England - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 14 - 12/14/97
The mission of Porcupine Tree is, in the words of guitarist/vocalist
Steven Wilson; "to drag progressive rock kicking and screaming into
the nineties." On Coma Divine we can hear them taking this concept
to a stage in Rome a few nights in March 1997, with outstanding
results. On this live album you get selections mostly from the last
two albums, The Sky Moves Sideways (1995) and Signify (1996), and
one song each from On the Sunday of Life (1992) and Up the
Downstair (1993). All delivered to an enthusiastic Italian audience.
Steven Wilson writes most of the material, which people often compare
with Pink Floyd. When listening to the grand, melancholic songs of
Porcupine Tree I can certainly see why people make that comparison,
but I'm actualy reminded more of the ambient techno of the Orb and
similar bands. There's also a bit of psychedelia involved, especially
on the oldest songs. I think a lot of this comes from a combination of
Wilson's echo-drenched guitar sounds and the spaced-out sounds of
keyboard/synthesiser man Richard Barbieri.
The first thing that came to mind when I played this CD was that the
sound is very high-tech for a live album. The sound is very crisp and
crystal clear, every instrument can be heard clearly all the time.
Which is a good thing, considering the amount of talent collected
here. Wilson, along with Barbieri, Colin Edwin (bass) and Chris
Maitland (drums, percussion, backing vocals) are all fine musicians.
And by that I don't mean just their technical skills, but also the
ability to focus on the songs. They know very well when to play and
when to keep quiet.
The most obvious difference from the studio versions of the songs is
the stretching out of the rhythm section. Particularly on Dislocated
Day, where Steve Wilson plays all the instruments on the studio
version. Live, Edwin and Maitland take the song to new heights
applying creative use of dynamics and hyperactive drumming, making it
a very different experience. There's also an extended version of
Signify, in which they take the tune further to the left and flip it
around. Suddenly it's a completely different thing. The band performs
with a controlled enthusiasm throughout the album, occasionally going
berserk before laying back again.
I should also mention the brilliant artwork for the cover. It's
completely original, yet at the same time resembling the artwork for
If there's a negative side to this CD, it must be the phrase
"additional recording" in the liner notes. I get really annoyed when
bands start fixing their live recordings in the studio. It's a bit
like cheating, isn't it? However, I can't imagine that they've had to
fix much, they're all excellent musicians. I've yet to find out
exactly what has been fixed, so it's not a big deal to me. All in all
Coma Divine is a worthy addition to the collection of any lover of
(Special thanks to Patricia McLoughlin for sending me a copy of Coma
Divine when the local record stores couldn't get it for me.)
Copyright © 1997 Kentil'zha