PINK FLOYD The Endless River
Who would ever have thought they'd be a 'new' Pink Floyd album? And it is. Despite the band having their played their last full show over 20 years ago, and 21 years since the previous album, and of course, the death of lynchpin Richard Wright in 2008, the band – now David Gilmour and Nick Mason – take the embryonic material they chose not to use for “The Division Bell”, and finish the job they started in 1993. Then, it was an ambient disc called “The Big Spliff”, now, it's a mostly instrumental epic called “The Endless River”. And it's glorious. Oh, I have missed the sound of that band.
But it isn't the Pink Floyd you might expect. There was always much – much – more to Pink Floyd than just moody stadium rock : and this explores all of it. Often excised from the airwaves and the collective consciousness is just how weird Pink Floyd could be : the instrumental wigouts of “Atom Heart Mother”, “Ummagumma”, “Meddle” and the huge chunks of “Animals” that are just the sound of a band being, of guitars, keyboards, bass and drums all working together .. lost in inner and outer space, that ilk are all too often forgotten. But here, in “The Endless River” the band come full circle, with a 90% instrumental exploration of the power and magic they once held when they played together. Taking the original instrumental recordings from “The Division Bell” sessions, Gilmour and Mason have skilfully woven a coherent record around the material left by Wright. In principle this could be similar to The Doors / Jim Morrision “American Prayer”, but it is much, much better. On listening to it, there's no sense that this is anything other than the next record in the sequence, where stripped of the need for hits and songs and tours, Pink Floyd just played whatever they wanted.
To the acclimatised trainspotter, parts of this are.. somewhat familiar ; “Anisina” and “Allons-Y” recall the neglected – and still officially unreleased - instrumental soundtracks to early 90's documentaries “La Carrera Panamerica”, “Ruby Takes A Trip” and “The Colours Of Infinity”, whilst other parts are reminiscent of old live recordings – Mason's percussion workout on “Skins” for a start,recalls some of the late 60's experimentation. This is not a desperate stab at a money grubbing new record and feeble pension tour – Pink Floyd are staggeringly rich, and have no need for it – but a band that missed themselves, and making music, not money.
In one way, “The Endless River” is Floyd reclaiming their ability to create magical soundscapes, evocative atmospheres, and to present a side of the band that they neglected in the past thirty years. In many ways, it resembles “The Final Cut” - insomuch as that was a record where Rick was absent, and lyrics were to the fore, here, the keyboard textures and sounds rise in prominence, the words removed until the end, the final and fitting “Louder Than Words”. What is clear, stunningly clear, is just how much of the bands sound came from those delicate and unhurried atmospheres Wright gave the band. Gilmour and Mason meanwhile, take those sounds, and add to them in a way that never sounds anything other than absolutely right. In fact, this record has far more integrity than you might expect : the band have done what they want to do, and created a fascinating otherworld version of Pink Floyd where they just made songs that sound right – unencumbered by the need for chart positions. Unexpected, fitting, and certainly one of the better Floyd albums in their canon. I have missed them.
DVD : the DVD and BR editions contain an extra 9 audio tracks – alternate versions of “Allons Y” and “Anisina”, alongside two instrumental takes of a familiar old song in the form of “Evrika (A) + (B)” , and some previously unheard instrumental jams, built around the core of Wright, Gilmour & Mason, with most of the 1987-1994 live band. In total there's an extra 39 minutes of material on here, and well worth listening to. In all respects these are just Pink Floyd songs without singing, and there were loads of those in the old days as well.