Review Summary: A mind expanding experimental adventure filled with B- sides of Porcupine Trees' sophomore album, Up The Downstair.
Porcupine Trees’ “Staircase Infinity,” is a terse release to say the least. If spacey guitar grooves and disjointed instrumentals are something that you tend to enjoy, look no further. It all moves along pretty quickly as the release only clocks in at twenty-nine minutes and very little time is wasted, but it does not require the listener to stand by with a tentative ear to find enjoyment in it.
The band performs with a rich, full and engaging sound. They never leave a sense of groove behind and never lighten up on the tight psychedelic atmosphere presented. The instrumentals are simple but explorative and the production maintains interest. The drum work is creative and fluid and the bass playing is very solid but neither interesting enough to write home about. The guitar playing is smooth and fluid and the tone of the lead guitar is punchy; not overbearing. It does a great job of seating itself in a predominant manner. Technically speaking Steven Wilsons playing style is not overly flashy or aggressive.
Every song on the album revels in psychedelic marvel; it seems as if it was released solely for the purpose of dazing out. The introduction to the album ‘Cloud Zero’ serves as a first rate explorative piece while the melodies of following tracks can be downright haunting; ‘Navigator’ is a prime example of this. Even the use of reverb, phased synthesizers and obscure delays can easily seep through the mind of the listener in an alluring sort of way. For primarily instrumental music ‘Staircase Infinity’ does a great job of staying compelling enough to follow while remaining something that you can just sit back and use as background music without feeling like you may be missing out on anything.
Considering the brevity of the “Staircase Infinity,” it seems odd that all of the songs on the album have the exact same type of outro. There has to be a more original way to end a song than pad synths and percussion fades, it gets very monotonous. Tempo and fades are the only thing that keep some of the latter songs from bleeding together and that is not a good thing, but it is not detrimental to perceived enjoyment of the album. ‘The Joke’s on you’ comes across as totally out of place, seeing as it is the only song on the EP that is structured like a rock song and it has vocals, unlike any the other tracks. The wah-wah effect and reverb on some of the second guitar parts can get a little excessive at times but it all comes along with the territory of psychedelic roc and again does not affect the EP in a bad enough way to make it tedious.
In review, ‘Staircase Infinity’ is a piece of work. It effectively operates as an EP, implements a variety of experimental techniques to stay engaging, contains provocative melodies and manages its’ negative aspects in a way that they are easy to overlook. This EP is not for everyone however. If you are new to experimental or instrumental music, you may be immediately turned off by this release. If you are a veteran in this field of music you will find it enjoyable to ponder life over and maybe even simply zone out. Enjoy!