The upside to Porcupine Tree’s ongoing hiatus is that bassist Colin Edwin has placed his nimble fingers into lots of musical pies: live work with Henry Fool and Obake; recording projects such as Twinscapes; and here, renewing his partnership with American guitarist Jon Durant.
Their 2012 self-titled debut posited a lithesome fusion-style sound that drew upon electronica, ambient and world music. As good as that was, this follow-up offers more bite and presence. This can be attributed in part to Durant and Edwin’s decision to use real drummers, rather than relying on electronically driven beats, and also to the greater compositional depth and focus here. Forthright playing from Durant encompasses daring Allan Holdsworth-style leaps between chordal twists and turns, as well as breathy trumpet-like wisps across twinkling harmonics and drifting electronic storm clouds. Edwin at times channels an Eberhard Weber-like silkiness via fretless bass, and the thoughtful duet Hover, fuelled by his melodic upright bass, quietly steals the show. Strong tunes coupled with a welcome lack of showy technique provide an unfussy, showboating-free set that rewards repeated listening.