When one of rock's most recognizable instrumental voices announces itself on the first track of ''On an Island," the effect is not unlike a contact high. To hear Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour loose his liquid, languorous guitar lines into the ether -- the kind of rippling ribbons of electricity that provided a soundtrack to our youth -- is to be pleasurably engulfed in a sense-memory haze.
These are the moments Floyd fans live for. ''On an Island" is Gilmour's first batch of studio recordings since Pink Floyd's 1994 multiplatinum smash, ''The Division Bell," and his first solo venture since 1984's ''About Face." With assistance from such old friends as Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera (who helped produce), and background vocalists David Crosby and Graham Nash, Gilmour has made an album that sounds as if little has changed since '94 -- or '84, for that matter.
While that might come as good news to the Floyd faithful, it also means that Gilmour seems to be treading water here -- and it's a sluggish musical current at best. It's hard to believe it took him (with ''Division Bell" collaborator Polly Samson) a dozen years to come up with the trudging music and slight lyrics behind ''Take a Breath," or the pretty yet pedestrian ''The Blue," with such moon-in-June lyrics as ''Midnight moonlight/Shines for you."
Gilmour's voice still sounds like a narcotic -- the id that urged us to cut class and contemplate the universe -- but it's the instrumental tracks here that stand out. Gilmour's softly searching guitar dips around a featherbed of cello, piano, and cornet on the stunning ''Then I Close My Eyes." The instrumental interlude ''Red Sky at Night," which marks Gilmour's debut on saxophone, evokes a pensively sensual ''Dark Side of the Moon" aura, with children's voices in the background. But the promise evaporates too soon into the trite, lazy lope of ''This Heaven."
With the exception of Syd Barrett's acid-fueled reign, Floyd was never an explosive band. But its best work was always driven by a darkly voluptuous sense of drama and distress. Disappointingly, ''On an Island" settles for a facsimile of Floyd's plushly cerebral sound world, with little of its sublimely disquieting content.