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Something of a departure from their earlier space-rock style, Steven Wilson and co concentrated on writing well-crafted songs, cutting down on the extended atmospheric instrumentals. They're largely successful - they combine acoustics and electrics with a distinctive style of vocal harmony and the occasional tinge of flute, and it's all slickly produced. The polished music often underlies melancholy, introspective lyrics of self-deprecation, as on the ironically perky tune "Pure Narcotic". The extended songs "Even Less" and the anguished "Don't Hate Me" are solid reminders of their prog rock past; the latter has a beautiful long sax solo on top of gently shifting harmonies. While they are trying to shake off their former Pink Floyd influences, "Baby Dream in Cellophane" mischievously quotes an obscure Floyd song "Embryo"! "Tinto Brass" shows they are still fond of throw-everything-in-the-pot instrumental workouts. The album is rounded off with the subtle, understated piano refrain of "Stop Swimming".
November 20, 2003