(All Album Reviews by doh)
The term "musical artist" is often overused. In fact, art has nothing to do with a lot of mainstream music. Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, on the other hand, is a perfect example of a "musical artist". He carefully draws, paints, and sculpts his music in a way that grabs the listener's focus and sets their brain spinning in vain attempts to find the exact meaning behind it. "Signify" may be his most artistic work as it borders between his earlier psychedelic journeys and later song-based rockers.
"Bornlivedie" is an introductory track and sometimes reminds me of the moment when you are being strapped into a roller coaster, anticipating what is to come. The title track, "Signify", begins the descent with a hard-driving bass line that is then copied and counter-pointed by the other instruments. It remains interesting even without an obvious melody. "The Sleep of No Dreaming" is the first lyrical track on the album and is also the first track to show the obvious jazz influences which are so prevalent throughout. Make no mistake, though; this is no jazz piece. It is melodic, but has a heavier chorus. "Pagan" is a short interlude with an interesting little minor progression. "Waiting Phase One" and "Waiting Phase Two" are complementary tracks although they are very different. The first is a lyrical melodic piece, more reminiscent of Porcupine Tree's later albums. The second is another great atmospheric instrumental, which begins with a background tribal beat and then adds on a jazzy bass riff. Eventually, it grows and builds into more of a rock piece. "Sever" is one of the more unique tracks. It has a strange, hard-edged melody with odd rhythm, but the chorus is softer and sweeter with more typical harmonies. "Idiot Prayer" is probably the best instrumental track. Like most songs on this album, it begins slow and ambient, and then proceeds to grow into a hard rocker in places. "Every Home is Wired" is the most catchy song. It switches from a minor melody to a major chorus and is a beautiful piece. "Intermediate Jesus" is my least-favorite track, but it's not bad. It brings back the jazz-influenced bass line and accompanying drums, but never really has enough of a direction and eventually begins to drag a little. "Light Mass Prayers" is purely atmospheric and must be intended to setup the next song. It still stands up well by itself though. The highlight for most is the last piece, "Dark Matter". It has more of the melodic sound of later albums like Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream. It is a great track and serves as a fitting climax to the album.
I have the latest Snapper release of Signify which came with a bonus CD (previously released) called "Insignificance". To quote the album cover, "Insignificance is a selection of Steven Wilson's demos that includes several tracks that were not recorded for the final Signify album, as well as formative versions of some that were." While the material on the bonus CD isn't quite as good as Signify, it is still great and is a perfect companion. It's interesting to see how some of the songs progressed and some of the other demos are pretty good. I recommend this release to those who haven't bought the album yet, just for the extra CD.
Signify is a great album. It has the ability to sweep you away from reality, twist your emotions forwards and backwards, and then restore you to sudden awareness with only a hunger to take the journey again. Although it's not necessarily a concept album, every track fits together to build and expand upon the previous. It never grows old as it's all about the experience of listening, not the constructed melodies.
Rating: 9/10. An experience not to be missed.