Though Porcupine Tree's permanent lineup was in place by the time Sky Moves Sideways was complete, it was actually a combination of old and new, with a number of tracks once again done by Wilson on his own. Regardless of the provenance of one song or another, though, it was another fine release under the Porcupine Tree name, continuing the excellence of Up the Downstair while achieving a new liquid sense of drama and overall flow. Barbieri's keyboard skills alone made for a wonderful addition to the ranks, easily capturing the slow sense of unfolding atmosphere and elegance combined from earlier Porcupine Tree work while adding his own touches here and there, a touch of playfulness and improvisation. The Edwin/Maitland rhythm section sound like they were born to work together, able to both set slow, spacy moods and quick gallops and dance-skewed approaches both. Wilson, meanwhile, is still himself, calling to mind strange lyric images of rural collapse and romantic connection in his ever stronger, commanding but never straining vocals. As for guitar, there's subtle delicacy and headbanging overload and plenty of space in between for more. Overall, there's not much in the way of immediate sonic difference from Up the Downstair, more a sense of exploring and establishing styles, almost as if the bandmembers were getting used to working with each other. The tripped-out title track bookends the album (perhaps in a not so subtle nod to a similar sequence on Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here with "Shine on You Crazy Diamond"). The real winners, though, are the jazz-touched acoustic/electric dreamscape of "Stars Die," with a great lead melody and overdubbed chorus from Wilson, and the immediately following "Moonloop," an instrumental calm then rocking jam that's credited to all four members.
The Sky Moves Sideways Review
by Ned Raggett