Porcupine Tree’s album-length 2009 song cycle The Incident is given a full concert reading here, and what Octane Twisted lacks in studio dynamics, it more than makes up for with visceral power.
Named after a movement of the album’s 14-segment title track, this new three-disc live document — issued today via Kscope — was primarily recorded at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre in 2010. Along the way, Steven Wilson and Co. reassert themselves not just as one of the standard bearers for neo-prog but also as a tightly focused fulcrum for some of the genre’s most song-oriented work.
Wait, song oriented? Didn’t I just say “The Incident” was presented in 14 separate movements? Well, an in-concert document like Octane Twisted, perhaps inevitably, breaks the originally intended flow. Songs don’t overlap with the Grammy-winning ease of the studio recording; heck, Wilson even (gasp!) talks a little. Surprisingly enough, the leftover pieces are quite effective as stand-alone songs. In fact, they often reveal new complexities when unmoored from their familiar counterparts.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steven Wilson dropped by to talk about classic 1970s sounds, prog's rebirth and his amazing album 'The Raven.']
There’s a deeper emotional pull within “Drawing the Line,” a more obvious connection when the main riff from “Occam’s Razor” returns on “Degree Zero of Liberty,” a more ferocious growl pushing “Octane Twisted,” a darker undertow surrounding “Circle of Manias.”
If “The Incident” once stood as perhaps Porcupine Tree’s compositional masterwork, the piece now sounds less like a narrative and more like a series of profound and engaging thoughts. In some ways, for me, it all connects more directly.
The second disc in the Octane Twisted set — recorded in Chicago, and during the band’s landmark show at Royal Albert Hall, London — takes a spin through Porcupine Tree’s catalog.
Highlights include “Hatesong,” from 2000′s Lightbulb Sun, a cool mashup of “Russia on Ice” from that same project and a portion of “Anesthetize,” from 2007′s Fear of a Blank Planet, “Stars Die” from 1995′s The Sky Moves Sideways, and “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” from 2005′s Deadwing. Also included: “Even Less” from 1999′s Stupid Dream, “Bonnie the Cat,” originally from the bonus disc for The Incident, and “Dislocated Day,” also from The Sky Moves Sideways.
There’s also a special edition of Octane Twisted featuring a bonus DVD of the Chicago performance.