Signify

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Signify
Studio album by Porcupine Tree
Released September 1996
Recorded No Man's Land, Hemel Hempstead, The Doghouse, Henley, Katrina & the Waves' Studio, Cambridge
1995-1996
Genre Progressive rock, psychedelic rock, space rock, krautrock[1]
Length 61:56
Label Delerium
Porcupine Tree chronology
The Sky Moves Sideways
(1995)
Signify
(1996)
Stupid Dream
(1999)
Singles from Signify
  1. "Waiting"
    Released: 1996

Signify is the fourth studio album by British progressive rock band Porcupine Tree. It was released in September 1996 and later re-released in 2003 with a second disc of demos, which had previously been released on the b-side cassette tape Insignificance,[2] and a third time, on vinyl, on 9 May 2011.[3] It was the first album that frontman Steven Wilson recorded with the band on board from the beginning; previous albums had been essentially solo efforts with occasional help from other musicians.

Background[edit]

Writing and recording[edit]

Signify was the first Porcupine Tree album recorded as a full band unit, rather than primarily by frontman Steven Wilson with occasional assistance from other musicians, primarily the ones who would become full-time band members as of this album; Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin, and Chris Maitland.[1][4] In 1995, the band would alternate between touring in support of their last release, The Sky Moves Sideways, and writing and recording the album, with Wilson describing it as "The album was recorded in quite a piecemeal way with tracks written and recorded in batches of 2 or 3, followed by gaps of up to 3 months."[citation needed] As such, a number of the songs, albeit in early forms, were debuted live before the album's release.

Edwin would admit that while Wilson allowed him a lot of freedom with his bass parts, sometimes Wilson would simply replace his demo takes with Wilson's own work on the final version, as was the case with the tracks "Sever" and "Dark Matter".[citation needed] Barbieri's goals for his contributions during the Signify sessions were "...to use what in isolation would be a weird and abstract sound or texture and to make it work in the context of a pop song".[5]

Wilson said of the recording process:

"Signify was slightly odd in the way it was recorded in the sense that although it is a band album, because we were never able to actually all be in the same room at the same time, because of physical limitations, with the exception of one track, "Intermediate Jesus", which was done outside, I tended to demo the tracks to a fairly high level and they would just replace the parts that I'd played on synthesizers with the real thing. So there wasn't a great deal of input from the other guys."[6]

Sound[edit]

In addition to the change in sound coming from it being the first collaborative, full band album as a whole, the album marked a transition in genre as well.[7] The band's first three albums were characterized as being psychedelic rock and experimental space rock.[8] This album still retains these qualities, but at the same time, moves closer to a more structured, radio-friendly and commercial sound, a style of progressive rock that the band explored in a much stronger way in the bands subsequent albums Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun.[7][9] The album has been described as "...the end of an era, while simultaneously ushering in the dawn of a new age...It contains sprawling, vague instrumental tunes as well as more straightforward, cleverly written songs with a clear-cut song structure. A precursor to Stupid Dream and an epilogue to Porcupine Tree's psychedelic past."[9] PopMatters later reflected that the album would become to be known as the band's krautrock album.[1]

Song details[edit]

The title track of the album, "Signify", actually originated as a demo cover version of a song by the krautrock band Neu! titled "Hallogallo", but upon the band experimenting, evolved into an original song.[10] The album was originally supposed to end with the track "Signify II", but was later trimmed off to shorten the album's overall run-time.[11] The song is still based off the riff from the title track and "Hallogallo", but is less raw, has different segments, and extends to an almost doubled length.[11] It would be released eventually under the compilation album Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991-1997, and parts of it would be played live in conjunction with the title track, such as is shown on the live album Coma Divine.[11]

The track "Every Home is Wired" reflect Wilson's attitude toward the internet at the time, while the track "Dark Matter" was in reference to the dark side touring in support of album releases.[11] "Every Home is Wired" consists of 37 separate overdubbed vocal tracks.[12] The track "Light Mass Prayers" was written by drummer Chris Maitland and actually features no drumming at all. Demo versions of the tracks "Signify", "Waiting", "Sever" and "Dark Matter" were all included on the b-side and demo compilation album Insignificance, the latter under the title "Sever Tomorrow" and "Dark Origins". Another demo from the era, "Wake as Gun," would ultimately be reused in Wilson's other project, No-Man, for the song "Jack the Sax" (from the 1997 EP Dry Cleaning Ray).

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[13]
Sputnik Music 4/5 stars[9]
DPRP 8/10 stars[14]

Reception for the album has been mostly positive. Allmusic gave the album four out of five stars, praising the album as "... the next great step forward for Porcupine Tree, a distinct advancement in how well the foursome could completely rock out as well as find its own narcotic style of ambient exploration...For all that Wilson may once again be singing obliquely on the pressures and nature of end-of-century life, he still does so in an engagingly left-of-center way." [4] Sputnik Music gave it a four out of five as well, praising the album for being "Caught between Porcupine Tree's psychedelic roots and their song-oriented future, Signify is a testament to Porcupine Tree's power as a dark, brooding album with excellent production and a thoroughly progressive heart."[9] The Dutch Progressive Rock Page praised the album as well, giving it an equivalent score of 8 out of 10, stating "'Signify' isn't the best Porcupine Tree album out there, and it certainly isn't one of the first recommendations I would make to a 'newbie' wanting to check out the band...This doesn't mean that there's no high quality stuff on the album though. The CD contains songs that have become big PT classics, like the heavy metal title track 'Signify' ...the band's first attempt at a single, 'Waiting', and 'Dark Matter'."[14] The narrative segues between tracks were also praised.[14]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Steven Wilson

No. Title Music Length
1. "Bornlivedie"   Wilson/Barbieri 1:41
2. "Signify"   Wilson 3:26
3. "Sleep of No Dreaming"   Wilson 5:24
4. "Pagan"   Wilson 1:34
5. "Waiting Phase One"   Wilson 4:24
6. "Waiting Phase Two"   Wilson 6:15
7. "Sever"   Wilson 5:30
8. "Idiot Prayer"   Wilson/Edwin 7:37
9. "Every Home Is Wired"   Wilson 5:08
10. "Intermediate Jesus"   Wilson/Barbieri/Edwin/Maitland 7:29
11. "Light Mass Prayers"   Maitland 4:28
12. "Dark Matter"   Wilson 8:57
Total length:
61:56

Insignificance and second disc[edit]

In 1997, a collection of b-sides and demos from the Signify sessions, titled Insignificance, was released on cassette tape.[15] When Signify was reissued in 2003 on Delerium Records and in 2004 on Snapper Music, Insignificance was packaged as a second disc of Signify, with a slightly altered track list.[2][15] The later re-releases do not contain the tracks "Door to the River" or "Insignificance", but still retains ten tracks through the inclusion of the track "Dark Origins" and the splitting of Hallogallo/Signify into two separate respective tracks.[14]

Track 1997 cassette tape 2003-04 Signify 2nd CD reissue
1 "Wake As Gun 1" – 3:24 "Wake As Gun 1" – 3:29
2 "Hallogallo/Signify "– 6:53 "Hallogallo" – 3:37
3 "Waiting" – 6:45 "Signify" - 3:28
4 "Smiling Not Smiling" – 3:40 "Waiting" – 6:56
5 "Wake As Gun 2" – 3:42 "Smiling Not Smiling" – 3:49
6 "Neural Rust" – 5:47 "Wake As Gun 2" – 2:06
7 "Sever Tomorrow" – 6:01 "Neural Rust" – 5:53
8 "Door to the River" – 4:17 "Dark Origins" - 6:54
9 "Insignificance" – 4:54 "Sever Tomorrow" – 6:04
10 "Nine Cats" (acoustic version) – 4:03 "Nine Cats" (acoustic version) – 4:08

Other tracks[edit]

B-sides from the era, including "The Sound of No-One Listening" (from the "Waiting" single and the original vinyl pressing of Signify) and "Fuse the Sky" (a remix of the title track from The Sky Moves Sideways released on an ambient compilation) appear in addition to the aforementioned "Signify II" and "Colourflow in Mind" (an album outtake) on the compilation album Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997.

Additionally, an album of studio improvisations from that period, called Metanoia, was released in 1998. The improvisational sessions contained both previously unreleased material and material that was shaped into previously released songs; a track called "Metanoia I/Intermediate Jesus", an over 14 minute long freeform jam, was edited down to serve as the main backing track for the song "Intermediate Jesus". The tracks "Door to the River" and "Insignificance" are also from these sessions and included on the release, likely the reason why they were removed from future versions of Insignificance.[14]

The album notes of Insignificance has Wilson making references to a never recorded track called "Cryogenics" based on "Wake as Gun" that was performed live by the band once in 1995.[10] A shorter version of the song was played during the Italian Tour in early 1997. It was recorded in Rome (with other material used to compile "Coma Divine" live album) but never mixed or released as the band weren't happy with the performance.[16]

Personnel[edit]

Band
  • Steven Wilson - guitars, piano, organ, mellotron, samples, tapes, banshee guitar, drum programming, chimes, musical boxes, vocals
  • Richard Barbieri - synthesisers, Hammond organ, Prophet V/System 700 electronics, piano, tapes, texture, sequencers
  • Colin Edwin - electric bass, double bass
  • Chris Maitland - drums, cymbals, percussion, vocal harmonies on "Waiting Phase 1" and "Sever", drum loops, keyboards and voices on "Light Mass Prayers"
Additional
  • Terumi - voices (track 1)
  • Produced and mixed by Steven Wilson.
  • Mastered by Chris Thorpe at Serendipity
  • Art & Design by John Blackford.

References[edit]

External links[edit]