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Thread: FEATURED CD: Porcupine Tree - Up The Downstair

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    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    FEATURED CD: Porcupine Tree - Up The Downstair



    Many of these early 90s "revival" albums are now 20 years old!

    Review from Sputnik Music:
    Summary: You don't need sex under LSD



    At this point in time Porcupine Tree was a one man band, Steven Wilson had already created his first record "On the Sunday of Life" which succeeded but also failed in many ways, but it was a necessary stepping stone towards success. While the previous album took a more playful and whimsical approach, Up the Downstair is much maturer record and vast step up from it's predecessor in every way possible. The overall sound is substantially more interesting, fusing elements of progressive, psychedelic and space rock, with britpop and even techno, to create a unique and diverse soundscape. From the get go the album sets a dreamy atmosphere, the opening lines of What You Are Listening To set the tone for the rest of the psychedelic drug influenced tunes. The second track Synesthesia instantly impresses with it's unbelievably catchy melody and upbeat britpop influenced drive. Synesthesia is perhaps the single most upbeat song on the album, it has a real effervescent quality about it, but it's certainly not the most memorable, the longer more ambient tracks are the real gems. The title track is perhaps the greatest example, easily being one of the bands best songs, it successfully combines techno beats with spacey textures. The two final tracks are similar in this regard too, while Fadeaway is a much moodier piece containing some of the best melodies the band has ever produced. But even the more rocking tracks such as Not Beautiful Anymore retain the mood of the epic tracks.

    While Steven Wilson may be a massive bellend, there is no denying his chops, his talent especially shines through on this record, him being the sole songwriter and playing the majority of the instruments. His guitar work especially is extremely impressive and at the top of it's game on this record, his heavily Gilmour inspired leads blend magnificently with the dark brooding rhythm section. His lyrical output is also vastly superior to his later conceptual offerings. The production is also more pleasing than the bands later outputs, being less harsh and overblown which gives the subtle samples, synths and instruments room to breathe.

    Porcupine Tree simply were a better band before they decided to focus on a more metal orientated, less experimental style, their psychedelic sound was better realised, especially on here and the following album "The Sky Moves Sideways". Even if you've heard their later works and you found them unimpressive this is worth giving a shot, as it bares hardly any resemblance to their later albums. Up the Downstair remains the most underrated and overlooked album in their discography and is their first truly great album and is ultimately among their very best.





    WANTED: Sig-worthy quote.

  2. #2
    Member scags's Avatar
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    It's ok, but I really prefer the later stuff, when he wasn't trying to channel Floyd.

  3. #3
    Great Album...Love the vibe..Kinda a cross btw prog and college music......

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    Yeah it's hard to hear the Downstair/Sky Moves Sideways/Voyage 43 era without thinking of Pink Floyd or the Orb (who Wilson also seemed to be quite influenced by back then), but with Crimson-style riffing. I feel the music lacks a bit of soul but Wilson is talented enough to make it a real good listen anyway. Keeping this under 50 minutes was a great move and the re-recorded version (with the new drum track) sounds great!

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    Member ItalProgRules's Avatar
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    Love it. This was the era of PT that I fell hard for.


    Quote Originally Posted by Poisoned Youth View Post
    Many of these early 90s "revival" albums are now 20 years old!i
    Yeah, how time has flown!
    High Vibration Go On - R.I.P. Chris Squire

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    Quote Originally Posted by JAMOOL View Post
    Yeah it's hard to hear the Downstair/Sky Moves Sideways/Voyage 43 era without thinking of Pink Floyd or the Orb (who Wilson also seemed to be quite influenced by back then), but with Crimson-style riffing. I feel the music lacks a bit of soul but Wilson is talented enough to make it a real good listen anyway. Keeping this under 50 minutes was a great move and the re-recorded version (with the new drum track) sounds great!
    Tha's about how I feel about it. Was PT a working band on this, or is it mostly Wilson? I generally like it.

  7. #7
    I quite like the introduction of metal to their music. The older stuff was quite good, in fact very good, but Inabsentia onward to their last CD - The Incident was my fav years. IMHO!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JSS View Post
    Tha's about how I feel about it. Was PT a working band on this, or is it mostly Wilson? I generally like it.
    It was basically Wilson solo. Signify was the first "band" release.

  9. #9
    The best era for Porcupine Tree.
    Macht das ohr auf!

    COSMIC EYE RECORDS

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    Quote Originally Posted by spacefreak View Post
    The best era for Porcupine Tree.
    I agree. I like their music best up through "The Sky Moves Sideways". When PT went in a more metal/arena rock direction, they became pretty hit or miss for me.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Rael View Post
    I agree. I like their music best up through "The Sky Moves Sideways". When PT went in a more metal/arena rock direction, they became pretty hit or miss for me.
    Indeed. Signify was their last truly interesting album to my ears, and from there it was basically all turning on the same formula with aims and hopes of refining it. There are some good things on most of their releases, but back in 1991-96 PT was a good to great project overall.

    Wilson is already establishing his rather simplistic recipe of structure, melody and arrangement at this point, but he had more of an artistic message than the constant sterility of much that came later.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

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    Wait - Sky Moves Sideways was mostly Wilson solo? It sounds so much fuller than the other two...

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by JSS View Post
    Tha's about how I feel about it. Was PT a working band on this, or is it mostly Wilson? I generally like it.
    Mostly Wilson. This was the first one to include a couple contributions from others (mainly Barbieri, as I recall), but it was a little while more before PT became a functioning band.

    Quote Originally Posted by JAMOOL View Post
    Sky Moves Sideways was mostly Wilson solo? It sounds so much fuller than the other two...
    Half and half. All the members appear on TSMS at some point, but it's more solo than not (I'm not sure the others even play together). It was somewhat in the middle between the all-solo work and Signify, which was the first one made entirely as a band.

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    I know many here prefer the later stuff but I've always preferred the early stuff simply because it has so many Floyd influences. The last good album for me was Signify.....after that...meh! The Sky Moves Sideways is probably my fav album. Actually, the 2 tracks TSMS (phase one) and TSMS (phase two) are the only tracks of the 5 on SMS that feature the whole band. SW is alone and sings and plays everything on the other 3 tracks.
    Last edited by PeterG; 01-16-2013 at 02:55 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spiral View Post
    It was somewhat in the middle between the all-solo work and Signify, which was the first one made entirely as a band.
    Exactly. SMS is far more a solo album with guest musicians on 2 tracks than it is a band album.

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    Big fan of this era of PT, but I definitely prefer Signify to this. I think In Absentia is a brilliant recording but is the only one of the more prog-metal era that I think is special. .
    "The woods would be very silent if the only birds that sang were those who sang best..." - Henry David Thoreau

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by spacefreak View Post
    The best era for Porcupine Tree.

  18. #18
    Not a fan of Signify. I like a lot of Deadwing. Not knowing any of their other material, what can you guys recommend that is more in the PF vein, and not in the metal area? Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterG View Post
    Exactly. SMS is far more a solo album with guest musicians on 2 tracks than it is a band album.
    There's also a difference between the initial versions of these albums and the more recent reissues where SW replaced some of the original tracks (drums I know, also I think some keyboards?) So the original versions sound more like a home studio effort (though a remarkably good one).

    But add me as more of a fan of this era of PT than the more recent releases. Wilson was just bubbling over with creativity, plus the experimentation in projects like IEM and Bass Communion were feeding into PT, which just heightened the "anything goes" atmosphere. The predictability factor was much lower, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by rapidfirerob View Post
    Not knowing any of their other material, what can you guys recommend that is more in the PF vein, and not in the metal area?
    This was discussed in PE 2.0 to death, but the next one after this -- The Sky Moves Sideways -- is considered the pinnacle of Floyd-sounding PT. The first PT album, On the Sunday of Life, is also somewhat Floydian but more from the Syd Barrett side of things. Starting with Signify the music gets more song-based though the psych elements are still in abundance. They progressively fade from view after that, though.
    Last edited by Paulrus; 01-16-2013 at 05:26 PM.

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    To me this was their (his) first really great album.

    Steve Sly

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    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    I like the original issue of this, but I also liked the re-issue with the current lineup (or at least, the last lineup) playing actual instruments instead of just Wilson. There are aspects of both that I like, but I tend to be more nostalgic for the original. The reissue plays better mixed in along with latter-day albums.
    Digital playback brought high fidelity to the masses and audiophiles will never forgive it for that

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    "It's only a number......

    Anyway, I had this a long time ago. I need to get it again. I disagree with Steve Sly though. I like "On the Sunday of life" a lot. Not their best by any stretch but still very good imo. I'd even say it's more interesting than the two immediately following "in absentia." YMMV.

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    Quote Originally Posted by progman1975 View Post
    Great Album...Love the vibe..Kinda a cross btw prog and college music......
    Yeah, I can see some of this appealing to those who like Inspiral Carpets, Mission UK or Charlatans UK. In fact my brother who was/is big into the whole college rock/early alternative stuff said this "sounded good" when I had it on once a long time ago. Some of the PT albums a little later on, especially LBS and SD, also had very alternative rock sensibilities to them(imo).

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    Member scags's Avatar
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    I'm playing signify now, and it seems a lot more together than downstairs, at least to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Progmatic View Post
    AGREED...!

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