It was bassist Roger Waters’ lyric: “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.” But guitarist David Gilmour and keyboard player Richard Wright sang that line on 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon, then proved it in a creative relationship that survived Wright’s forced resignation during sessions for The Wall and the subsequent rupture of the Floyd itself. The Endless River is Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason’s generous farewell to Wright, who died in 2008, built from unissued music the three made together for 1994’s The Division Bell.
A suite of mostly instrumental moods and fragments, The Endless River rolls like a requiem through familiar echoes. “Skins” is a trip back to the jungle-telegraph sequence in 1968’s “A Saucerful of Secrets”; the piano figure in “Anisina” is a stately variation on Wright’s indelible intro to Dark Side‘s “Us and Them.” The effect is inevitably cinematic, a fluid rewind to the Floyd’s early film scores. One piece, a suspense of glacial electronics and elegantly searing guitar, is rightly titled “It’s What We Do.”
“Louder Than Words,” the closing vocal track, is undercut by slang in the first lines. But when Gilmour sings, “The beat of our hearts/Is louder than words,” it feels, again, like hanging on – with grace. Wright was the steady, binding majesty in the Floyd’s explorations. This album is an unexpected, welcome epitaph.