Produced and performed by Porcupine Tree. Mixed by Steven Wilson. Drums mixed by Gavin Harrison. Additional guitar recording by Paul Stacey at Rosewood Music. Engineered by Ed Scull.
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A little late to the party, I received my CD copy of Porcupine Tree’s (PT) thirteen-year-in-the-making possibly-comeback/final album Closure/Continuation only yesterday, five days after its release. Making up for this, I have been listening to it almost non-stop since. At the time of writing, the album is currently number one in four European countries (Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden) and number two in Finland and the UK.
I was somewhat nervous before I listened. I love Porcupine Tree—Lightbulb Sun (2000) and Fear of a Blank Planet (2007) are among my all-time favourite albums. Fear of a Blank Planet spoke to me straight away; Lightbulb Sun took a few listens before I ‘got’ it and the lightbulb lit up—Closure/Continuation has been like that. It has been like listening to an accent that you’ve not heard in quite a while, the nuances and articulations some familiar but aren’t immediately clear. Day two of listening and my ear has tuned into the subtlties of compositions, the sudden changes of direction and aural textures.
From the dirty bass riff that opens “Harridan” (track 1) to its splashes of guitar in the chorus, the exultant and soaring middle section and its beligerently relentless shuffle, Porcupine Tree firmly announce their return. This is like a PT greatest hits wrapped up in a single track—huge, visionary, progressive in every meaning of the word.
Immediately, Barbieri, Harrison and Wilson shift gears. “Of the new day” (track 2) is a gentle, beautiful track that captures the daybreak, from night to dawn, darkness to light, cold to warmth.
Having reassured us that it’s okay, Porcupine Tree have returned and all is well in the PT camp, “Rats return” (track 3) reminds us that one of the reasons we love them is their firm grasp of pushing boundaries and unsettling us with fascinating rhythms.
The sublime and gentle introduction to “Dignity” (track 4) guides us to the feel-good song of the summer. This is maybe how Dodgy would sound if fronted by Steven Wilson.
The playful “Herd culling” (track 5) bounces between a bass-y groove verse and a wide open chorus. More textures, more layers, more complexity and depth. We’re a solid 5/7 of the way through the album and it is still surprising us, still throwing curve balls, never repeating themselves, exploring new territories but still with a foot in their past. Glorious!
“Walk the plank” (track 6) feels like the perfect showcase of Richard Barbieri’s creative keyboard playing, Gavin Harrison’s exquisite mastery of a drum set, and Steven Wilson’s musical genius. This is perhaps the least accessible song, in the conventional sense. “The ship is now under water / And the rats will never find their way back again”, Steven Wilson sings—simply let the waters wash over you and appreciate this song.
“Chimera’s wreck” (track 7) is reminiscent of “The Watchmaker” from Steven Wilson’s solo album The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) (2013). It has that gentle, wistful, dream-like quality. It is a perfect end to a near perfect album.
How can I not award this full marks? I pondered about giving it 95%, but the gave the album another listen and with each track I fell deeper in love with the songs. I heard something new—a new texture, a new arrangement, a new melody hidden within the musical tapestry.
What a comeback! Will there be new music from Porcupine Tree? There already is, check out the three deluxe edition bonus tracks on YouTube, and thank you to PT for their generosity in making these tracks widely available.
The world is so topsy-turvy just now, thank God for the consistency of Porcupine Tree and the power of music to give us joy and solace.
Review score: 100%
Watch the short documentary about the making of Closure/Continuation.