The Endless River is not a normal album, even by the unconventional Pink Floyd’s standards. Taken from a 1993 recording session, it is a collection of twenty one tracks, spread over four sides of vinyl, hammered into shape by David Gilmore and Nick Mason as a dedication to their late friend and former bandmate Rick Wright, who died in 2008.
Wright’s masterful work on piano, synths and keys dominate proceedings and his soaring, rolling soundscapes are often utterly engrossing. Gilmore’s wailing solos and Mason’s booming drums add layers to the swirling atmosphere. Those who love Pink Floyd at their most ethereal, and who hold Wright’s work close to their hearts will enjoy this; surely their last outing. But for those less dedicated to the band’s more dream like material, The Endless River will feel incomplete, lacking a clear narrative.
‘Things Left Unsaid’ sets the mood, with a cinematic sweep that conjures visions of space exploration from a more innocent age. Mason’s drums arrive on ‘It’s What We Do’, before Gilmore fires his first solo, staccato acoustic guitar chords strumming in the background.
The spirit of funk returns to shake up the dreamscape on ‘The Lost Art Of Conversation’ as bass and Hammond introduce a smooth rhythm. And there’s a rockier edge to ‘Allons-y (1)’ as the ensemble join forces to maintain the uplifting tempo.
Wright strikes haunting church organ refrains on ‘Autumn ‘68′, a posthumous funeral march that sends chills down the spine. And the album’s only vocal track, ‘Louder Than Words’ sees novelist Polly Samson’s lyrics speak of the reconciliation the band found through music.
Plenty of references to Pink Floyd’s past glories litter the soundscapes and enthusiastic spotters will take great pleasure in identifying them. And it is impossible to listen without being moved by Wright’s contributions, layering synths and driving forward with Hammond, piano and organ. Yet those looking for a fresh sound will not find much here, and the lack of cohesion means that the mind is often allowed to wander.
At their best, Pink Floyd had the power to captivate and hold their audience, seemingly effortlessly, but The Endless River does not reach those heights. Yet as a snapshot of a band whose bottomless well of talent could not prevent their end, it will fascinate Floyd’s legion of obsessive and completist followers.