The Endless River

The Endless River is the fifteenth studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released in November 2014 by Parlophone Records in Europe and Columbia Records in the rest of the world. It was the third Pink Floyd album recorded under the leadership of guitarist David Gilmour after the departure of bassist Roger Waters in 1985, and the first following the death in 2008 of keyboardist Richard Wright, who appears posthumously. Gilmour said it would be the final Pink Floyd album.

The Endless River
A man in a white shirt and tan pants stands in a Thames skiff at the center of the image. He stand-up paddles the Thames skiff across a sea of clouds, heading towards the sun.
Studio album by
Released7 November 2014 (2014-11-07)
Recorded1969, 1993, 2013–2014
Studio
Genre
Length53:02
LabelParlophone
Producer
Pink Floyd chronology
The Best of Pink Floyd: A Foot in the Door
(2011)
The Endless River
(2014)
1965: Their First Recordings
(2015)
Singles from The Endless River
  1. "Louder than Words"
    Released: 14 October 2014

The Endless River comprises instrumental and ambient music based on material recorded during sessions for the band's previous album, The Division Bell (1994). Additional material was recorded in 2013 and 2014 on Gilmour's Astoria boat studio and in Medina Studios in Hove, England. It was produced by Gilmour, Youth, Andy Jackson and Phil Manzanera. Only one track, "Louder than Words", has lead vocals. After the death of longtime Pink Floyd artist Storm Thorgerson in 2013, the cover was created by artist Ahmed Emad Eldin, design company Stylorouge, and Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Thorgerson's design company Hipgnosis.

The Endless River was promoted with the "Louder than Words" single and artwork installations in cities around the world. It became the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK, and debuted at number one in several countries. The vinyl edition was the fastest-selling UK vinyl release since 1997. The album received mixed reviews; some critics praised the nostalgic mood, while others found it unambitious or meandering.

RecordingEdit

 
The Endless River was created as a tribute to Pink Floyd founding member Rick Wright, who died in 2008.

The Endless River is based on music recorded during the sessions for Pink Floyd's previous studio album, The Division Bell (1994). The Division Bell was recorded in 1993 and 1994 in Britannia Row Studios in London, and on the Astoria boat studio, belonging to guitarist David Gilmour.[3] Pink Floyd recorded several hours of music during the sessions;[4] engineer Andy Jackson edited it into an hour-long ambient composition tentatively titled The Big Spliff,[3] but the band did not release it.[5]

 
Drummer Nick Mason (left) and guitarist David Gilmour (right) took up the project in 2013, intending to create "a 21st-century Pink Floyd album".

Keyboardist Richard Wright died of cancer on 15 September 2008.[6] In 2012, Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason decided to revisit the unused Division Bell recordings to make a new album, rerecording parts, adding new ones, and using modern studio technology.[7] Gilmour said: "With Rick gone, and with him the chance of ever doing it again, it feels right that these revisited and reworked tracks should be made available as part of our repertoire."[7] Only a small part of The Big Spliff was used.[8]

Gilmour asked guitarist and producer Phil Manzanera, who co-produced his 2006 solo album On an Island, to work on the material. Manzanera, Jackson and engineer Damon Iddins spent six weeks assembling four 14-minute pieces. Gilmour gave two pieces to producer Youth, who added guitar and bass parts. In November 2013, Gilmour led sessions with Manzanera, Youth and Jackson to record material with Mason, saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and bassist Guy Pratt.[3] Vocalists including Durga McBroom recorded backing vocals, and Gilmour recorded lead vocals on "Louder than Words",[9] with lyrics by his wife, author Polly Samson.[10] Bassist and songwriter Roger Waters, who left Pink Floyd in 1985, was not involved.[11]

"Autumn '68", named in reference to the 1970 Pink Floyd song "Summer '68", features a recording of Wright playing the Royal Albert Hall pipe organ during the rehearsal for a show on 26 June 1969.[12][13] "Talkin' Hawkin'" contains a sample of scientist Stephen Hawking's speech taken from a British Telecom commercial also sampled for The Division Bell on "Keep Talking".[14] Mason received writing credits for "Sum", and "Skins", a two-and-a-half-minute drum solo.[12] Gilmour said that he was "pretty certain" that The Endless River would be the final Pink Floyd album.[15]

CompositionEdit

The Endless River comprises four pieces, which form a continuous flow of mostly ambient and instrumental music.[16] Gilmour said: "Unapologetically, this is for the generation that wants to put its headphones on, lie in a beanbag, or whatever, and get off on a piece of music for an extended period of time. You could say it’s not for the iTunes, downloading-individual-tracks generation."[17] Mason described the album as a tribute to Wright: "I think this record is a good way of recognising a lot of what he does and how his playing was at the heart of the Pink Floyd sound. Listening back to the sessions, it really brought home to me what a special player he was."[7]

"Louder Than Words" is the only track with a lead vocal.[18] Samson wrote the lyrics after observing the band's interaction during the rehearsals for their 2005 Live 8 reunion, their first performance with Waters in over 24 years. She said: "What struck me was, they never spoke ... It’s not hostile, they just don’t speak. And then they step onto a stage and musically that communication is extraordinary."[19] The album title is taken from a lyric on the last track of The Division Bell, "High Hopes": "The water flowing / The endless river / For ever and ever." Gilmour said it suggested a continuum between the records.[15]

PackagingEdit

The Endless River cover art depicts a young man punting a Thames skiff across a sea of clouds towards the sun.[20][21] After the death of longtime Pink Floyd artist Storm Thorgerson in 2013,[22] Pink Floyd collaborated with Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Thorgerson's design company Hipgnosis.[23] Powell discovered 18-year-old Egyptian artist Ahmed Emad Eldin and asked to use the concept from his piece Beyond the Sky for The Endless River.[24] Eldin was a Pink Floyd fan and accepted enthusiastically.[25] Powell felt Ahmed's concept had "an instant Floydian resonance", and described it as "enigmatic and open to interpretation".[26] The final cover is a recreation of Eldin's work by London design firm Stylorouge.[27] Powell felt that the cover summed up the title and music, and was appropriate for the recording on the Thames.[20]

The Endless River was also released in boxed DVD and Blu-ray "deluxe" editions, containing a 24-page hardback book, postcards, and a bonus disc of three additional tracks and six music videos.[10] Two tracks, "TBS9" and "TBS14", are outtakes from The Big Spliff.[28] The DVD edition includes the album in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound, plus a 48 kHz /24 bit stereo version. The Blu-ray has DTS Master Audio and PCM, 96/24 5.1 surround and a PCM stereo 96/24 version.[10]

PromotionEdit

 
Several art installations, such as this one in South Bank, London, were placed around the world in promotion of The Endless River.

The Endless River is the second Pink Floyd album distributed by Parlophone, following the release of the 20th anniversary editions of The Division Bell in 2014. The Division Bell, along with subsequent live and compilation albums, were previously published by EMI in Europe and Sony counterpart Columbia Records for the rest of the world.

Pink Floyd were affected by the sale of EMI to the Universal Music Group, which lasted from 2011 to 2013. The European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission approved the sale with conditions, including the sale of certain EMI assets.[29] Pink Floyd, along with many other bands under the EMI roster, were transferred to different labels during the process. The Parlophone Label Group was formed under Parlophone as one of many assets to be sold off by Universal following the acquisition of EMI, with Pink Floyd transferred to the Parlophone Label Group during the sale.[30] The Warner Music Group, in 2013, struck a deal with Universal to buy the Parlophone label Group from EMI, acquiring publishing rights to Pink Floyd's back catalog and future releases in the process.[31][32]

In a tweet on 5 July 2014, Samson released the album title and a projected release window of October 2014[33] to pre-empt a tabloid newspaper report.[3] The announcement was followed by backing vocalist Durga McBroom posting a photo of her alongside Gilmour in the recording studio.[34] Details about The Endless River were announced on Pink Floyd's website on 7 July.[35]

Pink Floyd and Parlophone unveiled The Endless River on 22 September 2014, including the release date, artwork and track listing, accompanied by a promotional website, a hyperstitial for the Pink Floyd website.[36] The site featured an artist's statement, photographs from the Division Bell sessions, pre-order details and two teasers, one featuring a 30-second snippet of "It's What We Do", and a television advertisement, featuring the album's geometric-based artwork.[37][38] Pre-orders on physical and digital formats started the same day.[39][40] Prominent installations of the album's artwork were placed around the world, including a four-sided 8m tall billboard placed in South Bank, London,[21][41] and large-scale poster advertisements in cities such as Berlin, Paris, Los Angeles, Milan, New York and Sydney.[42][43]

The album's only single, "Louder than Words", premiered on Chris Evans' breakfast show on BBC Radio 2 as a shortened radio edit. Gilmour and Mason appeared in an interview for BBC Radio 6 Music to promote the album and to discuss Wright's contributions. The track "Allons-y (1)" was made available to download from the iTunes Store on 4 November 2014. In the week before release, The Endless River became the most pre-ordered album in Amazon UK's history;[44] the following week, the record was broken by III by Take That.[45] There was no Endless River tour, as Gilmour said it was impossible without Wright.[46][47]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?5.4/10[48]
Metacritic58/100[49]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [58]
The Guardian     [50]
The IndependentN/A[51]
Record Collector     [52]
NME5/10[53]
The Observer     [54]
Pitchfork5.7/10[55]
PopMatters          [56]
Rolling Stone     [57]
Uncut     [49]

On the review aggregator site Metacritic, The Endless River has a score of 58 based on 24 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[49]

Ludovic Hunter-Tilney of the Financial Times praised the nostalgic "Floydian" sound, reminiscent of Pink Floyd's work prior to The Wall (1979), and wrote: "How fitting that a band so accustomed to loss should close their account with an engrossing elegy to their own past."[59] Cameron Cooper of The Music gave the album three and a half out of five, writing that it felt "less like a swansong and more like a final homage ... the lack of vocals gives the music more freedom, allowing it to speak for itself".[60] In The Guardian, Alexis Petridis described it as "not a new album from an extant band, but an echo from the past – or a last, warm but slightly awkward group hug ... on those terms, it works just fine". He praised the lead single and final track "Louder than Words" as "stately, poignant and open-hearted".[50] In Rolling Stone, David Fricke wrote: "Wright was the steady, binding majesty in the Floyd's explorations. This album is an unexpected, welcome epitaph."[57] The Observer wrote that the album is "an understated affair but unmistakably the Floyd ... a pretty good way to call it a day."[54]

J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters wrote: "Without the vocals, something is very clearly missing and the listener is left wanting more. While this makes for a good album, The Endless River is not quite fitting to serve as the final album of the greatest rock band of their kind, to say nothing of one of the greatest rock bands of any kind ever to perform."[56] Andy Gill of The Independent called it "just aimless jamming, one long thread of Dave Gilmour's guitar against Rick Wright's pastel keyboards and Nick Mason's tentative percussion, with nary a melody of any distinction alighted upon for the duration .... without the sparking creativity of a Syd or Roger, all that's left is ghastly faux-psychedelic dinner-party muzak."[51] The NME wrote that The Endless River was "a collection of spruced-up outtakes ... On those limited terms it works well enough, and it's interesting from a certain geeky perspective, but it's never quite as satisfying or substantial as you want it to be."[53] Pitchfork wrote that The Endless River "is quintessentially and self-consciously Pink Floyd, for better or for worse ... it proves to be one of the few Pink Floyd releases that sounds like a step backwards, with nothing new to say and no new frontiers to explore."[55] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times called it "so excruciatingly dull (even by Pink Floyd's often-dull standards) that the band's name on the cover feels like a straight-up bait-and-switch".[61]

Commercial performanceEdit

In the week before its release, The Endless River displaced Four by One Direction as the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK.[62] It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, with sales totaling 139,351 the third highest opening sales week of 2014,[63] making it Pink Floyd's sixth UK number one.[64][65] As of 27 November 2014, the vinyl edition had sold 6,000 copies, making it the fastest-selling UK vinyl release of 2014 and the fastest-selling since 1997.[66] The album also debuted at number one in several other countries, including France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand,[67] and Canada.[68] In the US, it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 with 170,000 copies sold in its first week;[69] by January 2015, it had sold 355,000 copies there.[70] Worldwide, The Endless River sold over 2.5 million copies in 2014.[71]

Track listingEdit

All tracks produced by David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Youth and Andy Jackson.

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Things Left Unsaid"4:26
2."It's What We Do"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
6:17
3."Ebb and Flow"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
1:55
4."Sum"
4:48
5."Skins"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
  • Mason
2:37
6."Unsung"Wright1:07
7."Anisina"Gilmour3:16
8."The Lost Art of Conversation"Wright1:42
9."On Noodle Street"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
1:42
10."Night Light"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
1:42
11."Allons-y (1)"Gilmour1:57
12."Autumn '68"Wright1:35
13."Allons-y (2)"Gilmour1:32
14."Talkin' Hawkin'"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
3:29
15."Calling"
3:37
16."Eyes to Pearls"Gilmour1:51
17."Surfacing"Gilmour2:46
18."Louder than Words"
6:36
The Endless River deluxe edition
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
19."TBS9"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
2:27
20."TBS14"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
4:11
21."Nervana"Gilmour5:32
22."Anisina" (video)Gilmour2:49
23."Untitled" (video)Wright1:22
24."Evrika (A)" (video)Wright5:58
25."Nervana" (video)Gilmour5:32
26."Allons-y" (video)Gilmour6:00
27."Evrika (B)" (video)Wright5:33

The Later Years reissueEdit

On 13 December 2019, Pink Floyd released the box set, The Later Years 1987–2019. The box contains a 5.1 surround mix of The Endless River set to a film by Ian Emes; artwork related to the album; and previously unreleased tracks from The Division Bell sessions, including "Nervana". Also included are the "Louder than Words" video, a video of the album's launch party, and the electronic press kit.

PersonnelEdit

Adapted from the 2014 release[72]