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Home arrow Articles arrow Miscellaneous Articles arrow The Way It Unfurls - My journey down The Endless River
The Way It Unfurls - My journey down The Endless River Print E-mail
Written by Mikhail Mikhailov   
Friday, 22 December 2017
Pink Floyd - The Endless River

With the additional time afforded to many of us at this time of year, with many having time off from work or education, it's a good time to bring you some more lengthy pieces. The following is a deep and interesting analysis by BD contributor Mikhail Mikhailov of Pink Floyd's The Endless River, the album which came somewhat out of the blue, back in 2014...

A Pink Floyd album in 2014? After the historic one night reunion at Live 8 and the demise of Richard Wright such a twist seemed to be highly unlikely. However, quite a few albums by Pink Floyd, including those of great fame, came to existence (or had been critically re-shaped) under unforeseen circumstances. Their first multi-part epic, the murky A Saucerful Of Secrets was born in the early 1968 as they were struggling to fill the gap after the sudden collapse of Syd Barrett. Ron Geesin's involvement brought about symphonic arrangements on ATOM HEART MOTHER in 1970. An experiment with various household objects provoked them to split THE DARK SIDE's... follower into two (WYWH, 1975, and ANIMALS, 1977). A spit on a fan in 1977 triggered the construction of THE WALL, while Margaret Thatcher could have rightfully claimed her royalties for THE FINAL CUT (1983). MORE and OBSCURED BY CLOUDS, two generous commissions from Barbet Schroeder made in 1969 and 1972 respectively, can also be added to this list.

The source of THE ENDLESS RIVER was unearthed by Phil Manzanera. Years ago David Gilmour handed over to him the collection of jams recorded by Pink Floyd during their sessions in 1993. Gilmour's initial intention was, perhaps, selecting several of these tracks as potential bonus material for a reissue of THE DIVISION BELL or future compilations. He, instead, received back a medley consistent enough to form an album. We do not know how much of that original construction made its way into the final product but it is obvious that the team of producers had really cared about its integrity. Neither of the remaining band members needed a sellout to do well and we can be sure they put this album out only because they sincerely believed they had achieved their goal.

As soon as critics set about explaining all RIVER's oddities, they deployed their cliches and, as a result, produced several stereo-types that should be addressed. First is the claim that the album was composed of outtakes from THE DIVISION BELL (1994). This wording goes down smoothly and, unfortunately, induces the idea that THE ENDLESS RIVER was based on the second-rate material, set aside by the band once upon a time - if only we can ignore the fact that almost all themes for both albums (66:32-long TDB and 53:02-long TER) were selected from the same 20-hour collection of 1993 jams. In order to designate THE ENDLESS RIVER tunes as "outtakes" we need to make sure they were firstly "taken in" and later excluded. This is what an "outtake" is. Other-wise we would have to agree that 2/3 of ANIMALS are WISH YOU WERE HERE outtakes.

"Leftovers" is a better term but essentially in 1993 the band created a "fund" of tunes and ideas to compose a double album: one disc was conceived as a collection of songs, the other should have become a set of purely instrumental numbers. For the first disc the trio selected tunes most suitable to develop them into songs and proceeded with work. At some point they realised they could not have the second disk completed in time for the set date of release. Therefore they decided to postpone making the "instrumental" disk until after the tour but never returned to the studio together. One can argue rightfully that TER cannot be taken for the missing disk 2 of TDB, for the band could have taken a very different approach to work had the late Richard Wright been present in the studio. What one cannot deny is that TER was based not on a mound of rejected nonsense but on the collection of sketches once written to make their way on a new disk. Or would anyone seriously think that THE DIVISION BELL was supposed to be a 20-hour long opus but somehow 19 hours were taken out and, against all expectations, the album shrank to its conventional size?

The second stereotype about THE ENDLESS RIVER is a view that the album is nothing else but a selection of seventeen instrumental patches and one song, connected by special effects. Such a claim cannot be prohibited or disapproved; it doesn't mean there is nothing more to say about the content and the structure of the album. In the end, one is free to declare that THE WALL is just a pile of disconnected songs, half of them poorly developed.

Gilmour in his interview to the Rolling Stone (9 October 2014) states: "THE ENDLESS RIVER is a continuous flow of music that builds gradually over four separate pieces over the 55-odd minutes". These four pieces, strangely, have no other names than Side One, Two, Three and Four, while the bits that constitute them all possess proper titles. I can clearly see the reason behind this arrangement and am going to suggest it later. This situation, nonetheless, provokes critics to engage in describing and evaluating tracks with names rather than speculating about concepts and overall ideas. When I try to imagine, for instance, an ATOM HEART MOTHER review that has to deal with the nameless:

    Side One
    1. Father's Shout
    2. Breast Milky
    3. Mother Fore
    Side Two
    4. Funky Dung
    5. Mind Your Throats Please
    6. Remergence
    Side Three
    7. If
    8. Summer '68
    9. Fat Old Sun
    Side Four
    10. Rise And Shine
    11. Sunny Side Up
    12. Morning Glory

I can perceive the famous epic could be easily "overlooked" or "fragmented" beyond repair in reviewer's mind should we designate the compositions on that album this way.

It doesn't help us much when in the same interview Gilmour explains: "The only concept is the concept of me, Rick and Nick and I, playing together in a way that we had done way way in the past but had forgotten that we did, and was instantly familiar..." Most of the readers and critics, it seems, understand this remark as "no concept as such". At the same time one can hardly deny that the album, and each of its four sides, are clearly structured. Apparently, the band and the producers had come up with certain ideas how to arrange all these bits and pieces into medleys. I believe that one should indeed pay attention to what David Gilmour says about the concept - he is known for measuring his words carefully.

Let us give it a try. If the album shows the trio playing together, then its parts reveal how they used to work ("it's what we do"). To achieve this, THE ENDLESS RIVER has to delve into the past of Pink Floyd. This collection of themes is, first of all, a recollection of the mood in the studio, creative efforts and the feel of togetherness that the trio enjoyed in 1993. In turn, this idea (as Gilmour puts it) sends us back to the entire history of Pink Floyd, those relations, emotions and exchanges that brought their songs and albums to existence. THE ENDLESS RIVER is essentially a retrospective album unveiling to listeners how Pink Floyd music was born.

In accordance with this idea each of the sides presents the band in a different "creative mode" (and mood). One can even see this album as Pink Floyd's "Four Seasons". Transparent Spring, flaming Summer, contemplative Autumn, harsh and abrasive Winter with its days once again growing longer: "this time together, rain or shine or stormy weather" is, perhaps, the line that encapsulates the essence of the album. Four elements, Water, Fire, Air and Earth can also reflect the mood of each side.

Side One ('Spring' or 'Water' Side) bears strong resemblance to Shine On You Crazy Diamond (1975). Nonetheless, "Syd's theme" (the famous four notes) is not here. The intro (Things Left Unsaid) is more similar to Speak To Me from the DARK SIDE... (1973), and also to Cluster One from TDB (1994) than to Part 1 of Shine On... The outro (Ebb and Flow), on the contrary, sounds pretty close to the last 30 seconds of the ...Crazy Diamond suite, developed into an almost two-minutes long meditation. The slowly unfurling main theme (It's What We Do) makes one instantly recall the flow of those poignant bluesy instrumental sections in the beginning of Shine On You Crazy Diamond and especially its final Part 9. This link is meaningful: Gilmour allegedly called Part 9, composed solely by Richard Wright, a "parting musical eulogy for Syd".

It seems, Side One (where Gilmour and Wright share writing credits) laments the "telepathic connection" between the bandmates that shines so vividly in the 1975 epic and, according to Gilmour, is gone forever with the demise of Richard Wright. Can this kind of inspiration be the most important thing "left unsaid"? Thus without words Side One proclaims THE ENDLESS RIVER a tribute to the late keyboard player (in a similar way the Requiem mass, 1792, conceived by Mozart and finished by Franz Xaver Sussmayr became, in the end, a requiem for Mozart himself).

As a eulogy for the departed friend (and for the moments of magic that would not come back but will stay forever in memory) Side One creates a clear vision of Shine On You Crazy Diamond suite just short of quoting it directly. In terms of structure it looks similar to the aforementioned epic, had it been streamlined - with sung parts and some instrumental variations omitted.

The mood of Side Two ('Summer' or 'Fire' Side) is very different. As soon as Sum takes off in earnest one can feel that Side One was an extended prelude to the album, and here the action begins. With the first vibrations it takes us beyond the "classical" legacy to "pre-Dark Side..." days; powerful and complex drumming would make you instantly recall Nick Mason's flashing sticks at Pompeii amphitheatre. The drums push the assault, fiery keys fill the air with anger, and guitars' escalation goes on and on; finally, the attack crumbles into thousands of pieces. Inside a thundery cloud the battle continues until exhaustion. Synth pulsation resumes anxiously but soon it calms down. In the end, placid and confident piano chords arrive, supported by a now subdued rhythm section. Together they set the stage for organised and matured musicianship in which every voice has a say. They make statements and raise disagreements but eventually manage to harmonise and unite. The struggle is over, time for peace has come.

Side Two represents the band young, adventurous and determined to shape their experiments into a statement that no-one would ignore. All bandmates seem to be around ("Certainly, Syd! Shall we, Roger?"), all ideas find their way into music, and this is how differences are settled. Here we see the early Pink Floyd at their best (or rather the Floydsters recalling and rekindling the flame of old days). One can notice how prominent Nick Mason's drums are on the first two ("advance" and "fighting") tracks of the medley - his only co-writing credits since forty years ago. Together with Roger Waters, Nick Mason happened to be a chief architect of the first Pink Floyd epic, the 12-minute A Saucerful Of Secrets. The structure of Side Two obviously follows the order of "movements" of the suite written in 1968. Again, it's far from being just a replica: Sum, unlike Something Else has a melody. Its escalation resembles One Of These Days (1971), Sheep (1977) and Empty Spaces (1979), while the drumming would bring you memories of Eugene's axe and Mother's atom heart. The drum loop of Skins is as tight as in The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (1969). The transitional Unsung sounds more unsettled than mournful, and, in a similar way, Anisina, despite its name (meaning "In Memory Of..."), is not a requiem but an anthem. The latter is often seen derivative to Us And Them (1973) but it seems to me that it bears a lot of resemblance to the earlier Fearless (1971) as well. That song from MEDDLE, clear and cryptic at the same time, is all about overcoming fear and reluctance, rising above doubts and finding courage to speak out loud. With its "quarrel" and "reconciliation", performed by oboe, sax and guitars, Anisina, as I can read it, manifests the arrival of the "classical" sound of Pink Floyd after the phase of experimenting. Side Two, therefore, reflects main creative trends of Pink Floyd's "sturm und drang" years (up to MEDDLE and THE DARK SIDE...). It also shows how this mood re-emerged in 1993.

The mood changes once again with the beginning of the Side Three ('Autumn' or 'Air' Side). This suite doesn't resemble a particular piece of Pink Floyd music from the past, and at the same time its composition is more peculiar than on any of the other three Sides. It consists of seven themes: three meditations and three more traditional, rhythm-based "instrumental songs" take turns paving the way for the final. A quiet, contemplative intro and a sleepy, rainy jam (On Noodle Street) make a mini-prelude to the main five-part entity that starts with a cold and foggy synth meditation; the later explodes with a pulsating rocking theme. Interrupted by stately harmonies of pipe organ, the rocking theme resurrects and delivers us into a power field ruled by a grim simple riff that instantly starts growing, unleashing the full force of Pink Floyd sound until the listener is turned into a grain buried in the endless granaries of the Universe...

Admittedly, many critics question the integrity of the medley due to the constant change of tempo and mood. Some of them are particularly annoyed by the decision to insert a bit of Wright's pipe organ improvisations into Allons-y, breaking what they call "a solid instrumental" into allegedly inconsequential fragments. Such alterations, nonetheless, are fairly typical for prog- and art-rock (And You And I by Yes, Letters by King Crimson); we can find a few examples in classical music as well. The First movement of Vivaldi’s Summer (1721) is probably the most well-known instance where five radical shifts in tune, tempo and volume occur in just five minutes (the length of two parts of Allons-y and Autumn'68 stitched together). Vivaldi's piece for a band of strings and a keyboard depicts, perhaps, perpetual change of weather on a stormy summer day. Pink Floyd's Side Three can similarly represent various transformations of atmosphere in the studio, both subtle and sharp. Those shifts set and reset the stage for exchange of ideas, discoveries and revelations. If we take The Lost Art Of Conversation and On Noodle Street for a mini-prelude, where the band looks so comfortable playing together in their studio on a rainy day but yet having no direction, the following five-part piece appears to be a very neatly organised medley, in which Night Light plays the role of an intro, Allons-y functions as a verse in a song, Autumn'68 is an interlude and Talkin’ Hawkin’ emerges as Finale Grande. Its somber growing force and almost frightening depth engulfs an unsuspecting listener in the end of his journey. Based on one primitive proto-riff, the theme serves as a culmination of the whole album.

The Side Three seems to be very diverse in relation to the band's discography. On Noodle Street brings about the mood of Crying Song (1969) and of the quiet start of Sheep (1977), Allons-y with its pulsation and guitars can be distantly related to Interstellar Overdrive (1967), One Of These Days (1971), some instrumentals from OBSCURED BY CLOUDS (1972) and the mentioned Sheep but even more so to Run Like Hell (1979), as well as One Slip and Terminal Frost (both 1987). Synth/organ meditations (courtesy of Richard Wright) refer to virtually every album he contributed to, starting with the coda for A Saucerful... (and Cirrus Minor, 1969) and reaching full blossom on Shine On... (with re-emergence on THE DIVISION BELL). Speaking about the final track, critics cannot stop comparing it to Keep Talking (1994). I would argue that musically its true relations are the crescendo of Empty Spaces (1979), the acoustic/synth sequence from High Hopes (1994) and, through those two tunes, Welcome To The Machine and Part 6 of Shine On... (both 1975).

Therefore Side Three represents Pink Floyd building their epics (i. e. Atom Heart Mother or Echoes) and developing concepts while working together. This attitude brought about THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, helped to finalise their classical albums and to create THE DIVISION BELL.

Side Four ('Winter' or 'Earth' Side) is dedicated to Floyd's most radical creative mode - despair. Nick Mason mentioned in his book that rather often Pink Floyd albums were conceived in "quiet desperation", even before THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (which actually happened to be a happy exception from the rule). No surprise, desperation turned into a recurring theme of their songs. It emerged, probably, with Syd Barrett's Jugband Blues (1968), and matured with Cymbaline (1969) making the latter a bridge to the band's later albums. With the invention of murkier synth sound on Welcome To The Machine (1975), and relations within the band slowly deteriorating, Pink Floyd entered their "dark" decade (1977-87), culminating in THE WALL, a journey into radical alienation and embittered isolation. Does not the ambience of Calling closely resemble the aura of Is There Anybody Out There (although the sound has a lot in common with Signs Of Life, 1987)? One can also recognise the metallic screech of clockworks from Syd's "room of musical tunes" in the background. Eyes To Pearls reminds distantly of Goodbye Cruel World (1979), linking it to Welcome To The Machine (1975). With Surfacing we arrive to THE DIVISION BELL pastures (Poles Apart, although one can distinguish the echo of Pillow of Winds, 1971, in those acoustic guitar cords). Louder Than Words is the focal point in which the band recaptures the vibe of togetherness and one last time binds the three currents (2014, 1993 and the past) in a single flow. The tone of the song is understated: the last goodbye is not a time for a drama. Its quiet intro, nonetheless, is one of the most beautiful moments on the whole album where glimmering light of Gilmour-Wright "telepathic" interplay beams upon a listener one last time. Its fleeting glimpse disappears in the soundscape that bookends the album.

The structure of the entire Side Four follows the pattern of the second part of Echoes (1971) - from "Whales' Screams" onwards - out of the depth of despair - towards the light - to the horizon where the endless river opens into the sky. With three of four Sides having their lookalikes in the previous albums it is difficult to dismiss these suites as mere collections of random tunes. As their vintage prototypes they tell us stories. On the other hand, the stories are not the same: the themes are different. As David Gilmour has pointed out, they are all about the way (or ways) Pink Floyd created and played music. Side Three is no exception. Although it does not resemble any singular composition in the PF catalogue, it can be treated as a sketch for an album that does not contain 'epics' but is still essential Pink Floyd (such as THE DARK SIDE...). Shall we presume now that every Side of the album outlines a particular formula which the band used to find and develop their ideas?

I tend to approach this album as an interactive museum with the band in the studio showing us various attitudes and different patterns they can turn their wizardry into. Thus there is a reason why all these tracks are designed to sound familiar; we can also notice that they bear more substance than just copycat junk: each significant track makes references to several previous compositions, tying the legacy of the band with new surprising bonds. Isn't it intriguing to discover a link between the epics on the LIVE AT POMPEII and pieces from ANIMALS and THE WALL? Or to trace the connection between Interstellar Overdrive (1967) and Terminal Frost (1987) via When You're In (1972), Sheep (1977), and Run Like Hell (1979)? I have already mentioned these allusions speaking about individual tracks. Strikingly, different reviewers tend to find the same TER tracks to be certain "shameless rewrites" of totally different Floyd's compositions. All in all, I do not want to impose my judgement about the merits of this music on anyone. There cannot be a single true opinion whether the band has succeeded or failed. On the other hand, I would not call aimless an album setting on an errand to prove that even building up their monumental concepts, the Floydsters have never forgotten their own adventurous beginnings.

Treating TER as an interactive museum of Pink Floyd sound helps to explain one peculiarity of its anatomy: while there are no pauses between tracks, they do not seamlessly segue into each other as normal parts of a suite would do. On the contrary, each ends with a clear "full stop". That is another reason why so many listeners refuse to see the forest through the trees and accuse the album of being somewhat patchy. It is, indeed, patchy, like a designer shirt that consists of many pieces with stitches as vivid as they can be, still being a piece of clothing, not a pile of cloths. After all, it is well-known that all those "epics" of the past were composed of bits and pieces seamed together, and THE ENDLESS RIVER simply lays this fact bare. In the end, the whole purpose of the interactive museum is to demonstrate some secrets of Pink Floyd's works. This also explains why the tracks bear proper names (as if these names have randomly come up in the process of writing and arranging the jams, as it happened with Nothing or The Amazing Pudding), while the medleys are lacking them.

There is another reason for "patchiness" of TER. In 2014 the band wanted to stick to the original material from 1993 sessions preserving the work of Richard Wright. While there was no Wright on Anisina and Calling, they still came from the same "fund". Apparently, Gilmour and Mason had no desire of adding on new tracks or radically re-writing those in existence. This is why, I believe, Poly Samson, the lyricist on TDB and TER, called the album Richard Wright's swan song (although for me that would be rather David Gilmour's LIVE IN GDANSK). Once again, I would like to compare TER to the infamous Requiem. Although Sussmayr had to add some parts in order to have the Mass completed, he made a decision to bookend the Requiem with Mozart's own music from the opening movement. This is why virtually everyone regards it an authentic work by Mozart. Careful attitude to original recordings, in turn, allows us to value TER as a true Pink Floyd album.

The decision to retain the original size of the tracks and to highlight their borders does not damage the integrity of the four Sides, each exhibiting a distinctive character. Igor Kuryan, a Pink Floyd researcher from Kazakhstan, suggested to name each Side after its opening track. Playing the "funky dung" trick the other way around, I wonder what kind of wording critics would have found to describe and judge THE ENDLESS RIVER album consisting of just four tracks:

    1. Things Left Unsaid 12:38
    2. Sum 11:48
    3. The Lost Art Of Conversation 13:39
    4. Calling (including Louder Than Words) 14:50?

No chance of picking on Noodle Street or of lamenting "butchered" Allons-y but there is something to think about. Things Left Unsaid hints on the "unspoken"; Sum reflects the integrity and determination of the band; The Lost Art Of Conversation speaks about mutual attention and exchange of ideas; Calling, in turn, is a cry for help to break isolation.

The names of other tracks of any significant length also guide us along the course of the album. It’s What We Do and Skins speak for themselves; Anisina ("In Memory Of...") is Gilmour's tribute to Wright and the band's glorious years. On Noodle Street presents the band jamming together with no point so far, while Allons-y ("Let's Go") sets the target - "... we're here for a ride...". In Talkin' Hawkin' the voice of the man destined to endure the most exceptional kind of human presence breaks through to tell a listener and the whole world how crucial it is for us to rely on our bond by speech. Eyes To Pearls is a kind of enigma, whether it can be related to a "pearl-eyed" gaze, the "pearly-eye" butterfly or even to a Chinese proverb "passing off fish eyes for pearls" (each can be a matter of an elaborate "floydian" speculation) but Surfacing is a clear transition between the somber opening parts of the Side Four and its calm and spectacular finale. There are four little tracks with more "abstract" titles (and clearly auxiliary functions): Ebb And Flow is an outro; Night Light works as a true intro (or re-intro); Unsung is a bridge, and Autumn '68 is an interlude. These names can be interpreted within the canon but my essay has already grown too long. Let me just make one more point regarding the "patchiness": tracks lasting longer than anything on The Beatles' REVOLVER occupy approximately three fifth of THE ENDLESS RIVER. And in the end, the meaning here is encrypted not in tracks but in the medleys.

Taking this into account, let us also keep in mind that none of the Pink Floyd concepts can be reduced to a single idea. THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS, THE WALL and later albums all revolve around some point where general observations come in touch with very personal experience, whether they contemplate the recording industry, one's state of mind, or power and aggression. THE ENDLESS RIVER, as much as it invokes the feeling of the band playing together, brings about the theme of interaction, communication, conversation. It comes up with some of the track names (Things Left Unsaid, Unsung, The Lost Art Of Conversation, Calling and Louder Than Words) and binds together the rest of them referring either to the past of the band or to the aura in the studio. All of the sparse vocal bits also speak about communication.

There is no surprise that the album reaches its summit at the end of Side Three - after trying on all those various modes and moods of writing and playing music together. The lines narrated by Stephen Hawking are not just background noise - these words ultimately concern both the human Universe and the microcosm within the band. Everything that our wizards of sound had achieved, was brought about by communication of ideas: take it away, and there is no Pink Floyd. But on the other hand, speech can be utterly divisive; it can estrange a human being from others and even from things we keep close to our heart. Isn't the infamous Wall just an obsessive narrative in the head of Mr. Floyd? Side Four is a reminder: if we want to get out, we should trust what remains unspoken between us and endorse certain things that go unsaid.

Some critics have called THE ENDLESS RIVER an experimental album, and I tend to agree with this view. If a cycle of four long medleys constructed of 20 years old jams and sketches instead of conventional songs is not an experiment than what is? The settings this time are neither Syd Barrett's "room of musical tunes", nor the alchemist lab of UMMAGUMMA, nor the furnace where bits of the Amazing Pudding and The Return of the Son of Nothing were melted into epics, not even the Large Personality Collider of their "classic" years. In 2014 Pink Floyd deploys a detector capable of catching a trace of ghostly particles sent by a remote star now long extinguished. And just as particles are ambassadors of the space-time they have been travelling through, bits of our speech unfurl the horizon of mutuality and understanding where words and phrases make sense. "Wandering and dreaming the words have different meaning". Yes, they did. Early in their journey Pink Floyd became aware of the peculiar space-time of human interaction. In their music the band tried to echolocate its vastness, to recreate its vibes, to be at home with infinity. Pink Floyd want to reveal unspoken as a scene where events take place and words come together to be meaningful.

This is how I read the message. Instrumental music, of course, is supposed to offer many different ways to understand it. I just would like to reiterate that my approach is based on the consideration of both David Gilmour's own words and of all sung and spoken lines on THE ENDLESS RIVER, as well as of track titles, structure of the medleys and mood of the themes. This approach allows to assign a rightful place for the band's fifteenth studio album in their 50 year long journey. Roger Waters once said that he considered THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, THE WALL and AMUSED TO DEATH to be his most important creative involvements, his "great trilogy". Can we similarly perceive THE ENDLESS RIVER as the final act of Pink Floyd's "lesser trilogy", which also includes WISH YOU WERE HERE and THE DIVISION BELL and showcases in the most definitive and intimate way the message from Gilmour and Wright? "Wish You Were Here is essentially the closest rock music ever came to producing a meticulously structured and engineered, yet also totally heartfelt requiem mass", states George Starostin. John McFerrin in his review of THE DIVISION BELL, claims that "... just as WYWH was largely an open letter to Syd Barrett, much of the album [TDB] largely functions as an open letter to none other than Roger Waters (the band has denied it, but given that I thought of this early on while listening and later found out this is the consensus among a lot of fans, I suspect there's something to it)." THE ENDLESS RIVER is a tribute which appears to be both a requiem in memory of Richard Wright and an unfinished letter to listeners that was brought to completion by the remaining band members.

All this does not mean the album is totally flawless. My main complaint is about Anisina. It is obviously supposed to be a stately anthem crowning Side Two but its mid-tempo pace makes it sound a bit on the ordinary side. I still can enjoy the interplay of the instruments resembling so closely tensions in the band at work ("we bitch and we fight, diss each other on sight") but if only it could have been a little slower... Some other themes are too short for me, for example Sum suffers from an abrupt finish just after the keyboard solo when your ear begs for repeating the main motif. The same can be said about the celestial intro to Louder Than Words, hinting on the first and final piano passages of Echoes. However, there is nothing truly offensive in the whole album and I love it for what it is: it helps to establish that the sound of Pink Floyd was not a random anomaly encapsulated in 1970s; it is pretty much alive, ready to invoke a conversation and refuses to be put on an appropriate shelf in Her Majesty's History archives. In the end, according to Plato, knowledge is nothing else but recollection of something we have already heard.

To conclude, I do not have any reason to value and to appreciate this album less than OBSCURED BY CLOUDS. I actually think, these two experimental cycles have a lot in common. On the other hand, let us not forget that Pink Floyd's albums tend to grow on a listener who does not mind to go with the flow.

[ADDENDUM]: BD visitor Mark Brown got in contact, after reading Mikhail's article. He wanted to add his thoughts to the discussion...over to Mark:

Mikhail Mikhailov wrote: "Eyes To Pearls is a kind of enigma, whether it can be related to a "pearl-eyed" gaze, the "pearly-eye" butterfly or even to a Chinese proverb "passing off fish eyes for pearls" (each can be a matter of an elaborate "floydian" speculation)...."

I believe this title is Polly Samson making a reference to Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2, page 19, to allude to the death of Richard Wright:

(modern text)
"His bones have turned to coral now.
His eyes have turned to pearls.
There's nothing left of him,
He's undergone a complete sea change
And become something rich and strange.
Sea nymphs ring his death bell every hour."

(old text)
"Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell"

Thanks for your analysis!

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