“...The time is 9.30 PM, one hour after the participants have eaten sugar cubes saturated with LSD. We hear Brian and his fellow travellers observing their gradual transformation…" – The opening words greet the listener in a chronological diary-like fashion, this album is a story, an adventure, a complete trip.
Porcupine Tree (PT) is the creation of Steve Wilson, Voyage 34 is the 8th album in the collection and performed, programmed and produced entirely by Steve (except for the synthesizers in Phase IV). Deadwing and In Absentia are PT’s latest and more mainstream works and differ greatly from Steve’s early works which are more experimental, ambient and psychedelic.
Porcupine Tree - Voyage 34
On Voyage 34 the performers are:
Steve Wilson (everything)
Richard Barbieri (Synthesizers on Phase IV)
The voyage begins with a narrator prefacing the album and then it dives slowly into an ambient soundscape followed by a pounding drumbeat and more narration which tells that this album is about an LSD trip. Crazily enough a riff that sounds almost exactly the Another Brick in the Wall medley one makes a welcome entrance amongst the ambience and leisurely paced bassline. This is the introduction to Voyage 34 and it is quite a journey. The album is principally just one long song but it is split up into four progressive parts which were originally recorded on two EPs:
Phase I – 12.57 (recorded June/July 1992)
Phase II - 17.24 (recorded June/July 1992)
Phase III - 19.24 (recorded August 1993)
Phase IV – 13.42 (recorded August 1993)
(All phases remixed and remastered 2000)
The four phases intertwine and frequently change as the musical accumulation of synthesizers, Dave Gilmour-ish guitar solos, throbbing basslines and Electronica style drum beats writhe and fester over each other in a long snakey rollercoaster, while you are riding it the narrator sets the scene, describing "Brian's 34th Trip and the consequences in a voice which reminds me of Tim Leary's "Think for youself. Question authority" (Third Eye by Tool) tone. Other vocals occur as well like the anecdotes of a female tripper and the prolonged narration.
The instrumentals work perfectly, absolutely perfectly, this is more of a chill-out album but it has tastes of electronica, dance, and prog rock and is definitely comparable to The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. I give this a 4/5 because of the richness and complex textures of the music, the songs are very slow paced and comfortable on the ears to the point where you are totally absorbed and flowing with the music but the narration is monotonous and creepy and could almost be done without, people who are anti-drugs will hate it. I suggest this strongly to LSD users and people who like progressive rock, ambient music or simply Pink Floyd.
Deadwing and In Absentia are more suitable for the mainstream listener with far shorter, catchier and rapt songs. The album should be listened to as a whole so don't download individual tracks it will ruin the experience. This is the type of material which grows on you and time is needed to let it all sink in, it's extraordinarily open-minded.
Long stretching soundscapes
Perfect chill-out/sleeping material
Targeted at LSD users
Not very original (The Pink Floyd riff)
Targeted at LSD users
Opeth are REALLY big fans of this band
The back cover of the album booklet includes a list of questions asked about this album, they're not part of the review, but everyone who listens to it should have a look at them:
How should Porcupine Tree be used?
What are the 5 levels of Voyage 34?
What are the sexual visions of Porcupine Tree?
What are the set and settings of Porcupines Tree?
Should anyone be allowed to go on Voyage 34?
Does Porcupine Tree cause hallucinations?
How long does Voyage 34 last?
Is Porcupine Tree habit forming?
What effects does Voyage 34 have?
Does Porcupine Tree pose a danger?
Does Porcupine Tree cause insanity?
Are there substitudes being sold as Porcupine Tree?
If these are the sorts of questions you want an album to make you ask, then check out Voyage 34.