Porcupine Tree

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Closure/Continuation Review

by Thom Jurek

Over the last decade, Porcupine Tree founder Steven Wilson has been cagey when questioned about a reunion. He's enjoyed a high-profile solo career as a recording artist, producer, and remixing engineer. His bandmates are also busy: Drummer Gavin Harrison has spent years touring with King Crimson as their music director, and since 2016 he's been a full-time member of the Pineapple Thief. Keyboardist Richard Barbieri cut two albums with Marillion's Steve Hogarth, issued a pair of solo albums for Kscope, and done abundant session work. The reunion leaves out bassist Colin Edwin (who remains a vital, intrepid session bassist playing everything from avant-jazz and rock to art folk). Wilson, whose playing style is extremely different, claimed the bass chair in the studio. The formal set offers seven new tracks, and various editions include bonus cuts. The recording sessions for Closure/Continuation were kept secret for a year.

Opener "Harridan" commences with Wilson's rumbling funk bassline before Harrison's breaks and syncopated pulse introduce Barbieri. While the riff suggests more than a passing reference to 2002's "Blackest Eyes," it allows generous post-punk interplay among the trio, which buoys the urgent vocal before careening across Opeth-esque prog metal. Interestingly, it betrays just what Edwin, the most jazz-savvy player in the bunch, brought to the party with his smooth playing registering tonal, textural, and dynamic contrast to the hard-edged guitars and atmospheric electronics that defined the band’s sound from In Absentia on. While "Of the New Day …" asserts itself as a spacious ballad, it spirals into angular prog, blurring time signatures and harmonics before returning to the lithe, keyboard-centric melody. "Rats Return'' balances explosive, metallic interaction (apparently influenced by Hemispheres-era Rush), with spooky, atmospheric backdrops, jagged time shifts, and a spacy melody. "Dignity" simultaneously recalls '70s-era Pink Floyd and David Bowie's "Space Oddity," with wafting keys, cascading lyrical guitars, and a slow kit shuffle before unfolding as a winding, post-psych rock anthem. Harrison's influence is reflected abundantly on "Culling the Herd." Its hard/soft percussive attack alternately contrasts with the dreamy vocals, the psychedelic guitars, and Barbieri's otherworldly synthscapes; it recalls the drummer's work with the Pineapple Thief. "Walk the Plank" offers funky, syncopated drumming, layered vocal effects, sonic bleeps, downtuned, thumb-slapped bass, programmed handclaps, and processed guitars in a dance-inducing Euro-disco parlance. Closer "Chimera's Wreck" is a nearly ten-minute moody extravaganza. It crisscrosses influences from Gentle Giant and Rush to National Health and Jethro Tull as acoustic piano entwines with keys, riffing guitars, and an urgent, tensely foreboding bassline. Harrison guides the track by episodically employing processional, richly syncopated, and skittering beats. The jam's diverse directional pursuits hint at a destination, but despite many gorgeous parts, it never quite arrives. That's apt for Closure/Continuation, too. PT's new entry reveals in fits and starts that the band have somethiing left left to say, but given this wide ranging set, just what that is remains elusive and unclear.

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