Porcupine Tree Comes Together – A Fresh Look at “Signify”

Signify Cover

Signify is an important album in the long and varied history of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree. The first PT album, On the Sunday of Life (1991), is a tongue-in-cheek solo Wilson tribute to British psychedelic rock in the vein of XTC’s Dukes of Stratosphear. Up the Downstair (1993) and Voyage 34  (1993) were also done primarily by Wilson alone, and are literal acid-rock albums.

The Sky Moves Sideways  (1994) introduces the first real band that operated under the moniker of Porcupine Tree: Wilson on guitars and keyboards, Richard Barbieri on synthesizers, Colin Edwin on bass, and Chris Maitland on percussion. Stylistically, the album is heavily indebted to classic Pink Floyd. While an enjoyable listen, it doesn’t break any new ground. It’s also easy to forget that the group Wilson had formed with Tim Bowness, No-Man, was actually more popular than PT during this period.

Which brings us to 1996, and Signify. Musically, it is a giant leap. Wilson, Barbieri, Edwin, and Maitland are working together as a seamless unit. There are lots of instrumental passages, and Barbieri’s electronic atmospheres are integral to the overall feel of the music. Beginning with the first track “Bornlivedie” and continuing throughout the album, Wilson juxtaposes samples of happy-sounding radio announcers, televangelists, and other snippets of spoken word with beautiful yet foreboding music.

It’s a device Wilson has become the master of: seduce the listener with gorgeous melodies, and insert dark lyrics. Personally, I think Steven Wilson is indulging a sly sense of humor. Continue reading “Porcupine Tree Comes Together – A Fresh Look at “Signify””