band, quotes about the albums, and data about each track included in the two albums.
The first album includes tracks taken from 1991 - 1993 stage (there are earlier tracks too), the birth of a project named Porcupine Tree used by Steve Wilson in order to express himself musically with psychedelic tracks, a word that Steve likes a lot and he defines it as: "To use the brain to explore new musical horizons"
Many years before, when this enigmatic guy was twelve years old he already composed and recorded music in a studio built by his father, and he played with a college-band named Karma. In that band he met Alan Duffy who later collaborated writing the lyrics of the early Porcupine Tree songs. This first stage consists of works not very innovative and very influenced by Pink Floyd, without being a copycat. A music with lots of enigmatic and mysterious sounds.
The tracks: CD1
1 "Radioactive Toy" 10:10 This track shows how the band sounded in the early days. Firstly it was released in a cassette and later it was the best track of the first album. I´m happy it has been included in this compilation. A classic track.
2 "Nine Cats" 3:51 A beautiful track, a psychedelic ballad with Floyd 70´s aromas. An acoustic version was also released but I think this one is perfect for the compilation.
3 "And the Swallows Dance Above the Sun" 4:02 Steve writes in the booklet that this is his favorite song of the first album. I´d labeled this song as ambient rhythm techno.
4 "Nostalgia Factory" 7:33 Another track with (almost) techno rhythms, interesting music and “puppet like” vocals that don´t fit with the good instrumental work
This four tracks were included in the first album On the Sunday of Life
5 "Voyage 34 - phase one" 12:54 A wonderful trip. This is the new version also released in the remastered re-release of Voyage 34 - the complete Trip . A jewel.
6 "Synesthesia" 7:54 A extended version of this techno-rhythm track with psychedelic guitars and nervous keyboards. Very, very seductive.
7 "Phantoms" 3:14 Acoustic/electric-atmospheric track where the guitar and the sound echoes wrap everything with a dense mood. This song could be found at internet and now you can find it here in an official way.
8 "Up the Downstair" 10:09 A new mix for this compilation where we can listen to the most mature and sophisticated Porcupine. One of the best songs of this first Cd.
9 "Fadeaway" 6:16 Another new mix of this great psychedelic song. It could have been sung by Bryan Ferry himself because of his savoir-faire.
Tracks 6, 8 and 9 have been taken from the second album "Up the Downstair", although as I said, they´re all remixed.
10 "Rainy Taxi" 6:52 This song was released in the mini album "Staircase Infities" and it is a deep and relaxed instrumental track. You can close your eyes and let your mind float.
The second Cd consists of tracks of the 1994-1997 era, the maturating and confirmation of a true band, with a real line up ready for the search and experimentation.
Before Porcupine Tree, Steve was (and still is) part of a musical duo named No-Man together with Tim Bowness. In their live shows they played along with Chris Maitland and Richard Barbieri. Steve thought that they could be good “partners” for the new Porcupine Tree project. Colin Edwin was an old friend from the neighborhood. All of them were experimented musicians with a great feeling. So Porcupine Tree was a quartet and won quality and sound complexity.
The tracks: CD2
11 "Stars Die" 5:06 This is a great song taken from "Moonloop". Listening to this track you can notice that this music has a special character, something personal that was evolving.
12 "The Sky Moves Sideways - phase one" 18:37 First part of a masterpiece of the called “space rock”, long instrumental developments and elaborated music plenty of cosmic atmospheres. I haven´t more words.
13 "Men of Wood" 3:34 A pop song very rhythmic. It doesn´t fit in the overall style of the band but it suits perfectly in this compilation.
14 "Waiting" 4:28 A dangerous walk in the forest by night. A great song.
15 "The Sound of No-one Listening" 8:12 An instrumental track that invites us in a rhythmical and smart way with Floydian guitars and keyboards to presence a sonic startling landscape. This is a new version for this compilation.
16 "Colourflow in Mind" 3.49 A very calm song with a certain tension that finished as a sonic tragedy.
17 "Fuse the Sky" 4:33 The waves of the sea, and far beyond a strange sound like a boat´s siren. After that you find yourself swimming in a jelly sea accompanied by seagulls.
Tracks 14,15,16 and 17 are taken from CD and 12" single entitled "Waiting" both released before "Signify".
18 "Signify II" 6:04 This is a newer version of this great track. This one is longer and suits with the harmony of this compilation. The band has its own attitude, although some King Crimson´s influences can be heard.
19 "Every Home is Wired" 5:13 Begins with a relaxant massage before a cosmic dream.
20 "Sever" 5:31 Another inspirational track, a suggestive and rhythmical song with an amazing melody.
21 "Dark Matter" 8:12 Gloomy track, cold and enigmatic, with an almighty organ and an acoustic guitar that invites you to dream. At the end of the track, the electric guitar wakes you up and takes you to the reality.
These last three tracks belong to Signify album, end of a stage and start of another.
I truly think that all the material is interesting because you will notice the evolution of sound and ideas. All tracks perfectly suit in this compilation because it wants to keep a sonic coherence, as an evolutional stairway. This compilation is a summary of a creative stage with all its virtues and its mistakes. As you can imagine, this is not a "Greatest Hits" but a collection of tracks that show you how this musical “tree” was planted and how it grew. I´m sure that the die-hard fans will miss some favorite tracks, but this is normal in compilation like this. I didn´t want to review all the songs in depth (this would be very boring for you), so this review is a intuitive guide about what you can feel listening to the tracks. It´s hard to define the music.. the more you try to is the more you are far from its true essence, but I hope you´ll find arguments enough to notice that this is not a simple collector item. This is a music that you´ll enjoy by yourselves alone because you´ll need concentration if you want to have a good “trip”. Musical surrealism plenty of hypnotic sounds, seductive melodies and sophisticated sounds that will abduction you to a new dimension of sound. That´s the music of Porcupine Tree, that´s the music of "Stars Die (The Delerium Years 91-97)"