Words by Russell Carstens
The Endless River is Pink Floyd’s final statement. A mostly instrumental affair, it was recorded during sessions for their 1994 album The Division Bell. The material remained unreleased and was revisited and completed in 2013 and 2014—but it may have had a better home in the vaults, as it teeters between engaging and forgettable.
Opening on a promising note, the eerie crescendo of keys on “Things Left Unsaid” make way for ambient sounds that’d be the perfect soundtrack for the album’s cover art activity—boating over a bed of clouds toward all-embracing sunshine. Suddenly morphing into a pleasant Eno-esque soundscape, it ends with what sounds like the cry of the baby at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey as it’s let out of an iron lung and ages-old steam escapes. Another highlight is the pleasing and straightforward “Anisina.” A celebratory piece, it triumphs as if a great battle has finally been won over a cause worth fighting for. On “Skins,” tribal drumming spearheads random synth noise, coming together in an off-key, nomadic jam.
The remainder of the album falls into two realms: The pieces either give off an overwhelmingly new-age vibe or they’re altogether unremarkable, drifting by like the nameless rafting man on the cover. There’s too much going on in each piece for them to be justified it as ambient music, so that cannot be an excuse for the album’s less-than attention-grabbing nature. There is simply much better atmospheric/instrumental music available.
Most of these forgettable pieces that segue into each other are under two minutes and comprised of soft synth sounds and aimless acoustic noodling. The best of these is “On Noodle Street,” which recalls the subtle funkiness of “Sky Saw,” the first track on Brian Eno’s classic Another Green World. On “Calling,” Pink Floyd tries to get ominous with a drone sound, but the effect is more like watching an outdated sci-fi film from decades ago with bad special effects that were considered cutting-edge at the time.
Perhaps dedicated Pink Floyd fans familiar with their discography as a whole will find The Endless River satisfying, but a more objective fan listening to the album apart from the legacy of its creators may find it underwhelming. If this is how the book is closed on Pink Floyd, it’s a drag.
‘The Endless River’
© November 10th, 2014
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