Pink Floyd released their final studio album, The Endless River, on November 10th 2014. The album is built from recordings made at the time of 1994’s The Division Bell album, and fleshed out with new performances recorded in 2013 and 2014.
This is not the stadium-flavoured Pink Floyd of The Wall. This is like the more spacey, atmospheric music the band put out around Dark Side of The Moon, or fan favourite, “Echoes,” from Meddle, earlier in their long career. Fans of Porcupine Tree circa Voyage 34 and The Sky Moves Sideways will love “Skins,” with its tribal drums and jarring keyboard runs.
I love the way the album is split into four sides, like a classic 70s album from the days when vinyl was king. The tracks flow into each other, reinforcing that this is an album to be experienced in its entirety. It simply doesn’t have the same impact as bytes of data added to an iPhone playlist. It’s a suite of songs that make up the whole, and deserves to be played as one continuous piece.
Whilst The Endless River is undoubtedly a tribute to the late Richard Wright, who looms large on this album with his keyboards more prominent than ever before, there are plenty of instances of the trademark David Gilmour soaring guitar lines. The pre-release press suggested a mainly ambient album. Whilst some sections are ambient in nature, drummer Nick Mason plays a blinder on many of the tracks.
“Autumn ’68” is a beautiful track built around a low synth riff underpinning a moving organ piece before morphing into “Allons-y (2)” – which has a feel of The Wall’s standout track, “Run Like Hell.” “Talkin’ Hawkin,” featuring physicist and author Stephen Hawking, is another favourite. It is one of the more fully-formed songs, with new layers revealing themselves on each listen.
“Eyes to Pearls” is a wonderful menacing, bluesy piece that blends into the final stages of the album. “Surfacing” sends shivers as it gives way to the only vocal track on the album, “Louder Than Words,” which is sung by Gilmour. “Louder Than Words” starts with the sound of church bells – much like The Division Bell’s closing track, “High Hopes.” It’s a gentle, beautiful end to the album.
If you are a fan of the more progressive side of Pink Floyd, or love the instrumental suites of music of the likes of Mike Oldfield, there will be plenty to love about The Endless River. It may well turn out to be the bands swan-song, and if so, it is a fitting finale.