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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Progressive Rock > Multi-Channel Music > Porcupine Tree - In Absentia (DVD-Audio)

Porcupine Tree – In Absentia (DVD-Audio)


PCM 2.0 Stereo: B-     DTS 5.1: B     MLP 5.1: B+     Extras: C     Music: B-



Years ago, Geffen Records gave it a try with a Progressive Rock band in the 1970s mode (saying “Classical” might seem redundant) by signing King Of Kings.  They were a more authentic version of the kind of band Yes, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, versus water-down variants like GTR and Asia.  That did not work out and the original cycle was labeled “Prog Rock” for worse, not better.  That brings us to Porcupine Tree, a new band that is slowly having more success while still staying true to that cycle.


In Absentia (2003) has been licensed from home label Lava Records to be the latest of a series of strong releases from DTS’ DTS Entertainment music label in the DVD-Audio format.  The music DTS picks is always at least unique, as well as from some of today’s more promising music talent.  This version of the album includes the following tracks, the last three of which are bonus tracks:


1)     Blackest Eyes

2)     Trains

3)     Lips Of Ashes

4)     The Sound Of Muzak

5)     Gravity Eyelids

6)     Wedding Nails

7)     Prodigal

8)     .3

9)     The Creator Has A Master Tape

10)  Heartattack In The Layby

11)  Strip The Soul

12)  Collapse Of Light Into Earth

13)  Drown With Me

14)  Chloroform

15)  Futile



The two problems I have with this set are the sound-alike factor and if there is really any meaning to the mysterious titles of these songs.  To the former, it does sound like some of the bands noted, plus Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam.  For fans, the Grunge/post-Grunge thing could be taken two ways.  Less likely, they would see it as a melding of Grunge and Progressive Rock, but then it occurred to me they could take this simply as some step forward after Grunge.  That would not be accurate and the material overall is too derivative to be innovative.  If he intent was just to do an album that conjured Progressive Rock, like something we’d get from Kansas, then they have succeeded in a modern variant.


Most of the tracks are vocal, with Trains being one of the best; we also get the instrumental Wedding Nails that defies any messages or pretensions.  Each track blends into the next one, despite track stops, as if this were some kind of concept album.  Of the bonus tracks, Drown With Me is one of the best tracks here.  The problem could be the band saying things only they understand the meaning of, but the audience never will.  It happens, yet this is still one of the better albums of the last few years by virtue of its ambition.  I now want to hear other Porcupine Tree albums and especially how they follow this one up.


Three soundtracks are included: the cross-compatible PCM 2.0 Stereo at 16 bits/48kHz, the DTS 5.1 at 24 bits/48kHz, and the Meridian Lossless Packing MLP 5.1 tracks also at 24 bits/48kHz.  Due to the limits in which the album was recoded, there is no chance to take advantage of MLP’s maximum 192kHz/24 bit 2.0 or 96/24 multi-channel, nor is DTS 96/24 an option.  With that said, I was struck with the difference between the DTS & MLP.  Usually, the MLP is just a fuller, better version of the already strong DTS.  For whatever reason in this case, the MLP captures just how good this band is (complaints notwithstanding) in a way the DTS fails too.  In MLP, the instruments are much clearer, musicianship stronger and lead vocals by Steven Wilson much more empathetic.  That is a very serious difference that makes, even at lower sampling and bit rates, a strong argument for the MLP format when done right.  We have covered almost every DVD-Audio title in the DTS catalog and a few others besides, and have never found such a striking difference.  It is as much an argument to hear this album as the best material available, meaning we can recommend In Absentia as a key technical audio demo even if you would never listen to this genre of music to being with.


Extras include lyrics both on-screen and in a booklet included inside the case, two photo galleries, and the three bonus tracks already noted.  That all adds up to a good showcase for the band, even if some of the material is uneven.  The other musicians, by the way, are Richard Barbieri (keyboards), Colin Edwards (bass) and Gavin Harrison (drums).  Hopefully for Porcupine Tree, In Absentia will turn out to be a key turning point to a near-future commercial breakout.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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