Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

Friday, February 13, 2009
In Absentia (2002)

In Absentia (2002)

Though unique, In Absentia doesn’t sacrifice accessibility. On first listen, it is engaging, and remains so to me over a year after I got it.

In Absentia is a concept album about a serial killer – or the darkest elements of people. “The Creator Has a Masterpiece,” for example, is about child abuse. The music itself reflects the dark lyrics – the strumming is violent and thrashing, while some songs have a calm yet disconcerting vibe – “Lips of Ashes” is a good example. It’s a really cool album to listen to – it has many unexepected turns.

Given the murderous themes, this was a fitting album for my friend and I to listen to on our way to see Friday the 13th yesterday.

Some people really love Porcupine Tree. But I’m of the school that they aren’t the BA new gods of the universe some make them out to be. I admit Porcupine Tree’s musicality is impressive. The banjo solo in the almost poppy “Trains” is amazing, and the song’s hand claps are well-placed (I’m a sucker for hand claps). Other highlights include “Blackest Eyes,” “The Sound of Muzak,” and  “Gravity Eyelids.”

Though the front half of the album has the lion’s share of the best songs, my favorite song is actually the album closer,  “Collapse the Light Into Earth.” It’s a haunting piano refrain which repeats itself over and over, adding layer upon layer – first, voice, then strings, then all of them together. The song feels like a passageway from life to death, or life to new life. I can’t really explain why it feels that way to me.

I can’t understand Porcupine Tree, genre-wise, because they use so many ideas in their music. As a good progressive band, Porcupine Tree can take these varying ideas and combine them seamlessly.

Great album, great band.


  1. Well,… I think In Absentia is their worst album, because the songs don’t connect to each other…
    Try out ‘Signify’ or ‘Deadwing’ 😉

  2. Wow, that’s surprising! I’ve always heard it was their best. I’ll definitely check out those two and review them sometime.

  3. I actually would like to point out two other albums by Porcupine Tree, as they are my favorites. Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream are my two favorites, both recently released in the US for the first time. I find some songs on Deadwing to be good (“arriving somehwere but not here” is fantastic, but I take the saem issue with that album as In Abstentia (even though I like both albums) due to the fact that the CD’s aren’t as well constructed. Signify is their first album, and therefore it is very experimental, as they are still trying to define their sound, which they change constantly anyways, so you can only imagine. However, I find it to be their most origonal work, as the CD is very raw, and a couple of the songs are mindblowing. However, Stupid dream and Lightbulb Sun are both amazing albums the whole way through, providing great song structure and incredible muscianship. It is also good to note that Deadwing, In abstentia, and Fear of a black planet all have a different drummer then the earlier albums, and I personally think their old drummer is better. He uses very gapped fills and delayed snare hits that perfectly wrap around the bass lines. Songs from Lightbulb sun to check out: Lightbulb Sun, Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It is Recycled, Hatesong. Songs from Stupid Dream to check out: Don’t Hate Me, Slave Called Shiver, and TINTO BRASS (all instumental, vocalist busts out a flute, which I wish he used mroe, cause this song has an incredible flute solo).

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