You almost need a degree in Meccano to open the Pink Floyd Later Years box. There are many goodies packed inside, although you have to sell one of your kidneys to be able to buy one. The three post-Waters studio albums, for example, can be found in 5.1 surround and/or high resolution stereo mixes. That is what these double DVDs and Blu-Rays are for. (Logically, the Momentary Lapse surround mixes have only been made for the remixed and updated 2019 version, not the original 1987 one. You can read our review of that album at: A Momentary Relapse.)
The Endless River Film
The Endless River has been turned into a movie experience by long-time Floyd collaborator Ian Emes. Opinions differ about this one, ranging from ‘I just watched it once out of curiosity’ till ‘The film is really nicely done. You’ll enjoy it!’.
At first the Holy Church was not that interested in this. The Reverend orated in a previous article: “I seriously wonder what will be the added value of that.” (See: The Later Years: Hot Air & Co.)
Is it merely ‘just a compilation of ethereal drone footage’ filmed in slow motion or is there more at hand? Because most reviews of The Later Years seem to forget about this feature, with the exception of Bob Eichler in his article: Pink Floyd - The Later Years (1987-2019).
...imagine that Stanley Kubrick was annoyed that too many people had figured out what 2001 was about, so he set out to make an even more abstract sequel, inspired by Pink Floyd videos. Outer space images, CGI, lush landscapes, complex machinery, people moving in slow motion, interesting architecture shot from weird angles, and a cast of characters who appear throughout the whole thing. Inspired no doubt by the album's title, water is a major theme of the video – oceans, rivers, streams, waterfalls, rapids, fountains, etc... My brain kept trying to make some sense out of the random-seeming images, but it's probably better to just let it wash over you.
This exactly describes our feelings after watching the movie, but the Church wouldn’t be the Church without adding its own comments here and there. While watching the movie we found – often subliminal – links to Floydian artwork from the past decades or to other material from the Hipgnosis art factory.
Walk the Layne
But before we get to the feature film of our cinematic evening, let’s have a look at some of the shorts that can be found on the same disc. We are talking about the last Pink Floyd performance, not – as generally believed – the one at Live8, but the Arnold Layne song at the Syd Barrett Tribute Concert on the 10th of May 2007 at the Barbican. It can be found twice: once as a backstage rehearsal and once at the concert. The rehearsal doesn’t have Rick, but a cool as ever Nick Mason who is drumming on a chair, meaning he uses a chair for a drum. It’s fun to watch ex-Oasis bass player Andy Bell, who wasn't even born when Arnold Layne was a hit, learning the tricks of the trade.
Unfortunately Polly yaps a lot in the background, spoiling the fun. But that’s how she is known in Cambridge Mafia circles anyway.
From a far better quality is the concert take, filmed by Gavin Elder and using some shots from Simon Wimpenny and Kees Nijpels. The Floyd plays the song as has always been intended, without extra frills, short and sweet. Rick has the honour to do the vocals and it does seem a bit weird that a backup keyboard player (Jon Carin) was added, but Rick was probably already sick by then. The interaction between these three old geezers is magical and their smiles speak volumes.
A great document with an even greater symbolical and sentimental value.
Here I Go
As we have said before, in our Endless River album review from a couple of years ago, the album is divided in four instrumental suites, ending with Gilmour’s and Samson’s Floydian eulogy Louder Than Words (see: While my guitar gently weeps...).
Things Left Unsaid
Things Left Unsaid starts with a very 2001-ish view from outer space with the sun and earth floating by. Just when you expect Kubrick’s embryo to appear a human form zooms in. In a corner you can spot something that could be a nod to the dark alien monolith that plays such a big role in Kubrick’s masterpiece. Perhaps it is the black ‘Telepatic Wave Receiver and Transmitter’ that adorns The Led Zeppelin Presence album, although Storm Thorgerson used to call that the object. (This cover can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Presence.)
Stanley Kubrick and Pink Floyd have a certain past together. Kubrick wanted to use the Atom Heart Mother suite for A Clockwork Orange, but (so the story goes) a stubborn Roger Waters refused when he discovered that Kubrick wanted to cut up the music to fit the film scenes. This is an answer Kubrick probably didn’t expect as the record shop scene in that movie shows the Atom Heart Mother album, twice.
This wasn’t the end of the Kubrick – Waters saga. Legend has it that Roger Waters wanted to sample some dialogue from 2001 on his album Amused To Death. This time it was Kubrick’s turn to refuse, and Waters – in his default charming way – insulted the movie maker with a cryptic message on that same album. (The 2015 remix/remaster of Amused To Death has the HAL 9000 message from 2001 restored and the backwards insult removed.)
It’s What We Do
With It’s What We Do we return to Earth with scenes of futuristic skyscrapers and a menacing octahedron metal structure floating in the air, as an alternative to the Star Trek Borg cube.
Possible link: The Yes album Going For The One has a Hipgnosis sleeve with a man looking at out-of-this-world-ish skyscrapers and also the Quatermass' Quatermass sleeve plays with the same subject. (These covers can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Going For The One & Quatermass.)
The following scenes show us bridges, machines and cogwheels, a clear hint to Welcome To The Machine. (The track itself is a mild copycat of what we could hear on the Shine On You Crazy Diamond instrumental parts.)
Four people, wearing white masks, run in slow motion through a tunnel. Masks have obviously been used before in the Floyd’s and Hipgnosis imagery. Just think of the masked children in Another Brick In The Wall or the cover of the Pink Floyd live album Is There Anybody Out There? (This cover can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Is There Anybody Out There?)
After a succession of psychedelic liquid light style scenes, we cut to some water splashing and yet another drone shot, flying over a cobbled beach and the sea. A woman rises out of the water, a hint to the Wish You Were Here diver artwork probably, and is followed by three other persons, raising from the water like the zombies from that atrocious flick Zombie Lake.
The Pink Floyd Shine On box also has several (nude) persons rising out of the water. The same imagery can be found on the Rick Wright solo album Broken China. (These covers can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Wish You Were Here, Shine On, Broken China.)
We are confronted with an Escher-like semi-transparent object spinning around in the air.
Ebb And Flow
For an unknown reason, the persons who came out of the sea, run through some fields. Night falls and we see the starry sky and the aurora borealis.
For the bulk of the following song the same four people run around through fields and forests. There are plenty of nature and water shots. People are cooling down, playing and resting in the river. Much more scenes of trees, waterfalls and clouds throughout Skins and Unsung.
Skins shows the more aggressive side of the river.
Unsung gives a more relaxing mood with the sun settling down.
The beautiful Anisina starts with boiling lava and a pair of hands grabbing mud and kneading it into a shapeless form. Close-ups of colourful nature scenes before the rain falls.
The Lost Art of Conversation
It is raining and The Lost Art of Conversation concentrates on dripping leaves and a spider taking shelter in its web. We see some tiny fishes (and a very big one as well). Could this be a nod to the Pulse album art that shows the evolution from sea to land animals? (This cover can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Pulse.)
On Noodle Street
On Noodle Street shows us a bridge over a river that runs through a city. We look up at skyscrapers again.
People walk in the street to their work or to a train or airport terminal. A hint perhaps to the screen movies that accompanied the Dark Side Of The Moon shows.
Allons-y reverts back to revolving city scenes and water spitting fountains. The four people walk barefoot in the grass, falling down in a field of ferns in the middle of a forest.
Autumn ‘68 has the four actors wrestling and lying on a grass field in the mountains. The spinning multi-cornered object appears again in the sky, confronting the people who look at it. It then disappears into space, where it seems to be heading for a far-away nebula.
Allons-y (2) really seems like 2001 revisited with a flight through space and a human form that appears in the vacuum. This could be influenced by the hanging man artwork on the Pulse album. (This cover can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Pulse.)
Pink Floyd has long time been associated with space and space rock (see our article from 2014: Still First in Space. NOT!) and most fans are well aware of the fan-made synchronisation between Echoes and the 'Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite' segment from Kubrick’s 2001 movie. If you have never experienced it, and you should, here is one of the many places were you can watch it: Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite (Vimeo link).
After the interstellar flight the movie shows the four protagonists, covered in multicoloured spots, dancing in the vacuum of space, while scientific and mathematical equations appear on the screen.
On what appears to be a dashboard from an extraterrestrial space ship some words appear in vaguely recognisable letters. It is as if multiple letters have been stacked on top of each other. Recognisable are the words ‘Infinite’ and ‘the dawn\mist’. That last one is a phrase from the refrain of High Hopes:
The grass was greener
The light was brighter
The taste was sweeter
The nights of wonder
With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river
These lyrics read like a synopsis for Ian Emes’ The Endless River movie and they can be deciphered, with some difficulties, on the alien monitor.
But the surprises aren’t over yet. At the left hand side of the screen appear scrambled letters that form the nearly illegible words ‘Publius & Enigma’.
There we have it. After more than 25 years a new mention of this ongoing Floydian riddle.
In the morning of the 11th of June 1994, when the band was playing two nights at the New York Yankee stadium a cryptic message was send to the then leading Pink Floyd Usenet newsgroup. It was signed by a poster who named himself Publius and who used an anonymous e-mail service to deliver his message.
In this and about two dozen other posts he tried to convince the fans that The Division Bell music, lyrics and artwork contained an enigma and that the person who found the solution would be rewarded with a price.
Obviously a lot of fans were highly sceptical about these pretty vague messages (especially as there were also mails from pranksters going around). In order to prove his existence Publius promised to give a sign during a Pink Floyd concert at the Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey. During the song Keep Talking (!) the light display at the front of the stage spelled out the words ENIGMA PUBLIUS.
From then on a large group of fans tried to find a solution to the enigma. The hints from Publius were deliberately very vague and it was pretty unclear where to start looking for clues. Basically Publius was asking for an answer but without giving the question first. There were rumours of people digging holes in fields around Cambridge, because they thought a ‘treasure chest’ might have been buried there. Others thought that the solution might simply be a code word, an anagram buried in the lyrics, like the word ‘enigma’ that can be found in the third strophe of Wearing The Inside Out.
Publius kept the Enigma search alive by adding hints that only added to the confusion. In an unpublished report from a Belgian fan, that the Church could look into, it was proven that most messages were send in the early hours after a show or during a day off in the Floyd’s busy touring schedule. Publius undoubtedly was one of the (many) people joining the Pink Floyd world tour and someone who could manipulate light and screen settings during a show.
On 20 October 1994 Pink Floyd recorded their London Earl’s Court show for what later would become the Pulse VHS release. During Another Brick In The Wall the word ENIGMA was projected on the big round screen behind the band, giving the Reverend a mild heart attack when he watched the show a couples of week later on television.
For the VHS release though the word was obfuscated by adding extra lines and stripes, just as it is has been scrambled now on The Endless River movie. (On the Pulse DVD release the ENIGMA slide has been removed and replaced by one reading E=MC2. However, traces of the original can be found if one browses through the scene frame by frame.)
Over the years the band has reluctantly confessed that the Enigma riddle was basically a hoax, started by the record company, although the Church of Iggy the Inuit still suspects that Nick Mason, who has been known for his pranks and dry wit, may have had a hand in it.
The Publius Enigma died an unsuspected death when the anonymous mail account suddenly disappeared, making it impossible for fans to post a solution and claim the price, if there ever was a riddle to start with and a price to collect.
Over the years ‘new’ Publius Enigma sightings have been discovered, but these all came from outside or unreliable sources. Until now… although we sincerely doubt that the crazy hunt for fame and fortune will start all over again.
But what a long strange trip it has been!
Talkin’ Hawkin’ continues with the multi-coloured dancing silhouettes, followed by the clocks of Time. As a matter of fact, the original 'Time' backdrop movie was made by none other than Ian Emes (Time at YouTube).
Some of the people appear packed in linen, like a mummy or a ghost, others wear their masks again. It reminds us of the Hipgnosis artwork for the Alan Parsons Project ‘Tales of Mystery And Imagination’ and/or ‘Frances The Mute’ from Mars Volta. (These covers can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Tales of Mystery And Imagination & Frances The Mute.)
The aliens arrive in the city during the night with the street lights on and the buildings lit. They travel through a tunnel.
Calling / Eyes To Pearls
The aliens transform into liquid ghosts in a nightmarish scene. The city is dark but has tunnels that are lit. Somehow the aliens are trying to become human and they roam through abandoned buildings.
Those that have masks take it off. A couple of characters have difficulties breathing. Their faces are stuck in bubbles, like a liquid cosmonaut’s helmet, and they fight to survive. (There is a Hipgnosis cover for the album Deliverance from the French disco band Space. It has a woman, floating upside down in the desert, with an astronaut’s helmet on. This cover can be found at the Hipgnosis Covers website: Deliverance, mildly NSFW.)
But apparently they succeed and overcome the nightmare. They are running through the landscape, sometimes hand in hand. One of the personae has the multi-cornered space anomaly tattooed on her arm.
The band is running to the forest were they either find some rest or are falling down. It makes one wonder if they have succeeded transforming into humans or if they have failed in their mission. There is ambiguity in the scenes and they can be interpreted differently.
One of the aliens looks up at the sky, where the singularity has appeared again. It is not sure if it there to rescue or to abandon them.
Louder Than Words
The last song of the movie shows several of the previous scenes again, but some have been turned upside down or are running backwards.
It could be that the aliens have finally accepted that earth is their new home. A couple meets at the seaside and sees the object that disappears again in outer space, leaving them while flashbacks from the previous songs are repeated.
The movie ends with yet another scene from a bubbling river before switching over to the earth seen from space again.
There is a glimpse of a black obelisk that transforms into the multi-shaped interdimensional spaceship.
Although weird and filled with contradicting symbolism The Endless River movie isn’t half as bad as we feared it would be. Ian Emes has turned it into an interesting visual spectacle with many enigmatic scenes and a pretty intriguing, but we fear, non-existing storyline. (Although the viewer will vainly try to reconstitute a consistent story out of it.) It could well be that we will get this DVD (or Blu-Ray) out whenever we want to listen to The Endless River, that is slowly but surely rising in our ranking from preferred ambient albums, whether you call it a Pink Floyd album or not.
The Church wishes to thank the many collaborators on Steve Hoffman Music
Forums, Yeeshkul and the quite fantastic Hipgnosis Covers website.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
The Endless River screenshots on Tumblr: Page
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Tags used on Tumblr: ian emes - the endless river - pink floyd - the later years - publius enigma - the division bell
Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 153.
Hipgnosis Covers at http://www.hipgnosiscovers.com/
Steve Hoffman Forum Thread: Pink Floyd The Later Years Box Set
Powell, Aubrey: Hipgnosis, Les Pochettes Mythiques du Célèbre Studio, Gründ, Paris, 2015 (French edition of Hipgnosis Portraits).
Thorgerson, Storm & Powell, Aubrey: For The Love Of Vinyl, Picturebox, Brooklyn, 2008.
Thorgerson, Storm & Curzon, Peter: Mind Over Matter 4, Omnibus Press, London, 2007.
Thorgerson, Storm & Curzon, Peter: Taken By Storm, Omnibus Press, London, 2007.
Thorgerson, Storm: Walk Away René, Paper Tiger, Limpsfield, 1989.
Yeeshkul Forum Thread: Pink Floyd - The Later Years