Prog rock icons The Pineapple Thief have returned with their new album ‘Your Wilderness’ as a follow up to 2014’s ‘Magnolia’. In the meantime, mastermind Bruce Soord has been busy working with Katatonia both as a touring guitarist/vocalist but also mixing their live CD/DVD ‘Sanctitude’ as well. The result of the two year wait is a beautiful and at times punchy album that could never be mistaken for anything but The Pineapple Thief.
The biggest change in the sound of the band is the addition of Gavin Harrison on drums. Best known for his work with Porcupine Tree and currently with King Crimson, Harrison is one of the most well respected and technically gifted drummers in prog. His tone and style are instantly recognizable. The whole band is on point throughout this frequently mellow, but at times thunderous album. Soord’s guitar work is well placed and tastefully done throughout the disk and his vocals, while remaining eerily similar to Thom Yorke, float over the music like a dancing balloon through the majority of it. The mention of Thom Yorke has another purpose other than mentioning the similarities of the two’s vocals. The Pineapple Thief have always sounded similar to Radiohead, and that has never been more apparent than here in ‘Your Wilderness’. The guitars, keys and guest strings all have a strong Radiohead vibe to them, but it also has its own sound and vision. Soord’s work has always been, and still is, more overtly progressive in sound and he composes on a grander scale.
The tracks “No Man’s Land” and “Tear You Up” are typical examples of the bigger sound that Gavin brings to the album. “No Man’s Land”, like most songs on the album, begins quietly and gently throughout the fairly brief track as the volume and aggression builds. Now, this was done extensively on their album ‘All the Wars’ (2012) but the music has more punch this time around. Likewise “Tear You Up” begins aggressively and stays so through the majority of the song. As a whole, though, this is a very mellow album. The keyboards are far more prominent than guitars or bass and the guest string section, courtesy of Caravan’s Geoffrey Richardson, plays on much of the album as well.
The results are certainly pleasant, but rarely very engrossing. The opening track “In Exile” and “Fend For Yourself” sound so much like they belong on ‘All the Wars’. I have more than once started humming lines from songs on that album. Still, Soord said the album was “a joy and effortless to make” and he expects “the listener will be able to tell”, and you can. It’s a very positive sounding album. Even with the often melancholy lyrics and delivery, you leave the album feeling quite at peace with the world and while not exhilarated, certainly better than before. The mix positively shines no matter how still the music gets. You can hear every part clearly and when things liven up the punch is that much more effective. Soord is known for his 5.1 surround mixes and if this album receives the same treatment it will be well worth hearing.
The Pineapple Thief have released a very consistent and very pretty album. Fans of the band will find a lot to enjoy and the drumming of Gavin Harrison brings out new aspects of the bands’ lengthy past that will surely get long time fans excited. But while these dynamics are present, there is a sameness about the songs and sound that makes it blend into the background almost too easily. Fans of mellow prog will want to check it out, but someone looking for something a bit more engaging will likely want to look elsewhere.