Written by Greg Kennelty
Slightly over twenty years since the release of Pink Floyd’s then-swan song The Division Bell comes a Dr. Frankenstein’s monster of sorts. The Endless River is neither new Floyd nor old Floyd, but a combination of both. The concept was born between 1993 and 1994 from hours of guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Wright and now-deceased keyboardist Nick Mason jamming. The jam was initially called The Big Spliff and was intended to be released after The Division Bell, but obviously never made it.
Fast forward to 2014 where Gilmour has taken portions of The Big Spliff and reworked them, save for Mason’s untouched keyboard tracks, with countless studio musicians into a four-movement ambient jam titled The Endless River. The album consists of four movements, each untitled, with only the final track having any sung vocals. The only thing that would make me happy in terms of this record’s existence is if it lived up to its title and truly was endless.
The Endless River is what you get if you took the instrumental portions of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” “Empty Spaces,” bits and pieces of Dark Side of the Moon, the funkier parts of the “Another Brick In the Wall” series and David Gilmour’s flawless 2006 solo effort On An Island and stitched them together. Each movement has a character and wraps up nicely when it’s time to flip the record over, as instrumental music should do.
On a similar though regarding quality instrumental music, I was never once waiting for vocals to kick in throughout my endless listens through The Endless River. While some labeled the record as aimless noodling and lukewarm ideas best served to the trashcan, I say unto thee “HEATHEN!” If there’s one thing Pink Floyd perfected despite what members were in the group during any given period of time, it’s the art of keeping the listener interested during vocal-less work. If The Endless River is a failure then I’m not sure I know what successful soundscaping is anymore.
Overall, The Endless River is a success. It’s a quilt of Mason’s work fit together with new parts from a slew of great musicians that ultimately gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, as any great quilt is wont to do. It’s a beautiful tapestry that flows, as any great story should, from beginning to end and showcases a variety of colors, new and old.
Give the quilt a chance. Embrace the quilt.