Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

On Spec 14: Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

I knew the name of the band, but couldn’t have said why, and definitely hadn’t heard any music from them before this (to my knowledge). So I threw on the good headphones and gave this 2002 album a spin. I liked it! There’s an intelligent, tasteful aspect to everything they do, whether they’re gently strumming a ballad or rocking the hell out in almost metal sounds… which is to say, when they want it beautiful, they’re certainly beautiful. And when they want it to rock, well, they got it in spades. But the whole thing is rather restless, shifting approaches and sounds within songs…

There are elements of prog and psychedelia for sure, and some funky punker moments too, so it feels like a complete album as it is definitely varied enough to keep things interesting. I struggled most with what I heard of other bands’ signature sounds in these tunes, which I know is totally unfair, but objectivity was hard. Album opener Blackest Eyes has sections of cool Soundgarden and Tool to it, though the main focus seems to be gentler, rock/pop with the heavier bits as accents. Elsewhere, I hear Pink Floyd big-time, as well as a lot of Marillion, but by and large it sounds like just about every 90s rock/pop band that was halfways decent. And that’s not a slight, it’s just what I heard.

Knowing nothing of these guys going in, and having this as my only example of their sound (so far), I will say that I enjoyed this album. I don’t know how much I would choose to throw it on to listen to it just yet, but I’m going to let it gestate a while and come back to it in a week or so. Perhaps it’s more of a grower, as my instincts say this is one of those albums that one day will just ‘click’ and I’ll ‘get it’ and everything will be grand. I liked it enough that I’m willing to try!

You can read lots about this album RIGHT HERE.

And here, try out the first track. The opening is awesome and had my attention, but the verses not so much… it’s quite a juxtaposition… it all comes back at 2:45 and there’s a great wee instrumental chunk there as well as the outro.

24 thoughts on “Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

  1. verian says:

    I saw Steven Wilson the other week knowing little about him or porcupine tree and it was afterwards, listening to some of the tracks again that I’d heard live that I really started to appreciate them. A cursory listen before the gig and the tracks hadn’t resonated with me at all and I wasn’t really looking forward to it to be honest. The live renditions gave them a different context and tracks like ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are now firm favourites. https://thirtythreeandathird.blog/2018/03/17/steven-wilson-live-at-warwick-arts-centre/

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      Seeing them in a live setting would be awesome, you’re lucky to have gone! I’ll be looking for more of their stuff too, to add to my knowledge of the band. Thanks for Reading and for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) says:

    I’ve been a P-Tree fan for about 20 years after buying a copy of “Signify” based on various glowing reviews I had read about them on prog websites. I was not disappointed. I’ve loved just about everything from them and every side project & solo album from Steven Wilson, and “In Absentia” is the record I would recommend as a great entry point for newcomers, especially those who like to rock. Give it a few more spins & you might fall under their spell. I hope that’s the case. Also, not sure if you have a 5.1 surround sound set-up, but if you do the DVD-Audio of this album is incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. keepsmealive says:

      I am honestly not at all surprised you’re a fan! As a drummer, Rich, I know you’d love their time signatures and approaches for sure! Lucky me that I found the one that’s a good entry point, and on my first try, yet! I will definitely be giving it more spins, in amongst everything else I have here that’s yet to be heard, and will see if subsequent spins help it grow for me… I don’t think this copy have the DVD audio? It’s just the plain ol’ CD with an Enhanced section, which I haven’t gotten to yet so I don’t know what the multimedia portion is… Ha, I probably should have done that before I dropped the review, eh? Ach.

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  3. Vinyl Connection says:

    Most rock that’s a bit more layered and complex needs to grow in us as listeners, doesn’t it? Porcupine Tree are a good example. I’ve been listening for a decade or so now (though yet to post on them) and although I admire Steven Wilson (re-masterer to the stars) I don’t reach for the albums as much as other progressive bands. Not sure why… perhaps, as you observe, not enough listens under the belt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Yeah, I came away with the impression that this will need to grow on me some more, though I liked it well enough on first go too. As for the other progressive bands, that’s an interesting point. Yup, probably more listens! Give ‘er!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Zack says:

        It got quite a few spins, but after a while I got a little bored with it. Maybe it’s just a change in my musical tastes.

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  4. J. says:

    Nice write-up; they’re a band that have been on my radar a while, but I’ve just never really gotten around to checking them out.

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      1. SpeedySailor says:

        Yo this is Reub. A great write-up! It’s a quality album but I think when the band really came into their own was in the following albums, Deadwing and Fear of a Blank Planet. If you like atmospheric and/or emotional music, as well as the heavy stuff, I highly, highly recommend giving Fear of a Blank Planet a Planet a go – in my eyes the record’s a masterpiece. In Absentia was a pretty good place to start though, very solid album. And it’s nice to see some love for the band, they never really got the attention they deserved – Steven Wilson is a fantastic musician.

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        1. keepsmealive says:

          Thank you, Reuben! I will look for those other records you mention – they might help with digestion of this one! And there’s definitely no questioning the musicianship, full agreement from here. Thanks for Reading and chiming in!

          Liked by 1 person

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