Category: Ambient / Progressive / Experimental
Album: The Endless River
Blurb: Paying tribute both to the late Richard Wright and the band’s past, this final outing from one of rock’s most influential and experimental entities is a lushly ambient offering; less a swansong and more a love letter.
Pink Floyd’s reunion appearance at Live 8 in 2005 was a landmark event that many – perhaps including the band members themselves – thought would never occur; sadly, the reunion was to remain a singular event, at first due to repeated statements from the band that there were no further plans to continue, and finally with the death of keyboardist Richard Wright in 2008. Despite often being considered the least prolific and “quietest” member of the band, his contributions as a sculptor of sound and a composer were integral to the music of Pink Floyd. During the recording of the last Pink Floyd album, 1994’s The Division Bell, Wright had recorded hours of material with the band, culminating in an hour-long composition of ambient music, titled The Big Spliff. 20 years later, as a tribute to Wright and as a last farewell for Pink Floyd, surviving members David Gilmour and Nick Mason have taken elements of these recordings to create this final album from one of the world’s most influential and experimental rock groups, The Endless River.
True to the band’s word, The Endless River is a primarily instrumental ambient journey, divided into four multi-part sides. As “Things Left Unsaid” fades in to begin Side 1, the echoes (pun intended) of Pink Floyd’s past are readily apparent; from the chatter of a voice over the radio leading into a cloud of atmospheric keyboards and Gilmour’s sustained acoustic guitar melodies whistling dreamlike, the track could easily be the intro to any of the band’s past albums. Once “It’s What We Do” comes on, Wright’s horn-like keyboard melodies and Gilmour’s crystalline accompaniment immediately recalling “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” there is no doubt that it is Pink Floyd. Throughout the album, the benchmarks of the Floydian tonal palette appear, from the galloping rhythms of the Gilmour’s delayed palm-muted strumming in “Allons-y” or the stuttering organ of “Sum” harkening back to elements heard on The Wall, to the manic drumming that underscores “Skins” recalling “A Saucerful of Secrets,” and the emotive organ of “Autumn ‘68” certainly evoking its title as something of a throwback to Wright’s Farfisa-adorned performances during the band’s formative years. “The Lost Art of Conversation” and the following “On Noodle Street” are perhaps the best indication of Wright’s leanings toward jazz with their rhythmic grooves and off-kilter piano chord progressions, accented tastefully by Gilmour’s soulful blues, while “Talkin’ Hawkin’” clearly contains outtakes of what would become “Keep Talking” on The Division Bell. Ironic and strangely fitting to its title, “Louder Than Words” contains the only lyrics to the album, and given its soft hymnal tone, it makes for a nice closer to the album even if it bears more similarity to the partnership exhibited by Wright and Gilmour on their collective solo outings. Such could also be said of “Nervana” on the deluxe edition, characterized by Gilmour’s soaring guitar and Wright’s majestic organ accompaniment, along with some of Mason’s most straightforwardly driving percussion ever recorded; all in all, a rather wonderful and rocking jam session.
Undoubtedly, many will still find The Endless River to be a lesser Pink Floyd release given the lack of involvement from founding member Roger Waters, whose lyrics have been missed since his departure from the band in 1985. Regardless, The Endless River is in more than several ways truer to Pink Floyd’s original collaborative and exploratory spirit than the more pop/rock-oriented outings, relying more on the instrumental skills of the band and achieving a flow of sound and atmosphere rather than adhering to traditional songwriting. With contributions from members of the Floyd family over the years including keyboardist Jon Carin, bassist Guy Pratt, producer Bob Ezrin, and backing vocalist Durga McBroom, along with additional production from Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera and Killing Joke’s Martin “Youth” Glover, The Endless River is less of a celebratory swansong and more of an affectionate love letter both to Richard Wright and to the band’s past. Listening to the album is like sharing brief recollections over a quiet drink with a long lost friend, all with a smile and well wishes as we sail into an unknown sunset (an image evoked by the album’s cover).
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)