The Sky Moves Sideways

By late 1993, Porcupine Tree’s profile had grown to the extent that Steven Wilson desired to expand into live performances and work in a band environment. As a result, Porcupine Tree became a live unit in December 1993 featuring Steven Wilson on lead vocals and guitar, Colin Edwin on bass, Chris Maitland on drums and Richard Barbieri on keyboards. All three new members of the group had worked with Steven on various projects over the preceding years and were excellent musicians sympathetic to the sound and direction of Porcupine Tree.

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Porcupine Tree in 1995

“Is the current line-up permanent and is this the band that plays live?”

SW: “Colin Edwin, Richard Barbieri and his wife Suzanne all made contributions to one track each on Up the Downstair. Colin and Richard, along with Chris Maitland, became the live band for performance shortly afterwards. Things went well and they all made much greater contributions to The Sky Moves Side­ways, such that I decided to bill Porcupine Tree as a band on the sleeve for the first time, thus dropping my own anonymity in the process. For the new album, Signify, Porcupine Tree has become a band in the true sense, with all four members performing on all tracks, as well as contributing ideas relat­ing to all other creative aspects of the band, although I will probably continue to write most of the material as well as producing the album.”

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The album artwork created by Mike Bennion, Claudine Schafer and Daniel Ray Billington

The Sky Moves Sideways was the first Porcupine Tree album to be released in the US (albeit with an altered track list), and the first on which Porcupine Tree was actually a band rather than simply a pseudonym for Steven Wilson. This transition took place while the album was being recorded, so three of the tracks – namely “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder”, “Prepare Yourself” and “Dislocated Day” – are performed entirely by Wilson, while the full band appears on the remainder of the album. In 2004, a new 2CD version of the album was released, featuring newly recorded drums by Gavin Harrison on “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” and “Dislocated Day” and flute by Theo Travis for the title track (replacing samples).

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Porcupine Tree in 1995

Just before the release of The Sky Moves Sideways, Mark Radcliffe of BBC invited the band to promote the album with a broadcasted live performance (resulting in some of the recordings found on the infamous Porcupine Tree: BBC Sessions 93–96 bootleg). The band had already done one session with Mark in late 1993 and would return in 1996 to promote the Waiting single.

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Porcupine Tree in 1995

 

Despite the band’s gigs, Porcupine Tree was very much still a SW effort at the time. By 1994, he’d completed No-Man’s Flowermouth album and was far into The Sky Moves Sideways. “It was going to be a completely solo thing. In fact, at that time my plan was that the album would be just this one 50-minute track.”

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Richard in 1995

However, SW’s enthusiasm for the album waned since the first live shows with the band. For the better part of a year, he’d been recording the complex opus off and on in his home studio. SW used ADAT, the same kind of magnetic tape used in VHS machines, so sometimes the tapes would get chewed up. SW painstakingly pieced together the interlocking and tessellated parts of “The Sky Moves Sideways”, but the linear format made it difficult to move sections around and change the arrangement. “It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together… What is the most satisfying way to sequence these parts that tells a satisfying story? But lets just say one of the reasons I’m not so proud of The Sky Moves Sideways is that not all of it did work. Because it was tape, it was kind of stuck with this form. I remember at the end I was tearing my hair out and thinking, ‘It’s all shit. God, I wish I could start this from scratch now that I’ve got this band. It would be so much better that way.”

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Porcupine Tree in 1995
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Porcupine Tree in 1995

The album remained in limbo while the band played more live gigs. Within the first six months of 1994 they had even played two shows in The Netherlands. Eager to capitalize on their momentum, SW convened a live session at the Doghouse studio in Henley on June 28th. Richard was overseas at the time, but the line-up was rounded out by Colin’s friend Rick Edwards, a percussionist. The result? A 40-minute jam called “Moonloop”.

SW felt that “Moonloop” was by far the band’s strongest material to date. His conundrum was that he’d already invested so much time in The Sky Moves Sideways. To abandon it would be like walking away from a half-finished bridge. So, he decided to call in more builders. “During the very last part of The Sky Moves Sideways recording process, I thought, ‘Okay, let’s try [and] get these guys involved with this record… I think Chris overdubbed some live hi-hat to the album, not live drums… Richard added some keyboards.”

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SW on the The Sky Moves Sideways tour

Additionally, SW made some changes. He abandoned the idea of the 50-minute track and instead split the title track into two parts, acting as bookends to three new smaller pieces he’d written (similar to the structure of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here with extended pieces at the beginning and end, both halves of the single track). Rather than include “Moonloop”, SW decided to release it as a single with another song that developed from the 1994 group jam: the gorgeous acoustic-based “Stars Die”. It was a track that hinted at what was to come on Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun. “In hindsight, I definitely would have put ‘Stars Die’ on the record… It’s the strongest song that I had from that whole period. Maybe there was also some kind of allegiance to the idea you could make these really strong EPs and singles and they didn’t have to be taken from albums. I always loved that.”

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Steven Wilson in 1995
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Richard Barbieri on the The Sky Moves Sideways tour

The Moonloop EP was the first release to feature the new band (the live album Spiral Circus would be released later in the year).

The Sky Moves Sideways became a success among progressive rock fans and Porcupine Tree were hailed as the Pink Floyd of the 1990s. Wilson would later lament this, stating, “I can’t help that. It’s true that during the period of The Sky Moves Sideways, I had done a little too much of it in the sense of satisfying, in a way, the fans of Pink Floyd who were listening to us because that group doesn’t make albums any more. Moreover, I regret it… Despite pressure from the record company, it made me understand that I didn’t want to take the easy option and cater for that market… I liked The Sky Moves Sideways at the time, but straight away I knew what we did next had to be more edgy and contemporary.”

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Porcupine Tree on the The Sky Moves Sideways tour

SW: “I think that I was aware that there was an appetite there for someone to be more true to that sound and spirit [of Pink Floyd and progressive rock] … You have to understand, at this point in time I’m doing anything I can to get a foothold in the music industry so that I can be a professional musician. I’ve given up my day job. I’m not making money. No-Man’s not selling any records. I do music for commercials to try and get myself going. I was aware that ‘Radioactive Toy’ had gone down phenomenally well and so, I guess, I kind of made a record that I thought might do well.”

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Colin, Chris and SW ca. 1994

The change in Porcupine Tree’s approach was nonetheless surprising, even to Steven himself. “I still look back on The Sky Moves Sideways and find it difficult to understand why I made it. It’s not that I think it’s bad, but if I look at the progression from On The Sunday of Life… to Voyage 34 to Up The Downstair, there’s a very distinctive if undefinable quality there – a mixture of songwriting, psychedelia, space-rock and progressive rock.”

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Lasse Hoile’s interpretation of the iconic The Sky Moves Sideways artwork created by Mike Bennion, Claudine Schafer and Daniel Ray Billington
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Richard in 1995

“And suddenly I made this album that is firmly in the progressive rock camp – very easily definable, following a clearly Floydian blueprint, expressive guitar, slow pacing, the sustained organ chords… It went from sounding a bit rough ‘n’ ready to sounding slick. That and the more laboured, considered approach to the material, I guess, turned a lot of people off. But, at the same time, it attracted a lot of other people who liked progressive rock.” Inevitably, the luxuriant curtains of synth and Steven’s ever-more-articulate bluesy guitar had also resulted in a growing number of reviewers writing the band off as no more than a junior Pink Floyd. It was an accusation that would take Porcupine Tree years of continuous effort to live down, and one which particularly bothered Steven: “I hate the idea that I’m living in the shadow of someone else.” Steven has since accepted that he has no else to blame except himself for this misstep.

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Richard in 1995

Richard: “I didn’t really know what [Porcupine Tree] was or what it was going to be at that stage… Maybe Steven didn’t, because The Sky Moves Sideways was the first sprawling, progressive album with very large musical landscapes and soundscapes and quite different from Up The Downstair. It was changing quickly right back then. I’m not sure how Steven feels about it. I prefer Up The Downstair, to be honest.”

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SW on the The Sky Moves Sideways tour

SW: “It’s one of those times in my life-and there have been a couple-where, by the time something came out, I wasn’t interested in it. I was already somewhere else. In some ways, it’s ironic, because now I’m a solo artist and I’m doing exactly what I want. At that point in time, I think it was better for me to be working in collaboration with other musicians. The thing is, when you’re young, you tend to wear your influences on your sleeve. You could say that I still do that, but I think the difference now is that I have a very strong musical personality of my own. Perhaps then I didn’t. So, The Sky Moves Sideways, when I listen to it now, I hear a lot of obvious references. I think that’s why, at that point, I thought, ‘OK, I need to make this a band now. I need to be part of a pooling of musical personalities rather than just carrying on doing what I was doing.”

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Porcupine Tree in 1995

The album was received fairly well at the time. Here are some reviews (sourced from Delerium’s website):

Metal Hammer (December 1994):

“Egads! The return of progressive rock! Head for the hills!

Well, not quite actually. For although one could quite easily be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to the latest Pink Floyd album at times, there’s no denying that whilst proggies of the past (Marillion, Pendragon etc.) have offered up a mere carbon copy of their heroes, Porcupine Tree at least imbue a modern air to their works. So, not for mainstay Steven Wilson and chums the boring land of Camel and Caravan, but rather the more experimental realm occupied by the likes of Talk Talk, The Orb and Can, lovingly moulded into a modern, rockingly good soundscape. Originally more of a psychedelic rock act (in keeping with the Delerium label), The Sky Moves Sideways sees the band at their most effective yet, having drifted into more obvious progressive territory. Swirling synths (courtesy of ex-Japan man Richard Barbieri) combine with Wilson’s effective guitar work over admittedly lengthy works that manage to hold the attention without pandering to the usual excesses of the genre has, in the past, been horribly guilty of.

“Moonloop”, the single released earlier this year, blends trance-like moods with some of their heaviest moments, whilst the two-part title track stands alongside as the strongest material on offer, but overall it’s the very fact that Porcupine Tree have taken on board the progressive inclinations of the rave scene and built them into a rock context that suggests they are truly progressive in a scene normally so regressive.” (Jerry Ewing)

Deliverance (February 1995): 

“Whatever superlative you care to throw at this it will stick. This is simply a magnificent album which mixes late 60’s early 70’s ingenuity with 90’s technology. It has been lovingly crafted and it is obvious that a lot of care and attention has been put into it prior to release. Six tracks make up the album beginning with phase one of an epic title track that consists of some fluid guitar and keyboard playing, backed by a powerful rhythm section. You are then taken off on a journey of interlocking tracks, which are a mixture of fragile, sensitive and swirling sounds that includes a new version of the wonderful “Moonloop”. You then return to the main theme, phase two of the of the title track, which gently brings you down to Earth again. Dedicated to the spirit of Nick Drake, this album bears all the hallmarks of a classic – miss it at your peril.”

Rock ‘n’ Reel (April 1995):

“With over a year spent recording, from project start to finish, it’s pretty obvious that Porcupine Tree, Largely the work of [Steven] Wilson, was going to be an exquisitely crafted piece.

What he has in fact produced is a masterpiece of aural artistry that articulates Wilson’s momentous and compelling musical vision. The epic title track that opens and closes proceedings is a breathtaking, almost symphonic piece that slowly builds before journeying to pastures rhythmically eastern.

The same care and attention to detail, is displayed throughout as racks become detailed structures with which Wilson constructs enthralling experiments in texture, alternating between mood and atmosphere with an inventive spirit.

A momentous achievement in modern psych-rock.”

European Tracklist

  1. “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)” – 18:37
  2. “Dislocated Day” – 5:24
  3. “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” – 5:40
  4. “Prepare Yourself” – 1:54
  5. “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase Two)” – 17:04

Total length: 48:39

This tracklist is taken from the European 2LP. In the European 1995 CD release, “Moonloop” was included as a track before “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase Two)”. Steven Wilson has since commented that not including “Stars Die” in the original album release was perhaps the greatest mistake he’s ever made.

American Tracklist

  1. i. “The Colour of Air” – 4:38
  2. ii. “I Find That I’m Not There” – 3:46
  3. iii. “Wire the Drum” – 6:17
  4. iv. “Spiral Circus” – 3:50
  5. “Stars Die” – 5:00
  6. “Moonloop” – 8:10
  7. “Dislocated Day” – 5:23
  8. “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” – 5:50
  9. i. “Is…Not” – 12:00
  10. ii. “Off the Map” – 4:42

Total length: 59:36

This tracklist is taken from the American 1995 CD release. Here, Steven Wilson removed “Prepare Yourself”, added “Stars Die” and a highly condensed version of “Moonloop”, and split the title track into its separate movements.

Early Tracklist

  1. “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)” – 20:19
  2. “Dislocated Day” – 5:25
  3. “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” – 5:42
  4. “Prepare Yourself” – 1:55
  5. “Men of Wood” – 3:34
  6. “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase Two)” – 16:47

Total length: 53:42

This tracklist is taken from the 1994 promo cassette for the album. This version of “Men of Wood” can be found on the bonus 7″ that came with the 2004 Headspin 3LP release of The Sky Moves Sideways.

Singles

 “Moonloop” EP – October 1994

CD:

  1. “Stars Die” – 4:57
  2. “Moonloop” – 18:04

12″ Vinyl:

  1. “Stars Die” – 4:57
  2. “Moonloop” – 18:04

“Stars Die” 1995 American CD Single:

  1. “Stars Die” – 4:57
  2. “Moonloop (Version)” – 18:04
  3. “Always Never” – 6:58

Although the Moonloop EP is technically an EP, it was re-released in America under the title Stars Die as a single in 1995.

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The artwork created by Mike Diver and Andy Gent for the Moonloop EP Stars Die single

Production

  • Steven Wilson – production, recording engineer, remix [2003 version] and remaster [1997, 2003, 2012 and 2017 versions]
  • Markus Butler – recording engineer
  • Mike Bennion – art direction
  • Daniel Ray Billington – artwork [composite]
  • Claudine Schafer – artwork [mountain side], photography
  • Carl Glover – graphic design [2003 and all following releases]
  • Porky – vinyl mastering [1995 version]
  • Nimbus – CD mastering [1995 version]

Label: Delerium (UK), C&S Records (US) and WHD Entertainment, Inc. (Japan) [album now owned by Snapper/Kscope]

Release: 30th January 1995 (UK) and February 1995 (US)

Publishing: Published by Hit & Run Music (Publishing) and Janew Music Publishing

Released on January 30th 1995 in Europe and February 1995 in America. Later re-released in 1997 as part of the Porcupine Tree reissue series on Delerium. In 2003, it was re-released with extra material, a remix and remaster, and re-recorded drums for “Dislocated Day” and “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder”. In 2012, Kscope reissued the album on vinyl with an “anti-loudness master”. Most recently, SW remastered the album yet again as part of the 2016 The Delerium Years 1994–1997 box set, and has since been released as a standalone 2LP in 2017.

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The 2016 The Delerium Years 1994–1997 8LP box set

Recorded at The Doghouse studio in Henley on 28 June 1994, the 40-minute improvisation of “Moonloop”, later edited and condensed on the Moonloop EP and future editions of The Sky Moves Sideways, wasn’t released until 2001 through the band’s own label, Transmission.

Steven Wilson regrets not using the crashing piano artwork from the Stars Die single as the cover for The Sky Moves Sideways. SW and the late photographer Claudine Schafer took photographs for the sleeve next to a mountain in Wales. A design studio then used an early version of Photoshop to create a composite image for the sleeve. The result looked like an episode of Doctor Who.

Richard Allen: “It was very expensive… Looking at it now, it looks very amateurish. At the time, it was something that was quite cutting edge, because that technology had only just started coming through.”

The artwork looked like a budget version of a Hipgnosis cover, the design studio that designed beautiful artwork for the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. “It was all about pushing the right buttons to attract the right kind of audience.”

From the 2003 2CD liner notes: “Throughout most of the recording sessions for The Sky Moves Sideways the plan was that the album would contain only the title track as one 50 minute long piece of music. A version of this length was never completed, but the alternate version here is a work in progress mix that contains some music that was eventually cut from the final album, as well as an earlier set of lyrics.”

From the original releases: “The Porcupine Tree Global Insurgence Roll-Call: Richard Allen at Delerium, Charlie and Wyndham at Real Time, Glenn Povey at Second Wave, Kozmik Ken, Jasper at Fruit Salad, Craig Roseberry, Dave Massey, Mark Radcliffe, Rob “Wiggy” Senior, Toxic Visuals, Arie Verstegen, Joe & Rolf at Semaphore, Joey Gmerek, Marc Muijen, Andre Van Bosbeke, Dan Abbott, Dave Simpson. The Sky Moves Sideways is dedicated to Terumi and the spirit of Nick Drake.”

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The 2003 2CD Digibook Kscope reissue of The Sky Moves Sideways

All tracks recorded, produced, mixed and mastered at No Man’s Land in June 1993 – July 1994 with additional recording at The Doghouse in June and July of 1994. “Stars Die” and “Moonloop” overdubs done by SW on June 30th 1994. Some elements retained from demos recorded at No Man’s Land in 1993 and 1994. Drum overdub and remix of “Dislocated Day” and “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” done in January 2003 by Gavin Harrison. New flute parts most likely recorded at No Man’s Land in 2003. New mixing done prior to 2002 for the “Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997” compilation and in 2003 while new mastering was done in 1997, 2003, 2012 and 2015 at No Man’s Land by SW. All tracks written by SW unless noted otherwise.

Song Details: Album Tracks

01. “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)” – 18:37

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards, tapes, drum programming, flute [replacing original samples]
  • Richard Barbieri – synthesizers, electronics
  • Colin Edwin – fretless bass, double bass
  • Chris Maitland – percussion
  • Theo Travis [guest] – flute [replacing original samples]

Demo: “The Sky Moves Sideways (Alternate Version)” from the 2003 2CD release of The Sky Moves Sideways

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Photography from the vinyl version of The Sky Moves Sideways

Awash with melancholic vocals, hypnotic guitar solos, spacious textures and dynamic instrumental passages, “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)” may be one of the most single-mindledly beautiful passages in the Porcupine Tree catalogue. For the first several minutes, Wilson introduces deep atmospheres and lush vocals that recall early Pink Floyd. Later in the song Wilson introduces some Up The Downstair-like rhythmic electronics to the mix. Backed by a pounding bass riff, Chris Maitland unleashes a conga solo over Wilson’s R&B-like rhythm track. This section, titled “Wire the Drum” culminates in an explosion of effects-drenched guitars.

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Steven Wilson in 1995

The last few minutes of the track are breathtakingly cinematic as Wilson plays lone guitar arpeggios over Floydian synths. “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)” has since cemented itself as one of the band’s most popular tracks and a live favourite.

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Promotional photography for The Sky Moves Sideways

Interestingly, although Chris Maitland provided percussion for the track, the drums (along with the original versions of “Dislocated Day” and “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder”) were programmed by SW. Gavin Harrison would later re-record drums for these two tracks (but not for the title track athough it too featured programmed drums, besides the percussion).

For live performances, “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)” was condensed into a 12-minute arrangement which can be heard on the 1997 live album Coma Divine.

Lyrics:

We lost the skyline
We stepped right off the map
Drifted in to blank space
And let the clocks relapse

We laughed the rain down
Slow burn on the lawn
Ghosts across the delta
Swallowed up the storm

Sometimes I feel like a fist
Sometimes I am the colour of air
Sometimes it’s only afterwards
I find that I’m not there

In the dream dusk
We walked beside the lake
We watched the sky move sideways
And heard the evening break

Demo Lyrics:

I remember
The day we pushed your piano
Out into the garden
Making tracks across the lawn

With tambourines and thunder
We climbed inside the limbs
Laughing down the rain
Swallow in the storm

Sometimes I feel like a fist
Sometimes I am the colour of air
Sometimes it’s only afterwards
I find that I’m not there

In the dream dusk
We walked beside the lake
We watched the sky move sideways
And heard the evening break

Sometimes I feel like a fist
Sometimes I am the colour of air
Sometimes it’s only afterwards
I find that I’m not there

02. “Dislocated Day” – 5:24

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, drum programming
  • Gavin Harrison – drums [replacing programmed drums]

This psychedelic rocker became a concert mainstay in the 90s and was brought back in the 2010 tour. Chris Maitland’s live interpretation of the song, structured around a right-hand para-diddle pattern, was a radical change (considering he did not play on the original version) that transformed the song into a technical beast that showed off his and the band’s technical prowess. This version can be heard on the Coma Divine live album. In 2003, Gavin Harrison was asked to rerecord the drums for the studio version re-release of The Sky Moves Sideways. At SW’s request, his version stuck more closely to the original drum machine. However, when the band reintroduced “Dislocated Day” into the live set for the 2010 tour, as captured on the live album Octane Twisted, Gavin based his performances on Chris’ live interpretation.

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Chris on the The Sky Moves Sideways tour

Steven Wilson has commented that the lyrics for “Dislocated Day” were created at random, stringing random words together. This technique would be later used on Signify‘s “Sever”.

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The 2CD Digibook version of the live album Octane Twisted

Lyrics:

A dislocated day
Peers in to the ether
Counts the stars inside the sky
And flies in to the never

Looped around my eyelids
A thousand shining flecks
Pale against the canvas
Which hangs around my neck

Dislocated day
I will find a way
To make you say
The name of your forgiver

Stood beside an inlet
A starfish leads a dance
It dreams it is a human
And falls into a trance

A hole inside my body
Is wired up to a charge
Chemical imbalance
Tells me who you are

Insects hide the silence
November brings deep rain
Between the flow to freezing
And yesterday’s sustain

03. “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” – 5:40

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, drum programming
  • Gavin Harrison – drums [replacing programmed drums]

“The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” may be one of Steven Wilson’s most serene compositions. Originally featuring programmed drums, Gavin Harrison re-recorded the drums in 2003.

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Claudine Schafer’s photography for The Sky Moves Sideways

In some live performances in the 90’s, the track would segue into the second half of “Always Never” from 1993’s Up The Downstair. This arrangement can be heard on the live album Coma Divine. “The Moon Touches Your Shoulder” was played by itself a handful of times in 2003.

Lyrics:

Springtime is over
Don’t head for home
Creep up the ladder
And steal over stone

No time to forget this
World’s in your eyes
Sway in the cloud blur
And light up the sky

Cast off the colour
And tune in to black
The moon touches your shoulder
And brings the day back

(Touches your window)

04. “Prepare Yourself” – 1:54

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, tapes, drum programming

This peaceful interlude rather appropriately “prepares” the listener before the epic and grandiose “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase Two)”. Although the credits for the album only note SW as playing guitar on the track, he also used a drum machine and some samples.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

05. “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase Two)” – 16:46

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, keyboards, tapes, drum programming
  • Richard Barbieri – synthesizers, electronics
  • Colin Edwin – fretless bass, double bass
  • Chris Maitland – percussion
  • Suzanne Barbieri [guest] – vocals

Demo: “The Sky Moves Sideways (Alternate Version)” from the 2003 2CD release of The Sky Moves Sideways

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The original artwork for The Sky Moves Sideways

The second phase of the epic title track is in fact entirely instrumental and features Richard Barbieri’s wife, Suzanne, as a vocal guest. Phase two perfectly encapsulates the Hipgnosis-style artwork of the telephone box in an alien landscape on the cover of the album. Grandiose and cosmic, “The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase Two)” thrusts the listener into a journey, as pretentious as that may sound.

Only the “Is…Not” movement of the track was played live.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

Song Details: Outtakes and Non-Album Tracks

“Men of Wood” – 3:35

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, samples
  • Chris Maitland – drums [replacing programmed drums]

Writing Credits: Written by Steven Wilson and Alan Duffy

Release: Originally released on the 1994 The Sky Moves Sideways promo cassette and the 7″ Men of Wood bonus single bundled with the 2004 Headspin The Sky Moves Sideways 3LP. Re-recorded version released on the Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 compilation in 2002 and the 7″ Men of Wood bonus single bundled with the 2004 Headspin The Sky Moves Sideways 3LP.

Demo: “Men of Wood (1994 Mix)” from the Men of Wood 7″ single included with the Headspin 3LP The Sky Moves Sideways release and the early cassette promo for The Sky Moves Sideways

From the Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 compilation’s original booklet:

“Mixing the sparser Karma-era psychedelic pop like “Small Fish” and “The Joke’s On You” with a heavier krautrock attack, this son’s been a perennial runner-up in Porcupine Tree history. Originally recorded by Steven for Up The Downstair, it didn’t fit the developing mood for the album and was shelved. This version – recorded for The Sky Moves Sideways, with Chris adding real drums – suffered the same fate (making it onto promo cassettes but cut for the album release), and a proposed single release never happened.”

SW: “It was almost a throwback to “Linton Samuel Dawson” / “Jupiter Island” psychedelic pop, and that just wasn’t quite right – it was a context thing.”

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The version originally written for Up The Downstair has yet to be released. The full drum track can be heard in the I.E.M. track “The Gospel According to the I.E.M.” from the self-titled 1996 album.

Lyrics:

Come together men of wood
Burning sunsets where you stood
Like three hats lying in the snow
There’s nowhere left for you to go

Light escaping through the door
Leaking pain across the floor
There’s nothing more for me to say
Men of wood turn white to gray
Sweet men of wood

Men of wood
Where you stood
Men of wood
Where you stood

“Stars Die” – 5:01

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards, tapes
  • Colin Edwin – fretless bass
  • Chris Maitland – drums

Release: Originally released on the Moonloop EP / Stars Die single in 1994 and later included on the Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 compilation and future releases of The Sky Moves Sideways 

The track features a sample of President Nixon’s phone call with astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.

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SW on the The Sky Moves Sideways tour

SW: “On The Sky Moves Sideways I had a couple of tracks where I did actually bring Chris and Colin in for the first time – “Stars Die” and “Moonloop” – and they were a turning point for me because I realized that those two tracks for me were the best from the whole sessions. And I realized from that point on I never wanted to go back to having to use drum machines.”

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Chris in 1995

Chris: “I love that side of Steve, when he comes out with something that you love straight away. When we were jamming during the ‘Moonloop’ sessions, Steve got rid of everything, took the beat I wanted to use and was deliberately playing, and rebuilt ‘Stars Die’ around it.”

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Chris Maitland on the The Sky Moves Sideways tour

It was left off The Sky Moves Sideways in what Steven describes as one of the worst mistakes he’s ever made – “It was the best track I recorded at the time, and I always regretted not putting it on the record. At the time I thought it was too slight and too insubstantial, so it was released as a non-album single and became by far the most popular thing I’d released up until that time.” This mistake was corrected for the American version of the album, and remains one of the most popular Porcupine Tree pieces (not least with Steven’s own mother).

The track attracted a great deal of airplay and helped Porcupine Tree gain popularity in the mid-90s.

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Colin in 1995

From the PT website: “Sometimes tracks that work well in the studio do not translate to live performance. This can often be because something that was achievable in the studio is not possible live. A good example of this is the studio track ‘Stars Die’ which superimposes an almost whispered lead vocal over a band playing at full volume! In the past the band have come up with different arrangements in order to play tracks live, but this is not always possible.”

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Colin in 1995

Despite this statement, “Stars Die” was played as a full band arrangement on the 2007 – 2010 tours (likely due to the addition of Wes who was most likely not with the band when the statement was written). Before these tours, “Stars Die” was always played as an acoustic arrangement.

Lyrics:

The moon shook and curled up like gentle fire
The ocean glazed and melted wire
Voices buzzed in spiral eyes
Stars dived in blinding skies

Stars die, blinding skies

Tree cracked and mountain cried
Bridges broke, window sighed
Cells grew up and rivers burst
Sound obscured and sense reversed

Idle mind and severed soul
Silent nerves and begging bowl
Shallow haze to blast a way
Hyper sleep to end the day

“Moonloop” – 18:04 / 17:05 / 8:11 / 40:07 / 21:10 / 22:23 / 22:16

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, keyboards, tapes
  • Colin Edwin – fretless bass
  • Chris Maitland – drums, percussion
  • Rick Edwards [guest] – percussion
  • Markus Butler [guest] – harmonica [only on the unedited improvisation]

Writing Credits: Written by Steven Wilson, Rick Edwards, Colin Edwin and Chris Maitland

Release: Originally released on the Moonloop EP / Stars Die single in 1994 and later included on The Sky Moves Sideways. The unedited improvisation was released on Transmission IV: Moonloop EP in 2001.

Colin: “I think it was the anniversary of the moon landings … I can remember being in the studio and doing the recording and then going into the little chill out room in the studio with a TV. When I came out, there was a documentary on the TV about the moon landing.”

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Colin in 1995

Colin: “I can remember Richard Allen, the band manager, sitting there and watching us while we were playing… I had this thought in my mind, that it shouldn’t be a self-indulgent jam–we should play something listenable. Having an audience, having somebody there, made us perhaps a bit more restrained. But it made for a more involving listen.”

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A bootleg tee shirt featuring artwork from Transmission IV: Moonloop EP

Originally 40 minutes, Steven Wilson and company condensed “Moonloop” into a 20-minute version for release. The track showcases the jazz tendencies of the rhythm section of Chris Maitland and Colin Edwin, and their mastery of building and releasing tension. The song culminates in an epic Led Zeppelin-esque coda, led by Chris Maitland’s bombastic drumming.

SW: “The music live does incorporate a lot of improvisation – tracks like ‘Radioactive Toy’ and ‘Moonloop’ can drastically vary in length from night to night… Some tracks have been partly rewritten and / or rearranged to work in a live con­text and therefore differ substantially from the recorded ver­sions.”

Differences between versions:

  • 1994 (18:04) – the version found on the Moonloop EP / Stars Die single released in 1994, prior to the release of The Sky Moves Sideways
  • 1995 (17:05) – original European release (also used for the 1997 reissue)
  • 1995 (8:11) – edited version on American release
  • 1995 (6:25) – edited version on the Dreamtime Label compilation Music For Coffeeshops
  • 2001 (40:07) – the unedited improvisation on the 2001 promo release Transmission IV: Moonloop EP
  • 2003 (21:10) – the “Improvisation” (16:18) and “Coda” (4:52) sections added together from Kscope’s reissue series starting in 2003
  • 2012 (22:23) – the slightly extended version found on the Kscope “anti-loudness” 2LP release of the album in 2012. The same version has since been used in 2016’s The Delerium Years 1994–1997 box set and the 2017 2LP reissue of The Sky Moves Sideways. 
  • 2016 (22:16) – On streaming services the new digital remaster is broken up into “Improvisation” (17:21) and “Coda” (4:55), similar to the 2003 release but closer to the 2012 length. For some reason, it differs in length from the vinyl box set it is taken from. This could be a mistake on Discogs, and the box set / 2017 2LP is this length as well.

And of course, there’s the live version which can be heard on Coma Divine. This arrangement is 11 minutes.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

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The rare clear vinyl version of Transmission IV: Moonloop EP, released as a limited edition of 99 copies in 2006

Written and compiled by Quinn Downton