Voyage 34: The Complete Trip:Porcupine Tree
Artist: Porcupine Tree
Date Released: June 6, 2000
Label: Delerium, Snapper
Produced By: Steven Wilson
Review: Porcupine Tree sure has been getting a ton of notice lately, thanks to being signed to a major label, but of course there was an earlier phase in their career where they tended to a more exploratory form of space rock combining prog with ambient and techno influences. At first Porcupine Tree was a Steven Wilson project, but after a while, he formed an actual band, to make touring possible and recording easier. This CD I own is the most recent 2004 reissue, which were originally released as two separate 12" vinyl singles in 1992 and 1993. These were leftover tracks that were to make up Up the Downstair (1993). Voyage 34 is often thought of as one of the worst recordings in the PT catalog, but I don't find it bad at all. This whole CD is a concept about an LSD trip, and the story of a fictional character named Brian and his experience with the drug. PT recording an album on the LSD experience is hardly new, way back in 1967, none other than famous Bay Area acid rockers Jefferson Airplane recorded an album called After Bathing at Baxter's (which they wanted to call it After Taking LSD, but that would be too obvious), which was supposedly demonstates the effects of taking acid. Of course lots of changed since 1967, and what PT done obviously sounds nothing like the Airplane. For one thing, Voyage 34 has a much more modern production and sound, plus a much darker and more sinister tone (which you won't mistake for flower power psychedelia of the Airplane). And those Pink Floyd influences can't be avoided. On "Phase I" and to a lesser extend, "Phase II", Steven Wilson experiments with David Gilmour-like delayed guitar that sounded like it was taken right from The Wall (such as "Another Brick in the Wall Part 1" and "Run Like Hell"). There's plenty of ambient effects to go with the music. I think the biggest problem leveled at this disc was "Phase III", where they go into techno territory. OK, so the techno here isn't too different from what you usually expect from a '90s Porcupine Tree CD, except there seems to be little change. If you like the mood of the rhythm, that's fine, if not, you could find it boring. "Phase IV" is the last piece, which is mainly ambient throughout with some narration.
One thing I failed to mention, unlike the usual PT release, you won't find Steven Wilson's singing anywhere. You'll hear some narrations, male narration talking about Brian and his LSD experience, and a young woman, college age and her experience. I suspect this is the same woman you hear on "Not Beautiful Anymore" off Up the Downstair. For some reason, I don't know if it was a pressing defect or not, but there's a five minute silent gap at the end of "Phase IV" before suddenly the music reappears for a couple of minutes before ending for good.
Certainly Porcupine Tree fans wishing to dig into their earlier material should be advised to check out Up the Downstair, The Sky Moves Sideways or Signify, as that is more what you expect for early/mid '90s PT, but this is also worth getting for the established fan.