Porcupine Tree Biography

This UK band was widely ascribed with bringing progressive rock back into vogue during the 90s. Steven Wilson (3 November 1967, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England; guitar/vocals) is the guiding light behind Porcupine Tree, which allows him to indulge his interests in ambient dance music and left-field, psychedelic rock. Wilson embarked on his musical career in 1987, when he formed the art rock project No-Man with Tim Bowness (vocals). At the same time, however, he began recording music for an imaginary band called Porcupine Tree. This music was eventually collected on the cassette-only releases Tarquin’s Seaweed Farm (1989), The Love, Death & Mussolini E.P. (1990) and The Nostalgia Factory (1990) (later compiled by Delerium Records as On The Sunday Of Life... and Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape). The epic Voyage 34 EP, comprising one 30-minute track split into two phases, followed in 1992, before Wilson recruited Colin Edwin (b. 2 July 1970, Melbourne, Australia; bass), Richard Barbieri (b. 30 November 1957, London, England; keyboards, ex-Japan), and Chris Maitland (b. 13 May 1964, Cambridge, England; drums) to form a ‘proper’ band. Critics reviewing their material, particularly the Moonloop EP in 1994 and The Sky Moves Sideways album the following year, immediately pigeonholed them as a contemporary Pink Floyd. 1996’s Signify did indeed have shades of David Gilmour, but ultimately, even with the Yes, Barclay James Harvest and Supertramp comparisons, Porcupine Tree sound only like themselves. On that album they demonstrated their originality, great harmonies and intergalactic travel potential. Tracks such as ‘Waiting - Phase One’ and ‘Waiting - Phase Two’ hypnotically rumble and build to glorious peaks.

The 1999 release Stupid Dream honed Porcupine Tree’s art even further, and led many to wonder what major success would have befallen them if they had been around in 1971; mass acclaim and Melody Maker front covers would have been guaranteed. Swirling mellotrons and synthesizers abounded, laced with acoustic fills and biting electric solos. The album contained some stellar moments, notably on the opening ‘Even Less’ with its gigantic lush chords, the furious wah-wah hook in ‘This Is No Rehearsal’, and the beautiful phased harmonies of ‘Baby Dream In Cellophane’ and ‘Stranger By The Minute’. Lightbulb Sun (2000) was similarly varied, mixing modern production with familiar riffs from an age gone by, but uplifting to hear again.

Porcupine Tree’s hugely enjoyable and accessible modern progressive rock caught the ear of several major labels, with the band eventually signing a recording contract with the Atlantic Records offshoot Lava. They made their debut for Lava in 2002 with In Absentia, featuring new drummer Gavin Harrison (b. 28 May 1963, Harrow, London, England), although the band’s prolific recording schedule meant that several limited edition releases were also made available via their Transmission label. A second Lava recording followed in 2005, but despite delivering another collection of quality retro progressive rock, played with great commitment, they were unable to break out beyond cult status. Encouraging signs were made when their Roadrunner Records debut Fear Of A Blank Planet (released by Atlantic in the USA) entered the UK album chart in 2007.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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