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Album Review: Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation

Things have been happening for a decade. Life follows its course, and tastes and desires evolve. So what happens to music fans whose favorite artists disappear for so long? The question will quickly find an answer with, as a practical case, the return to business of Porcupine Tree, a group raised to cult status by a small but demanding community of fans eager for its musical particularism.

The “comeback” is unexpected, even providential. At the head of Porcupine Tree is still Steven Wilson, a genius multi-instrumentalist composer who has been able to demonstrate since his beginnings that musical excellence is also found in registers far removed from so-called mainstream acquaintances. Founder of this group which was initially only a beautiful farce, quickly carried by a solid fan base which then found its account in the very experimental peregrinations of the first recordings, Steven Wilson does not cease surprising.

At the origin of the hiatus which allowed him to pursue his solo career, leaving him complete freedom to explore his musical affinities without any limits of style, Steven Wilson is at the initiative of the reformation, admitting to us during a generous press conference that the general confinement of 2020 and its consequences have greatly reshuffled the cards regarding the future of Porcupine Tree.
Equipped with demos that have remained unfinished since 2010, the return to the studio came naturally with Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison, Colin Edwin not having joined his comrades. In a spirit of openness and highly collaborative (Wilson being generally in charge), Closing/Continuing offers a new facet of Porcupine Tree definitely looking to the future.

The use of Steven Wilson’s experience as a solo artist is obvious. Closing/Continuing offers ten titles which, while remaining in the progressive rock base that makes Porcupine Tree’s identity, expand its musicality to reach other strata, the latter probably more accessible to neophytes.
The concerns, even the reproaches of some fans about Wilson’s electro-pop inclinations with his latest solo opus The Future Bites, are discarded. It is indeed a disc which notches itself in the rock repertoire, but not only. A record that would be content to surf on nostalgia is absolutely not the object of this return, place is made for the emergence of new and assumed influences. What remains is the very principle of the “river piece”, between five and nine minutes in length, which allows each fiber that composes it to be drawn to its maximum.

. The introduction is explosive. Harridan who opens the disc with his scratchy bass is the common thread and we quickly find the orchestral flights that accompany Wilson’s incredibly crystalline timbre. Until the metal chorus at will is linked and the whole in a very fluid way. Harridan is, in a way, Porcupine Tree’s business card. A terrain that is always rugged and conducive to the unexpected. Its eight minutes already offer a glimpse of what the return to live will have in store for us. Another powerful title, Rats Return almost contradicts Steven Wilson’s words about his gradual disinterest in the guitar. We thus find an ode to this progressive metal so dear to longtime fans. The vocals are piercing but fair, and although rather short compared to the other tracks, the piece is one of the most striking moments of the disc.

In a Porcupine Tree record, we like to be abused (musically, you can hear it) like being gently carried away in waves of symphonic rock with arrangements of rare finesse for such a repertoire. Studio work being the spearhead of Steven Wilson (studio located at home and built with his own hands), we thus find in Dignity, Never Have or the very aerial Of The New Day a certain grace allowing one not to give in to clichés which make the community of followers of progressive and ambient rock a little opaque.
The diagram becomes more complex thereafter with a darker tonality as on Chimera’s Wreck. With a more intuitive metal sound, he is the one who could bring the disc closer to the great hours of the group at the end of the 2000s. Until reconnecting with a real neo-metal profile thanks to Population Three and Herd Culling. And yet, the guitar is not an essential ingredient in the magic formula of Porcupine Tree: proof is Walk The Plank which totally ignores the instrument, coming closest to the futuristic electron universe of The Future Bites.

The last piece, Love In The Past Tenserebalances everything and closes the record on a lighter and very melodic atmosphere, a good dose of pop rock (no, “pop” is not a bad word) a little bit old-fashioned which recalls the multiple influences of Steven Wilson that the latter no longer hesitates to put forward in order to get rid of the reductive prog rock label that so many want to stick to him definitively.
These ten years of waiting were probably necessary. Necessary for a real step back for each member of the formation in order to find a real desire to relaunch the incredible Porcupine Tree adventure. Not being able to decide on a sequel, it is therefore recommended to take full advantage of this eleventh studio album that is Closing/Continuingwhich, through its consistency and inventiveness, once again establishes the group in the status of a big name appreciated by a handful of fine connoisseurs.

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