Up the Downstair

After On The Sunday of Life… Steven Wilson immediately set down to write more material for Porcupine Tree. At the time, Delerium was pushing him to cater to their typical audience. Richard Allen passed along some anti- and pro-LSD documentary albums (namely Dr. Timothy Leary’s L.S.D.) to Steven, suggesting to incorporate elements into Porcupine Tree’s music.

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Steven in 1992 (photo by Mike Bennion)

As someone disinclined to use his nose like a vacuum cleaner, SW couldn’t have been less of an authority on mind-altering chemicals. However, he was still fascinated by drug culture, even if he never wanted to be part of it.

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Richard Allen’s sleeve design for Voyage 34

“It was a lifestyle I wasn’t interested in at all. The psychedelic thing for me was always like playing a role.”

Released in November 1992, Voyage 34 was originally intended as the second half of a double album follow-up to On The Sunday of Life…. However, it was released as a single instead. The release played up Porcupine Tree’s supposed counter-culture bona fides. The original cover artwork, designed by Richard Allen, even used the swirling spiral pattern and quizzical liner notes from Dr. Timothy Leary’s pro-L.S.D. documentary audio album. In addition to the Timothy Leary album, Steven also heavily sampled the 1966 Capitol Records documentary album LSD.

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The Timothy Leary L.S.D. album

SW: “It’s presented as a documentary, but it’s clearly staged… It was basically propaganda that was created to dissuade kids from taking LSD. Although the whole thing is presented as real, it does smack of being scripted. I think that’s part of the appeal of it. There’s something very kitschy about that. It was crying to be set to music.”

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The Capitol Records 1966 LSD album

Steven always regarded Voyage 34 as a one-off exercise in the style of music that was popular at the time. “There was only so much I felt I could do with that approach to music. Ultimately, I felt my strength lay in creating music with more structure and song elements.”

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A page from the Voyage 34 booklet
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The back of the original Timothy Leary L.S.D. album

Richard Allen: “I’ve got a big collection of psychedelic records… including a concept album LSD which was issued in the ’60s, based on work done by a famous American doctor called Sydney Cohen – someone who was opposed to Timothy Leary. He though that the spread of LSD was a bad thing and he published a book on the subject, which was later released as a tie-in public information album. Although all the weird, wacky music which they’re slagging off on the album had actually been released on the same label [laughs]! Anyway, I gave Steve a tape of this LSD album and said, ‘Why don’t you have a think about using these as samples?’ At the same time he was thinking about The Orb; and there was this whole wave of ambient/hippy/rave/festival dance music happening.”

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Photography by Carl Glover for Voyage 34

SW: “It’s part of an era – the one thing I’ve done under the name of Porcupine Tree that was very much part of the zeitgeist as regards to what was happening musically. It’s the only thing that has dated probably the most but possibly in a good way. It does belong to that ’91/’92 class of the ambient-trance scene, albeit with the Porcupine Tree personalty stamped on it with the guitar and the structuring of the piece.”

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Photography by Lasse Hoile for the 2004 re-release of Voyage 34: The Complete Trip

SW: “It was trying to span the worlds of ambient techno and electronic music, and the worlds of progressive rock and psychedelic music. I sampled Van Der Graaf Generator and then used a David Gilmour-like guitar pattern as an anchor for it. At the same time, it was positioned to be very much in that world that The Orb and Future Sound of London were operating in – ambient trance with a four-to-the-floor pulse and electronic rhythm.”

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A press cutting from NME

The single reached #19 on the NME indie chart due to its adoption by dance DJs who picked up on it, helping to further Porcupine Tree’s reach. In November 1993 Delerium also released a remix single intended for chill-out rooms in nightclubs featuring remixes by electronic group Astralasia and one by Steven Wilson and (future) band member Richard Barbieri. Astraliasia’s remix cheekily tweaked the narration sample to say, “This trip is really necessary.”

SW: “It was an anti-single. It was a thirty minute single about drugs and it had no vocals in it. I thought that no one is going to play this. But it charted anyway. It was the ultimate ‘fuck you.’ We have released four minute singles since then. But for Porcupine Tree to release a single is like an oxymoron. It’s very difficult to take out a four minute chunk from an album and say ‘Here we are. This totally encapsulates everything Porcupine Tree are about.’ It’s never been satisfactory to me to release a single. If you know the group, you know that from one minute we go from extreme metal riffing to ambient texture, the next minute we’ll have a pop hook, the next minute we’ll have some avant garde sample. All of these things are part of the album. How do you take a chunk of that? To me it’s totally unrepresentative.”

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Press reviews for Voyage 34

Richard Allen: “I remember a few years later, I was at The Marquee and I was talking about Porcupine Tree. A girl overheard me and she was raving, ‘I listened to Voyage 34 fifty times while I was tripping. Porcupine Tree really knew what they were doing with LSD. They blow my mind.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell her Steve hadn’t touched anything stronger than a glass of wine.”

SW: “The whole point about Voyage 34 was an exercise in genre. In that sense it stands apart from the rest of the catalogue … back in the early Nineties, there was an explosion in ambient music, a fusion of electronic music and techno music with the philosophy of people like Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. I thought there was an interesting opportunity to do something that would bring progressive rock and psychedelia into that mixture. I wouldn’t say Voyage 34 was a technical exercise, that makes it sound like a science project, but it was a one-off experiment in a particular genre in which I knew I wouldn’t be staying for very long. I was given a tape of a guy having a bad trip in the Sixties. It was an anti-LSD propaganda album and it was perfect to form a narrative around which I could form this long, hypnotic, trippy piece of music. And that was Voyage 34. Even at the time, I think that sort of music was already passing. Music that is too attached to a trend very soon starts to sound very dated. I was always interested in existing outside the bubble of whatever was hip, and that kind of music was very briefly hip. Voyage 34 sits inside that bubble. I’m still very proud of it. It was a unique piece of music, but of all the catalogue, it’s one of the pieces which relates most closely to the era that it was created in.”

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Photography by Lasse Hoile for the 2004 re-release of Voyage 34: The Complete Trip

In a 2012 interview, Richard Allen commented on marketing Porcupine Tree: “I did all the press for [Delerium], particularly for Porcupine Tree. No other label was interested in this kind of music so it was a real uphill battle particularly for Porcupine Tree, a band that to start with was completely unknown, had no fan base, couldn’t perform live easily and played lengthy psychedelic guitar based progressive rock at a time when ambient trance and electronic, dance music were hip. We sold Porcupine Tree as an Ozric Tentacles type band which was a bit of a con as they were more progressive than psychedelic but it worked and they soon had a good fan base particularly in Italy.”

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Chris in 1994

SW: “As this came after the release of On the Sunday of Life…, but before Up the Downstair it suggested a massive change in style. After the deliberately nostalgic feel of the first album I realised the only way to take the project beyond one album was to bring in a strong contemporary feel. “Voyage 34” was recorded as just another track for the Up the Downstair album, which was supposed to be another double, but when I played it to Delerium they wanted to put it out as a single. This was the era of ‘ambient’ music and The Orb were the name to drop. I liked what they were doing but wanted to try and fuse it with the guitar on a very long piece. It just so happened that Richard Allen at Delerium had given me a tape of some 60’s LSD propaganda albums (some for, some against) and among them I found the fake documentary recording of Brain’s 34th LSD trip, which seemed to be crying out to be used as the narrative structure to the piece I was working on. It was a big indie cult hit and really put the name Porcupine Tree on the map. Such was the demand that the single was reissued the following year with a bonus 12 inch mix by ambient techno outfit Astralasia. It’s also still one of the longest singles ever released (beaten I think only by The Orb’s ‘Blue Room’).”

In April 2000, both Voyage 34 singles were released together as the compilation Voyage 34: The Complete Trip. This was later re-released in 2004 with new artwork by Lasse Hoile.

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Lasse Hoile’s artwork for the Voyage 34: The Complete Trip reissue

Porcupine Tree had now gained both a timely momentum and a firm grip on a prevailing musical mood, and both Steven and Delerium were eager to take advantage of this.

In May 1993, Steven Wilson released the second Porcupine Tree album. Unlike the previous release, On The Sunday of Life…Up The Downstair was conceived and recorded as a proper album, although Richard Allen still a hand in track selection.

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The artwork for Up The Downstair was created by Dutch brothers Nop and Win Machielse who sent some of their artwork to Delerium

Richard Allen: “Steven used to send me tapes, and I’d say, ‘I like this; I hate that; and I don’t think that works with this because it doesn’t work for the genre you’re attempting to fit in with’. Steve’s very diverse in his musical taste, and he would attempt to stick a funky track on a space-rock album. Fans of space-rock don’t like that. My initial reaction when Steven played it to me was, ‘This is too eclectic, and it doesn’t follow on from what you’ve done previously, and people are going to lose the plot. It’s too different.’ So he cut off a lot of stuff that was spurious to the flow of the album.

We discussed the various tracks and in the end he edited it into a form which we all thought worked. Steven was providing the music and enjoying the production and studio side to it; while I was providing the the conceptual frame, in the same way that Alan Duffy had provided the lyrics for the songs.”

Like its predecessor, the album includes several interlude tracks such as “What You Are Listening To…”, “Monuments Burn Into Moments” and “Siren”. Steven said “they serve as a breathing space between the more substantial works. I liked the idea of giving them titles. In naming them and making them part of the track listing, you’re telling the audience, ‘These tracks may be short and incidental, but they’re just as important to the overall musical journey.'”

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Photography by Nop & Win Machielse for Up The Downstair

Richard Allen: “Steve presented me with a number of demo tracks and asked me if I thought they fit in with the overall ‘marketing strategy’ I was pursuing. I remember that I rejected a funky number with a train sound in it called ‘The End of Music’ and another track because they were much more towards Steve’s ‘Donna Summer’ sensibilities. The only thing close to hat style left on the album is ‘Synesthesia’. There were also some tracks that later appeared on the Staircase Infinities mini album…”

SW: “This was going to be another double album to start with and it was only as it neared completion that tracks like ‘Voyage 34’, ‘The Joke’s On You’, ‘Phantoms’ and ‘Cloud Zero’ were taken off to slim it down to a 48 minute single album. I can’t remember the exact reason for this but of course ‘Voyage 34’ had already been issued as a single and I think also it might have been something to do with the fact that the [On The Sunday of Life…] double album had been so expensive to make and to get people to listen to.”

Up The Downstair‘s title comes from a sample at the end of “Voyage 34 (Phase One)” and the 1967 Robert Mulligan movie Up the Down Staircase. “Voyage 34” had been intended as the centerpiece of the record.

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Photography by Nop & Win Machielse for Up The Downstair

SW: “This album had a lovely shape to it and was a good balance between vocal and instrumental sections. To some extent I don’t feel I/we got this balance quite right again until Lightbulb Sun. The album is also significant in that it features 3/4 of the future band line-up of Porcupine Tree–Richard and Colin both appear as guests on one track each. I have some trouble listening to this album now because of the drum machines–the way I used them on the first album and [the Voyage 34] single was more in a stylised way, but here I was trying to make them sound like a real drummer, with limited success. But I’m still proud of the songs, which I feel is the strongest set of material from any of the first 4 albums, it’s just the production that lets it down a bit. ‘Fadeaway’ is still one of my favourite PT songs.”

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Porcupine Tree in 1994

SW: “Up The Downstair got an amazing review in Melody Maker, the equivalent of a five star review. The best thing that ever happened to me was not being successful early in my career writing compromised music [for the early No-Man albums]. If I had been, I could have been locked into a pattern and a career path that would have made me very unhappy. Failure was the best thing could’ve happened to me at that time. It made me say to myself, ‘You know what? Fuck it, I’m not going to write contrived mainstream music. I’m just going to do what comes naturally and if that’s a 30 minute ambient piece of a 3 minute pop tune, so be it.’ That set the template for the rest of my career.”

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Photography by Nop & Win Machielse for Up The Downstair

Here are some reviews of the album (sourced from Delerium’s website):

Organ (February 1993):

“Can Porcupine Tree possibly follow up their brilliant 30 minute single, Voyage 34 – the one that out-Orbed The Orb? Simple answer: yes, but not with more of the same. Porcupine Tree add a few more dimensions to their already multi-dimensional sound (hints of Floyd early, middle and late, something for all Floyd heads). Plenty of melting guitar to which they add a hint of Hawkwind and fuse it with a taste of Stone Roses. A touch of the Porcupine Tree prog-rock roots. Porcupine Tree are a rare band, they make classic psychedelic music without sounding the least bit dated, all that’s good about psychedelia and none of the bad.”

Melody Maker (10 June 1993):

“It began with a mystery; an album placed upon my desk with no introduction, no information. Then came the sleeve, sent separately, depicting a laughing figure shrouded in a dizzy red haze. Then came the rumours: that Porcupine Tree were one of those prog-rock outfits regularly space-jamming on ‘The Mark Radcliffe Show’, and that they were a major label dance act operating under a pseudonym. Finally came the moment when I played the record. Fifty minutes later my jaw was on the ground.

They’ve embarked upon a mission impossible: to create a truly Nineties progressive rock soundscape, utilising modern technology but avoiding prog pomposity. And they’ve managed it with room to spare. It’s a strange and wonderful brew, taking in Orb ambience, FSoL dub, Metallica steel and all points in between. Ambient space dubs, technological cut-ups and Gregorian chants texture the sound, but the fire at the heart of the noise comes from good old guitar. Be warned, there are solos here, but they’re played with a force and a purity that defies indulgence.

I’m reminded of the original ideas behind Levitation and their awesome Smile before they lost it and became a Goth metal band. I’m remembering Floyd and King Crimson and wondering whether they’re aware that their pioneering spirit has been re-incarnated in the Nineties. Mostly (and curiously) I’m reminded of the great 801, a ground-breaking ambient rock ‘super group’ formed by Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera, who slayed the Reading Festival in 1976 and imploded soon after, leaving a myriad of musical possibilities unresolved. Here’s where the gauntlet is finally picked up.

So, ‘Small Fish’ sounds like Robert Wyatt singing something off Eno’s Another Green World backed by a post-ravedelic Syd Pink Floyd, ‘Synethesia’ like a roughed up Spiritualized with an interest in experimental pop, and ‘Monuments Burn Into Moments’ could be Manzanera dissolving into an acid haze. There are no highlights because every second counts, but the epic boogie blowout title track (featuring Japan’s Richard Barbieri) is surely worth considering, as is the 11-minute space chug of ‘Burning Sky’ and the troubled, desolate ‘Fadeaway’.

Hawkwind went In Search of Space and never found it. The Porcupine Tree have not only been there, but they’ve brought the whole thing back and totally re-assembled it (with colliding planets ‘n’ all) to be enjoyed in the privacy of your living room.

Up The Downstair is a startling, electrifying journey. It pulsates with the sense of discovery. Here’s a band who are not only prepared to throw away rock’s rule book, but to set the thing on fire and dance among the flames.

This truly is a psychedelic masterpiece, and, I’d wager, one of the albums of the year.” (Dave Simpson)

CMJ (June 1993):

“Porcupine Tree’s debut album, On The Sunday of Life…, won an Overseas Jackpot! in June, 1992. The work of Steven Wilson, the musical backbone of pop/ballad romantics No-Man, the Tree was a master of psych-prog romanticism, and [On The Sunday of Life…] was a free festival of mind-bent levitation that made no effort to conceal its retro intentions. Up The Downstair retains the band’s willowy roots in Albion psychedelia but expands the brief, dropping its cheesy self-consciousness while infusing some contemporary dance auras (from acidic mesmerism to almost funky syncopation) with more ‘group-like’ interaction. Not that Wilson blatantly stitches together old and new, Orb ambience and Floyd incadescence; the center ground is more eclectic and evasive that that (the Melody Maker review accurately mentions Eno and Phil Manzanera’s mid ’70s outfit 801, which modernized the ’60s Canterbury scene sound – Floyd, Caravan, Soft Machine – lying behind Porcupine Tree’s recipe). Silver-lined Moogs jostle with electric neon guitars, sometimes on soft ground, other times driven by harder rhythms (‘Not Beautiful Anymore’ for one), while space (rock) dust is sprayed every which way. Wilson’s soft vocal intonations creep in on five out of 10 tracks, like the title cut, which is the epicentre of the album alongside the 11-minute ‘Burning Sky’ and the closing sunset-blissful ‘Fadeaway’. Up The Downstair is epic landscaping, but Wilson is equally capable on ‘Small Fish’, the album’s prettiest track, which echoes the fragility of Robert Wyatt, with early Floydian cushioning. A complete voyage, and as inspired as an Apollo mission.”

Crohinga Well (1993):

“One of the psychedelic highlights of 1992 was the vinyl/CD debut of Porcupine Tree, a (still) somewhat mysterious act from the western outskirts of London. On The Sunday of Life… was partly a reworking of material from two older cassette albums Tarquin’s Seaweed Farm and The Nostalgia Factory (both are now deleted). The album blew a lot of people’s minds with its very impressive, almost majestic symphonic rock sound, reminiscent of ‘psychedelic milestones’ like Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother. We soon found out that Porcupine Tree had a lot more to offer, however, when the single (what’s in a name: it’s over 30 minutes long!), Voyage 34 came out, a story about LSD in the human brain, and a modest wink at the ‘dance scene’ as well.

The successor to On The Sunday of Life… is out at last, and from a first impression we can only say: Steve Wilson and his friends have done it again. The album (playing time about 48 minutes) contains ten tracks that offer a wide scope of psychedelic music, varying from late sixties/early seventies symphonic workouts to contemporary, very popular sounding moody electronic pieces. The key word on this LP seems to be ‘mood’. All the songs were mixed into one another, so the listener floats from one ‘sound-track for the mind’ into the next one. This is a very trippy album with different highlights: the long instrumental ‘Burning Sky’, ‘Up The Downstair’ (with almost Ozrics-like keyboards), the incredibly beautiful ‘Fadeaway’ (with a distinct ‘Floyd feeling’ attached to it, the only track on the LP where this is the case, by the way) and the semi-trendy, danceable ‘Synesthesia’.

Up The Downstair is an LP that hides many surprises for the attentive listener. After a few spins you realise that even the sounds mixed into the background and he vocal interventions from old ‘drug’ records all play a part in this warm, soothing lysergic tapestry that contains sparse, but matching lyrics. When I wrote an article on Porcupine Tree last year (published in Crohinga Well 2) I predicted that this act would become a “third way” in New British Psychedelia (the first and second being the psychedelic rock of Bevis Frond and the spacey festival sounds of Ozric Tentacles, of course). This record only confirms my statement. Up The Downstair is a record to get incredibly stoned to (and you will…)!”

Up The Downstair was the last time Steven would use Alan Duffy’s distinctive psychedelic lyrics; mostly because his folder of Duffy’s words had finally been exhausted. “It was literally when I’d run out of lyrics that I realised that I’d have to start writing my own.” For a while, Steven resumed contact with Alan but nothing came of it.

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Alan Duffy

SW: “Alan sent the lyrics to me sometime around 1982 – 1985, before he started his record label. I was still at school but recording stuff on a home made 4 track and sending the odd cassette out to the wide world. One of the more peculiar cassettes I made received a favourable review in Sounds and Alan sent for a copy and liked it and began to correspond with me, sending me lyrics. At the time I couldn’t really do justice to the kind of psychedelic soundscapes that I think he imagined, which is why I pulled the lyrics out again when I started writing stuff like ‘Jupiter Island’ in the late eighties.  They were just too perfect. I used up my stock of Alan’s lyrics about half way through Up the Downstair and as far as I know Alan hasn’t written any since.”

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Porcupine Tree in 1994

By late 1993, Porcupine Tree had grown to the point where Steven Wilson wanted to perform in a live setting. Joined by previous collaborators Richard Barbieri on keyboards, Colin Edwin on bass and Chris Maitland on drums, Porcupine Tree played their first ever show at the Nag’s Head in High Wycombe. For more information on the formation of the band, visit either the The Sky Moves Sideways or History page.

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Porcupine Tree at their first ever show on December 4th 1993 at The Nag’s Head, High Wycombe

The chemistry of the line-up was immediately illustrated in the live album Spiral Circus, which compiled the band’s earliest shows, released in April 1994.

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Chris Kissadjekian’s artwork for the LP release of Spiral Circus

In December 1994 Porcupine Tree released Staircase Infinities, the companion mini-album to Up The Downstair. It featured both outtakes from the album, a re-imagining of the cassette track “Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape” and a new composition.

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Nop & Win Machielse’s artwork for Staircase Infinities

SW: “This was originally put together after we recovered an offer from Lazy Eye Records in Holland to do a limited edition 10” vinyl EP. I used 3 leftovers from the abandoned double album of Up the Downstair on Side One and recorded 2 tracks especially for Side 2, including a new version of a track dating from the cassette years ‘Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape’. My favourite track from it though was the other new piece ‘Rainy Taxi’, named after a Salvador Dali installation and inspired by Ashra Tempel (again).”

Original Tracklist

  1. “What You Are Listening To…” – 0:57
  2. “Synesthesia” – 5:11
  3. “Monuments Burn Into Moments” – 0:20
  4. “Always Never” – 6:58
  5. “Up The Downstair” – 9:59
  6. “Not Beautiful Anymore” – 3:26
  7. “Siren” – 0:53
  8. “Small Fish” – 2:43
  9. “Burning Sky” – 11:07
  10. “Fadeaway” – 6:15

Total length: 47:49

2005 Reissue Tracklist

  1. “What You Are Listening To…” – 0:57
  2. “Synesthesia” – 5:16
  3. “Monuments Burn Into Moments” – 0:22
  4. “Always Never” – 7:00
  5. “Up The Downstair” – 10:14
  6. “Not Beautiful Anymore” – 3:25
  7. “Siren” – 0:57
  8. “Small Fish” – 2:42
  9. “Burning Sky” – 11:36
  10. “Fadeaway” – 6:19

Total length: 48:48

Due to the re-recording, some track lengths differ from the original.

Singles

“Radio Active” – 1993

Promo CD:

  1. “Synesthesia (Edit)” – 4:05
  2. “Radioactive Toy (Short Version)” – 4:10
  3. “The Joke’s On You” – 4:00
  4. “Cloud Zero” – 4:16

Limited release of 500 copies for UK Radio Broadcast. It is unclear when in 1993 it was released, but it was likely in March or April, just prior to the release of Up The Downstair in June.

“Voyage 34” – November 1992

12″ Vinyl:

  1. “Voyage 34: Phase I” – 12:35
  2. “Voyage 34: Phase II” – 17:29

CD:

  1. “Voyage 34” – 30:04

A mispress of the CD exists. This can be identified by the sleeve catalogue number being “DELEC-CD-EP-010” instead of “DELEC CD EP 010”. In the mispress, the artwork has blue lettering instead of green lettering and a darker blue in the spiral image. There are some other small differences in typesetting. The CD itself is exactly the same. 47 copies made it to retail and the rest were destroyed.

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One of the mispress copies

“Voyage 34: Remixes” – November 1993

12″ Vinyl:

  1. “Voyage 34: Phase III (Astralasia Dreamstate)” – 19:35
  2. “Voyage 34: Phase IV (A New Civilisation)” – 19:44

Although featuring the same name as the 1992 single, this release features two remixes.

Promo 12″ Vinyl (100 copies):

  1. “Voyage 34: Phase III (Astralasia Dreamstate)” – 19:35
  2. “Voyage 34: Phase IV (A New Civilisation)” – 19:44

Blank label 12″ vinyl issued in a black die-cut sleeve with sticker naming artist, title & tracklist. 100 copies made and sent out to trance clubs (I’m sure Phase IV got everyone dancing… Just kidding).

Production

  • Steven Wilson – production, remix [2005 version] and remaster [1997, 2005 and 2017 versions]
  • Nop & Win Machielse – artwork
  • Wrap Me Up Designs – booklet layout
  • Busy Bee Cleaning Services – house cleaning services
  • Carl Glover – design [2005 version and all following re-releases]

Label: Delerium Records

Release: Released in May 1993

Publishing: Published by Hit & Run Music (Publishing) Ltd.

Released on CD and LP in May 1993. Later released on CS in Poland in 1996 and 1997. The album was then remastered by SW and reissued by Delerium in November 1997. The album was later remixed (with new drums) and remastered by SW in 2004 and then released by Snapper Music in 2005 as a 2CD set with Staircase Infinities on the second set. This remix/remaster was later released as a 2LP (once again with Staircase Infinities, except this time with the bonus track “Phantoms”) in 2008. In 2016 the album was remastered yet again by SW for inclusion in the 2017 9LP box set The Delerium Years 1991–1993. This remaster was then released as a standalone 2LP release in 2017.

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The 2017 box set The Delerium Years 1991–1993 (credit to my friend @javierjonesr on Instagram)

The Up The Downstair booklet features a quote from French impressionist painter Francis Picablia; “There is only one movement and that is perpetual motion.”

“Thanks due to: Richard Allen… and to Mark Radcliffe, Jon Homer, Dina Cohen, Mike Bennion, The Pomps, Justin King, Mark Gordon, Dave Massey, Marc Muijen. For keeping things professional, Busy Bee Cleaning Services one of the best house cleaning services making everyone think there was never a mess.

Dedicated to Terumi and the spirit of Orson Welles.”

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The original 1993 CD release of Up The Downstair

From the 2005 re-release:

“The drum programming on the first album had been highly stylised, but on Up The Downstair I decided to get serious and was trying to create the impression of real drums by spending time programming samples as if they had been played by a real drummer (this despite the fact that I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, or how a real drummer would have done it). The limitations of these fairly basic drum samples and my programming, as well as the cheapness of much of the equipment I was using at the time, left the album in a kind of half hi-fi / half lo-fi production no man’s land. What was possibly a virtue on On The Sunday Of Life, with it’s overtly DIY aesthetic, became a hindrance when I started to reach for something higher and more sophisticated. This became even more evident when the band lineup of Porcupine Tree (myself, Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin, and Chris Maitland) came together for the first time at the end of 1993 and started to play a lot of the Up The Downstair music live. The studio versions sounded so thin and anaemic compared to the fleshed-out band interpretations.

In 1997 I was able to remaster the album for the first time. We attempted to add back some warmth and dynamics to the sound but the limitations of the source recording meant there was only so much we could do. Later, when I started to compile the [Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997] compilation, I went one step further and remixed 2 of the tracks, transferring the original analogue tape recording to hard disk and using much better processing to clean up and broaden the overall sound. Better, but still not great. I realised that it could never be how I wanted it to be with those programmed drum parts as the basis for everything else, so with this definitive reissue serious I have finally taken the opportunity to go back to the master tapes to give the whole album a face lift.

Most importantly, Gavin Harrison recorded new drums for the album. His brief was to remain faithful to the original album–in other words, not to substantially change the content of any of the electronic parts and to generally keep it simple. I also redid a few guitar parts which were particularly badly recorded (the acoustic guitars for example), but otherwise I used as much of the original I used as much of the original recording as possible, albeit with some time correction to fit he new drum performances. In doing so, I aimed to retain the atmosphere of the original versions, whilst significantly improving the quality and depth of the sound.

I think Up The Downstair is much better now–I can listen to it and enjoy the material again. And I’ve always been very proud of the songs on the record, with ‘Fadeaway’ especially being one of my favourite songs. I’m sure there will be people that think that the original album should have stayed as it was for better or worse–a snapshot in time–but on this occasion I think messing with history was the right thing to do, mainly because it seems I’m not the only one who is put off the original album by those ‘fake’ drums. And also because I believe that the people who have yet to discover this album outnumber those that already have.”

The move may seem akin to George Lucas and his endless alterations of the original trilogy, but Steven disagrees!

SW: “Unlike George Lucas, I had to! I needed to replace the drum loops that I had sampled from Miles Davis, or negotiate a settlement as I did with John Marshall on the previous record. At that point I thought, ‘Let’s just have Gavin play the drums anyway because some of the drum machine programs were pretty primitive.’ The brief to Gavin was, ‘Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Stay pretty true to the original patterns that I programmed.’ Gavin made it sound human and organic, less like an album of glorified demos.”

SW: “It’s a new recording. A lot of the elements will still be the same. It will have the same vocal performances and guitar parts, but it’s a complete overhaul of that record. The original version is being withdrawn permanently, so it’s almost replacing that record with a new version.”

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The HMV exclusive pressing of the standalone 2017 2LP Kscope release of Up The Downstair (credit to my friend @javierjonesr on Instagram)

All tracks recorded at No Man’s Land in February 1992 – January 1993 unless noted otherwise. Drum recording completed at Bourne Place (Gavin’s studio) in November –December 2004. Originally mixed and mastered at No Man’s Land in early 1993 by SW. New mix completed at No Man’s Land in November – December 2004 by SW. Remasters completed at No Man’s Land in 1997, January 2005 and April 2016. All tracks written by SW unless noted otherwise.

Song Details: Album Tracks

01. “What You Are Listening To…” – 0:57

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, keyboards, drum programming, samples

Acting as the opener for Up The Downstair in a similar vein as “Bornlivedie” for Signify, “What You Are Listening To…” features extensive sample use.

I have located one of the documentaries Steven sampled voices from for both Up The Downstair and Voyage 34 tracks online. See if you can spot some familiar parts! To get you started, the spoken word at the end of “What You Are Listening To…” can be found in the beginning of the video while 4:16 is used in various Voyage 34 phases. To listen to the rest of the documentary, click the second part in the “Up Next” tab in the Youtube player.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

02. “Synesthesia” – 5:11

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

The snappy “Synesthesia” offers an early peek at Steven’s ability to craft shorter pieces with big melodic hooks and layered vocal harmonies, a technique he would later hone.

The Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 booklet describes “Synesthesia” as “a hallucinatory vision of war and death and the gaps between.”

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Photography by Lasse Hoile for the 2017 box set The Delerium Years 1991–1993

The term “synesthesia” refers to the neurological phenomenon in which someone sees certain colours in response to listening to music.

Lyrics:

I’m sending you a letter
Because I don’t think there’s much time
Time to clear the cobwebs
Time to bear the crime

It’s only a number
It’s only a death
Another soldier died in action
The telegram regrets

I’m lying on a stretcher
They’re lying to my face
There’s no-one left to help me
I’m just a waste of space

It’s a matter of moments
I’ll be dead before you’ve read
There’s blood on the table
And my back is full of lead

03. “Monuments Burn Into Moments” – 0:20

  • Steven Wilson – samples

An instrumental interlude, “Monuments Burn Into Moments” is an extract of the song “Sinatra Rape Scene” from the The Nostalgia Factory cassette.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

04. “Always Never” – 6:58

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards, programmed drums, samples
  • Gavin Harrison – drums [replacing original programmed drums]
  • Colin Edwin [guest] – fretless bass

Writing Credits: Written by Alan Duffy and Steven Wilson

The dynamic ballad “Always Never” ends with a mushrooming guitar blowout, showcasing Steven’s guitar hero chops. The track also features the first appearance of future band member Colin Edwin, who was a couple years behind Steven in school and lived a stone’s throw from No Man’s Land (he had been an occasional visitor). In June 1994 Colin appeared on a No-Man radio session (a task both Chris Maitland and Richard Barbieri had done before joining Porcupine Tree).

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Colin in 1995
In contrast to SW’s experimental leanings, Colin was a roots boy; he’d played blues and jazz for ages, notwithstanding ventures into indie-rock in earlier years. Still, involving him in recording was quite natural, and was immediately productive. “I really enjoyed doing it… I was getting bored in the musical situations I was involved in and needed fresh fruit. At the time, I was just earning my keep playing tons of things. I ran my own trio, played in a house band at a local arts centre and anything else I got asked to do and felt like doing. Lots of live work from pubs to festivals, but not really much in the way of studio playing.”

SW: “Colin was a bass player and I wasn’t… I wanted the music to have more of a band identity. That was important to me. I was boring myself by doing everything on my own. I wanted to bring in other voices and other musicians. Whereas I might have played something quick and dirty on the track, Colin added a more thoughtful approach to the bass part.”

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Colin in 1995

Colin: “This was the first PT album that I played on and it was a contribution to the track ‘Always Never’. It must have been about a year before the band became an entity. It was a pleasure for me just to experience the recording process as I’d been playing in a blues band for about two years and they never went into the studio so I hadn’t done any studio playing for ages (apart from experimenting with my cassette four track), just loads of gigs, which is a different world really. I used the same bass I still use about 90% of the time today (Wal custom fretless). I played to an instrumental backing track and never got to hear the lyrics or vocals until Steven gave me a copy of the CD, long after.”

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Colin in 1994

As Stephen Humphries described it in his notes for the The Delerium Years 1991–1993 box set, Colin’s bassline in “Always Never” “bobs as serenely as a fisherman’s float in a rippled pond.”

Lyrics:

I feel no pain
Cos I’m an island
I will remain
In the deafness of your silence

I love you sometimes
Always Never
He said you’re here
Here with me now

I feel no gain
When you’re around me
I’ll try again
In the darkness you astound me

It’s growing cold
I’m growing old
Is this the only way to see the fire?
It’s raining…

05. “Up The Downstair” – 9:59

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, keyboards, drum programming, samples
  • Gavin Harrison – drums [replacing original programmed drums]
  • Richard Barbieri [guest] – synthesizers, electronics
  • Suzanne Barbieri [guest] – voice

The title track also features contributions from a future band member. This time, featuring keyboards by Richard Barbieri and vocals from his wife Suzanne.

Richard: “At the time, I was working with Steven as part of No-Man, which was his main project at that point, with Tim… He said he had this side project called Porcupine Tree and would I be interested in playing on it. I said, ‘Yeah, fine.’ His enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I went around to his place and listened to some of the stuff and it was very kind of spacey and trancey. He wanted a lot of old-style analogue electronics, which was perfect for me. So I brought around all my old stuff and just started jamming with the music and trying things.”

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Richard in 1995

Richard committed sounds to a DAT tape for Steven to sample. The result? Barbieri had infused the track with dark plumes of inky textures and strange synthesizers.

SW: “I had this psychedelic/progressive thing going, and I knew he loved that kind of music, so I just rang him up and said, ‘Richard, I’ve got this track and I’d like you to come and put loads of great analogue sounds all over it.’ There was no great master plan or anything, things were done on a whim… He just did it for fun.”

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Photography by Nop & Win Machielse for Up The Downstair

Steven experimented with William Burrough’s word cut-up technique to help him compose extra lyrics; one result was the eerie monologue Suzanne Barbieri recited over “Up The Downstair”, a technique he would later use on songs like “Dislocated Day” and “Sever”.

Richard Allen: “When I first heard Up The Downstair I was surprised because it was nothing like the other two releases – I reckon that Steven structured it around Richard Barbieri’s sound at some point. At that time Steven was really into things like Aphex Twin and all that kind of stuff – he wasn’t so much into the Eat Static and the more kind of crusty hippy stuff, but he was heavily into the ambient trancey stuff. I’ve got to admit that I was doing all I could to steer him in a psychedelic space-rock direction, but at that point Steve was starting to lose interest in that or not listen – or seemed to not to be listening – to my suggestions to the same degree. I think he realised ‘Hang on a minute, I can do what I want.’ The thing about On The Sunday of Life… was that it was already recorded and it was a case of me suggesting about what could be used from what was already there. That’s a totally different ballgame to making suggestions to somebody recording something as they go along.”

Porcupine Tree - Stars Die (The Delerium Years 91-97) [Booklet 12] [2002]
“On keyboards, The Doctor… Mr. Richard Barbieri!”
SW: “Part of the vocabulary of Porcupine Tree developed very early on from the way that Richard approaches keyboards.”

Richard: “This was my first involvement with Porcupine Tree. Steven wanted me to add some spacey electronics to the title track which had a strong trance feel. I used my old analogue synths and went to town so to speak, overlaying various electronic textures and effects. We still perform this track live and it works really well as a contrast to the newer material, although ‘Fadeaway’ is my favourite track on the album.”

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

06. “Not Beautiful Anymore” – 3:56

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, programmed drums, samples
  • Gavin Harrison – drums [replacing original programmed drums]

With piercing guitar work and a hard hitting drum track, the trippy rocker “Not Beautiful Anymore” is an excellent hint at what was to come later in the band’s career with songs like “Signify”, “Tinto Brass”, “Wedding Nails” and “Deadwing”.

The LSD samples can be found at 5:23 in this audio documentary:

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

07. “Siren” – 0:53

  • Steven Wilson – keyboards, voices, samples

This instrumental interlude connects the rocking “Not Beautiful Anymore” and more morose and somber “Small Fish”.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

08. “Small Fish” – 2:43

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

Writing Credits: Written by Alan Duffy and Steven Wilson

The 8th song on Up The Downstair, “Small Fish” is actually a resurrected Karma song, a project of Steven’s in the 1980s. The track was originally featured on the release The Joke’s On You in 1983.

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SW with his band Karma in 1985

In the 2005 re-release, the spoken vocal “The first thing that I saw as…” is moved from the beginning of “Small Fish” to the end of “Siren”.

Lyrics:

The first thing that I saw as
The fisherman smiled at me
Were fields of empty people
Floating out to sea
The rain lashed down in darkness
A lizard blinked an eye
And time stopped in the silence
The small fish gave a cry

The next thing that I saw as
Things were fading fast
Were dreams of children’s laughter
Smouldering to dust
The rain lashed down in darkness
A lizard blinked an eye
And time stopped in the silence
The small fish gave a cry

The last thing that I saw as
My life passed by
Were fields of empty people
Laying down to die
The rain lashed down in darkness
A lizard blinked an eye
And time stopped in the silence
To watch the burning sky

09. “Burning Sky” – 11:07

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, programmed drums, effects, samples
  • Gavin Harrison – drums [replacing original programmed drums]

The explosive “Burning Sky” combines the space grooves of The Orb and ambient duo Future Sound of London, guitar playing from the Alan Parsons Project and the psychedelic explorations of Steve Hillage, yet it’s stamped with Wilson’s musical personality and greater progressive-rock sensibility.

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Steven playing “Burning Sky” in 1994

The heavy use of repetition in the main section of the track would predict the krautrock and almost motorik attacks of future tracks like “Signify”, “Tinto Brass” and “Wedding Nails”, although with a greater focus on electronica.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

10. “Fadeaway” – 6:15

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

Writing Credits: Written by Alan Duffy and Steven Wilson

The finale to Up the Downstair, the moody “Fadeaway” is still a favourite with both Richard Barbieri and Steven. It definitely features some of the best melodies Steven would ever write.

SW: “Another song I wrote in the early ’80s and never recorded with Karma or anyone else – I just thought it was a really beautiful song.”

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Photography taken by Lasse Hoile for the 2017 box set The Delerium Years 1991–1993

Both “Fadeaway” and “Burning Sky” were played to commemorate the release of the Up The Downstair re-release in 2005 on the Deadwing tour.

Song Details: Outtakes and Non-Album Tracks

“Voyage 34: Phase I” – 12:35

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, programmed drums, samples

Release: Originally released on the Voyage 34 single in November 1992 and later on the Voyage 34: The Complete Trip compilation in 2000

SW: “The guitar lick which a lot of people assume is a sample of Pink Floyd was actually inspired by Ashra Tempel’s Inventions for Electric Guitar album – but then not as many people have heard that one.”

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The 2010 Kscope 2LP reissue of Voyage 34 (credit to my friend @javierjonesr on Instagram)
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Photography by Lasse Hoile for the 2004 re-release of Voyage 34: The Complete Trip

“A post rave space wave to the Darkside of the Moon. After listening to this recording your friends won’t know you anymore. You’re on Voyage 34 now – Hallelujah!”

Listeners will certainly meet themselves coming up a downstaircase

Voyage 34 also includes a vocal sample from the Dead Can Dance song As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins.

SW: “I had a DAT tape full of samples I’d lifted off records of Lisa Gerrard’s extraordinary voice and Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, the female Bulgarian singers. When I was looking for something that would be a top line for this instrumental, I would reach for that DAT and see if something would fit. There was a lot of serendipity involved because you had something in the right key, the right rhythm or the right feel. That Lisa Gerrard sample just seemed to fit beautifully over the top of what I had.”

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Photography by Lasse Hoile for the 2004 re-release of Voyage 34: The Complete Trip

“Before we start 2 questions which have puzzled me for a while. Firstly where do the samples from Voyage 34 come from, and on what format was this (TV documentary or recorded)?”

SW: “They come from LSD propaganda vinyl albums that were issued in the late 60’s – some were pro-LSD (the one’s made by Timothy Leary) and others against (including the one that features the transparently contrived 34th bum trip of ‘Brian’). The cover to [Voyage 34] is a pastiche of the cover to a Timothy Leary album called L.S.D. which some of the samples are taken from. These albums are very rare in original vinyl pressings, but I believe some have been reissued on CD – mainly the Leary ones.”

“Can you give us any info on its availability past or present?”

SW: “The 4 phases were originally issued in November ’92 (1+2 on CD and vinyl) and November ’93 (3+4 vinyl only) as long play singles and were deleted shortly afterwards. A slightly remixed version of Phase One appeared on a CD given away free with a Japanese cyber-lifestyle magazine (no really!) and later was included on Delerium’s Pick n Mix sampler CD. A remixed edit (without the voice samples) was included on a compilation CD called The Phenomenology of Ambient released on Crammed Discs in 1994.

The new CD compiles the original versions all 4 of phases in new, sonically improved mixes.”

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“Voyage 34: Phase II” – 17:29

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, programmed drums, samples

Release: Originally released on the Voyage 34 single in November 1992 and later on the Voyage 34: The Complete Trip compilation in 2000

The second phase of “Voyage 34” continues the opus with a greater emphasis on electronica. The track slowly builds and builds until it finally culminates in an explosive reprise of the solo from phase one.

Sound familiar?

Drug taking has never been an important activity for Wilson himself… “The subject does fascinate me, but as an outsider. People say that a lot of great artists made their best work by using them. I don’t believe that; drugs allowed them to tap into the power of dreams. But I can do that without chemicals to facilitate the process.”

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“Voyage 34: Phase III (Astralasia Dreamstate)” – 19:35

  • Steven Wilson – [guitars, bass, keyboards, programmed drums, samples]
  • Astralasia – remix

Writing Credits: Written by Steven Wilson and remixed by Astralasia

Recording: Recorded in August 1993

Release: Released in November 1993 on the Voyage 34: Remixes single

This phase of “Voyage 34” was technically not created by Steven Wilson. Instead, it is actually a remix of the original two phases done by Astralasia, a British electronic group, who were fans of Porcupine Tree.

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The 2017 Kscope 2LP reissue of Voyage 34 (credit to my friend @javierjonesr on Instagram)

“Do you like remix works based on your originals? I often feel remixes (in general) are so far removed from the original there is nothing left and can often be totally new creations.”

SW: “I like the principle of remixes and reconstructions but like anything they can be very varied in quality. For example, I love what Astralasia did with [Porcupine Tree]’s ‘Voyage 34’ but what Scanner did with No-Man’s ‘Housewives Hooked on Heroin’ was not so good. Sometimes remix albums can destroy whatever was special about a track in the first place, sometimes enhance it and sometime improve on it!”

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“Voyage 34: Phase IV (A New Civilisation)” – 19:44

  • Steven Wilson – [guitars, bass, keyboards, programmed drums, samples], remix
  • Richard Barbieri – synthesizers, electronics, remix

Writing Credits: Written by Steven Wilson and remixed by Steven Wilson and Richard Barbieri

Recording: Recorded in August 1993

Release: Released in November 1993 on the Voyage 34: Remixes single

While the third phase of “Voyage 34” was a remix not done by Wilson, phase four was actually done by both Wilson and future band mate, Richard Barbieri who, at the time, had previously worked on the Up The Downstair title track.

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Photography by Lasse Hoile for the 2004 re-release of Voyage 34: The Complete Trip

With a greater focus on pure ambience, the listener is treated to a perpetual fuzzy heartbeat and subtle guitar statements in the fourth and final phase of “Voyage 34”.

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Richard and Steven

“And lastly can you explain the reason for the missing 6 minutes from ‘Voyage 34 (Phase IV)’?”

SW: “Listen to the original version and the new version one after the other and tell me if you can honestly hear what has been edited out. I think you will find it very difficult, the reason being that the new version has not omitted any of the content, just compressed into a more compact form. As the original 12 inch was meant more for use in ambient clubs it could go on a bit without so much concern for making it so interesting to listen to. For the CD I have just tightened it up a bit as it did go on a bit.”

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“Cloud Zero” – 4:39

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, samples

Release: Released on the Staircase Infinities mini-album in 1994

Staircase Infinities opens with the gorgeous chill-out instrumental “Cloud Zero.” Its bed layers are wind-like synthesizers, a sampled drum loop, and a groovy bassline, half recalling both the experimental tape swirls of On the Sunday of Life… and the drugged haze of Voyage 34. Wilson lays a brilliant clean guitar solo while hints of the synth swirls in “Not Beautiful Anymore” subtly poke through the mix. After a brief, quiet break, the pace continues, this time with an absolutely beautiful organ backing. This pattern continues again to lead to the emotional payoff of the track, everything returning in full force with an additional distorted, reverberated guitar solo battling note against note with the clean guitar. A succinct, condensed look at Steven’s approach to instrumental tracks at the time, its echoes fade into a quiet organ coda that also fades into the ether to end the piece.

The intro of “Cloud Zero” is taken from “Split Image”, which was released on The Nostalgia Factory (and subsequently, Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape).

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“The Joke’s On You” – 4:05

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, samples

Writing Credits: Written by Alan Duffy and Steven Wilson

Release: Released on the Staircase Infinities mini-album in 1994

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Steven’s track sheet for “The Joke’s On You” and a potential tracklist for Staircase Infinities (mentioning two more Up The Downstair outtakes: “Surf Music” and “Rancid Butterdish” (“End of Music” is also mentioned on another page of the Staircase Infinities booklet)

Much in the vein of “Nine Cats” from On The Sunday of Life…, “The Joke’s on You” follows a sort of singer-songwriter-meets-psychedelic-echoes blueprint, also used on other early tracks like “Footprints” to great effect. It seems to harken back to a Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd style of playful dynamic contrast, the Alan Duffy-penned lyrics echoing between the walls. One can see why it didn’t quite fit on Up The Downstair; that side of psychedelia was mostly left behind by that point, save the beginning of “Always Never” (which then has the darker, morose second half to more closely tie it with the album’s direction).

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Steven’s notes for “The Joke’s On You”

The track was originally written in early ’80s (along with tracks like “Nine Cats” and “Small Fish”) for Steven’s highschool band Karma.

Lyrics:

Riding on a unicorn
Stranded in my mind
Electric raven met me there
To see what we could find

Strange days
Incredible days
Bring all my children to me
Strange ways
Incredible ways
On a dark stars endless journey

Endless realms of fading dreams
Lies stranded with the past
We climb up on the wind of change
We say ‘You know the joke’s on you’

Strange days
Incredible days
Bring all my children to me
Strange ways
Incredible ways
On a dark stars endless journey

Strange days
Incredible days
Strange ways
Incredible ways

“Navigator” – 4:51

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, samples

Release: Released on the Staircase Infinities mini-album in 1994

“Navigator”, another organ-driven instrumental, is characterized by a deep percussion loop predicting “Ambulance Chasing” from Recordings. Its chordal bed lays ground for an improvising battle between a sparkling keyboard and various layers of Wilson’s well-used-at-the-time distorted, echoing, swelling guitar leads; as such, it makes an excellent companion piece to the track that follows on Staircase Infinities.

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Steven’s track sheet for “Navigator”

Richard Allen: “… one of [the outtakes] was called ‘Navigator’, the title of a poem I wrote that Steve took a liking to. Unfortunately he couldn’t get the words to fit the music so it remained an instrumental.”

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“Rainy Taxi” – 6:44

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, samples, voices

Recording: Recorded at No Man’s Land (likely) in May 1993

Release: Released on the Staircase Infinities mini-album in 1994

This evocative, meditative instrumental was recorded in between Up The Downstair and The Sky Moves Sideways, as a a new track for the Staircase Infinities mini-album. At the time, “Rainy Taxi” explored a much different side to Steven’s musical personality.

SW: “At the time I recorded ‘Rainy Taxi’ I was listening to a lot of krautrock. I can clearly hear the influence of the organ-driven ‘kosmiche’ sound of Ash Ra Tempei and Klaus Schulze. I still love this kind of music…”

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The Staircase Infinities cassette (credit to my friend @javierjonesr on Instagram)

The resulting piece was unlike any other in Porcupine Tree history: a lonely, luminous and lovely organ study, delicately emotional and detached. Distant echoes of percussive cymbals create shadows on the track, while a distorted SW vocal talking intermittently about the titular taxi walks us into a more structured section driven by acoustic guitar, bass, light cymbal work, and the organ, this time playing the primary melody. Throughout, a layer of clean, clear wah guitar dances, giving the track an airy vibe.

Steven would later explore this strand of music in greater detail via a separate project – IEM, which borrowed its name from the Incredible Expanding Mindfuck myth of early Porcupine Tree.

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Rainy Taxi by Salvador Dalí

“Rainy Taxi”‘s title is derived from the three-dimensional artwork of the same name by Salvador Dalí. Its Wikipedia page reads:

“Rainy Taxi (1938), also known as Mannequin Rotting in a Taxi-Cab, is a three-dimensional artwork created by Salvador Dalí, consisting of an actual automobile with two mannequin occupants.

A male chauffeur with a shark head is in the front seat, and a female sits in the back seat. A system of pipes causes “rainfall” within the taxi. The female wears an evening dress, her hair is tousled, and lettuce and chicory grow around her. Live snails crawl across her body.

The piece was first displayed in 1938 at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris of the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, organised by André Breton and Paul Éluard. The main hall of the Exposition was designed by Marcel Duchamp and Wolfgang Paalen, who was responsible for the supervision of the water installations.

A reconstruction of the original installation is installed in the open courtyard of the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.”

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape” – 9:24

  • Steven Wilson – guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, voices, samples

Recording: Recorded at No Man’s Land in May 1993

Release: Originally released on Tarquin’s Seaweed Farm in 1989, this version was released on the Staircase Infinities mini-album in 1994

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Nop & Win Machielse’s artwork for Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape

With the release of Staircase Infinities, Steven Wilson was given the opportunity to revisit an older track and re-record it with better technology. Closing out the EP is a re-recording of the psychedelic cassette track “Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape”.

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Steven’s track sheet for the re-recording of “Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape”

Ushered in with whooshing synthesizers and an appreciative crowd, the bed riff begins, a brooding, slighted bass doubled by distorted guitar, switching between two semitones to give that dark, snarling quality. The kick drum accompanies regularly, and variations begin to appear on all instruments, tom fills rolling across the stereo image while various synthesizer wails and whirs and Steven’s echoing guitar screeches appear and then fade away. I find the track much more effective with the hidden vocal layers popping up now and again here, as compared to the firmly tongue-in-cheek rant and band introduction featured on the original recording. The upgrade in fidelity on this version also makes the climax of the track that much more rocking, with Steven delivering one of his best full-on guitar solos as the drums, bass and keyboards soar with him.

Lyrics:

[Instrumental]

“Phantoms” – 3:16

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards, samples

Writing Credits: Written by Alan Duffy and Steven Wilson

Release: Originally released in April 1999 as an internet download on the Porcupine Tree website, it was later included on the Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 compilation in 2002

Unusually intimate and personal compared to other Porcupine Tree tracks at the time, the sorrowful “Phantoms” somehow foreshadows future Porcupine Tree songs like “Disappear” and “Cure For Optimism” and the more direct song-based approach of the Snapper and Lava albums.

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Steven Wilson in 1995

SW: “It was left off the record because my voice sounded very exposed and I didn’t feel comfortable about having it on the record… Listening back now, I don’t have the same problem. It’s a Duffy lyric. The track was written in a bitty, Syd Barrettesque way, lots of sections joined together in a very singer-songwritery manner.”

The song was originally only available as an internet download before its inclusion on the Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 compilation in 2002.

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Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 (credit to my friend @javierjonesr on Instagram)

The lyrics in “Phantoms” describe isolation and shutting oneself away from the rest of the world. As one user on SongMeanings said, it’s “about [the] apathy and despair of the daily modern life routines that sometimes make you more angry as a person towards other people, yet feeling cold and alone yourself. The phantoms are the same people that surround [us].”

In the “UTD Leftovers” note (seen in the “The Joke’s on You” section), it seems that Steven intended “Phantoms” to be separated into two parts (both of which were around two minutes each). Since the finished version is 3 minutes it is unclear if the remaining music was scrapped or reused, etc.

Lyrics:

I look at all the sad story people
Lost in the seasons passing them by
Inside my head lies a life on an island
Flooded with darkness deep into the sky

But they’re only the strangers on a train
Passing through my mind again and again

But it’s lovely to stand in this heat
Deep in the woods who knows who you’ll meet
But I didn’t know the hill would be this steep
And I didn’t know the sea would be this deep

And I’m sorry I treat you this way

Deep inside the shell I crawl into
Crying alone I know I’ll get by
Please stay away, I just don’t want to see you
The things that you say, I know they’re all lies

But I don’t understand what the story’s about
Explain to me please how the sunlight got out

Please don’t leave me here
Dreaming alone with phantoms

“Synesthesia (Extended Version)” – 7:54

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programming, samples

Release: Released on the Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991–1997 compilation in 2002

This alternate version of “Synesthesia” is a couple of minutes longer than the one released on Up The Downstair.

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Photography taken by Lasse Hoile for the 2017 box set The Delerium Years 1991–1993

Please note that I have included “Men of Wood” in the The Sky Moves Sideways section (it was recorded for both albums)

Written and compiled by Quinn Downton