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Covers [VINYL]
Covers [VINYL]
Offered by Vinylhead
Price: 17.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Side Of Steven, 25 Jun 2014
This review is from: Covers [VINYL] (Vinyl)
This is a much needed release that compiles a collection of six two track singles that have become very hard to find and much sought after. I'm glad Steven Wilson has chosen to re-release this music and given those who missed out on the originals a chance to hear one of his most obscure releases.

This collection of songs exhibits several sides of Steven Wilson that are often absent in the majority of his work. Although he has released three solo albums to date, it is only in this release that he performs entirely on his own (no guest musicians/band members here). Perhaps because of this, the album has a far less 'grandiose' sound. Several of his songs are led by simple piano or strummed acoustic guitar. Perhaps to fit alongside the nature of the six cover versions, his original material is in a similar vein. That is, his music sticks largely to the 3-4 minute 'pop-song' format. Of course there are a few noticeable exceptions; particularly the eerie 'The Unquiet Grave' (actually a traditional English folk song interpreted in typical Wilson style). Also noticeable, is that the music here is far less melancholic than I have come to expect from Wilson (again with exceptions!).

Steven Wilson's choice of covers may come as a surprise; Alanis Morissette, Abba, The Cure, Momus, Prince and Donovan. His cover's aren't always as good as the originals, but they certainly are different. If there's one track that really shone for me, it was his cover of Abba's 'The Day Before You Came'. I cant say that everything here is five-star material, but even his weaker material is very different from the rest of his work and acts as a fitting testament to one of rocks most varied and under appreciated talents. The best material on this album is certainly worth owning and for that alone I would recommend this album even to those who are not familiar with Steven Wilson's previous material.


Abandoned Dancehall Dreams
Abandoned Dancehall Dreams
Price: 13.31

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unexpected Triumph, 24 Jun 2014
I now feel ashamed to admit that I wasn't expecting this to be fantastic. While I knew Tim Bowness was half of the duo that is No-Man, I had always assumed that my love for the band chiefly lay with Steven Wilson. It appears that Tim Bowness can be every bit as dramatic, subtle, and sublime as anything that No-Man has released and I'm glad to be proved wrong.

If at any time this album sounds like No-Man, it is because it was written by Tim with a No-Man release in mind. The song writing is brilliant, the musicianship is superb and even Tim's vocals seem stronger and less whispery. The second disc of bonus material is every bit as good as the 45 minute long main album.

This may be the breakthrough album Tim needs.


Bass Communion -Ltd-
Bass Communion -Ltd-
Price: 41.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 CD Compliation of Bass Communion Rarities, 15 Jun 2014
This review is from: Bass Communion -Ltd- (Audio CD)
As a Steven Wilson fanatic who has only a CD player in which to enjoy his music, this collection comes as a relief. This box set compiles many of his 'record-only' releases which have only now been released on CD for the first time. It also includes some music that was only released in a very limited run on CD and was long since out-of-print. It also includes several 'reconstructions' (remixes?) of Bass Communion tracks; some of which make their first appearance in this set. Some of the releases are full albums (Pacific Codex), some are EP's (Litany, Indicates Void), some are singles (Vajrayana) and some are Outtakes (Ghosts On Magnetic Tape). To make the set more desirable, a few new tracks have been added that are unavailable elsewhere (Temporal).

The presentation and packaging is a work of art in itself. As always Carl Glover, has created magnificent and fitting artwork to accompany the music. A generously sized picture book of gorgeous photography fits neatly alongside the mini-lp style CDs, which are housed in a sturdy card slip-case. If you are familiar with the I.E.M. boxset, this follows the same style and presentation and fits very nicely alongside it on my shelf!

Being completely honest with myself, I probably would not have bought this, had it not been made by Steven Wilson, who has made some of the very best music my ears have ever heard. I simply love his work with Porcupine Tree and as a solo artist, but Bass Communion is vastly different. The music has been called Ambient and Drone, but in truth it's perhaps even more obscure than that. Much of his works (but not all), are experiments in sound. They are the result of Steven Wilson's love for manipulating sounds in the studio and the morphing of a particular sound source into something unrecognisable and completely different. Litany for example is created from manipulating vocal sounds; pacific codex from the sounds of metal upon metal; indicates void from various solo instruments. Thankfully, Steven Wilson is a fantastic sound engineer (one of the best), and he manages to create some remarkably ethereal and eerie 'music' and with very restrictive 'sound sources' in which to work upon.

While I consider Litany to be a piece of beautifully dark ambient genius and Pacific Codex to be remarkable (considering it's simplicity). I do not consider the remaining tracks to be truly essential. Indeed, I honestly consider none of this music to be absolutely essential for those who perhaps would delve deeper into the vast discography of Mr Wilson. I would recommend Ghosts on Magnetic Tape and Bass Communion II as the finest work that Bass Communion has released thus far. It is aimed, I think, at collectors, who perhaps missed the opportunity to hear some of these tracks first time round, and in this respect it mostly succeeds. However I would've liked to have seen his extremely rare collaboration with Jonathan Coleclough and Colin Potter, his increasingly hard to find Continuum collaborations with Dirk Serries and perhaps his (as yet) unused 'soundtrack' CD 'atmospherics' make their appearance as part of this set.

The full tracklist is...

CD1
vajrayana (2001) 8.46
aum shinrikyo (2001) 9.11
ghosts on magnetic tape – outtake (2003) 16.04
indicates void I (2005) 10.40
indicates void II (2005) 8.21
indicates void III (2005) 11.16
indicates void IV (1998) 9.18

CD2
pacific codex 1 (2006) 40.21

CD3
after dark (2003) 9.30
mousehill (2006) 10.00
behind these silent eyes (2006) 18.48
537171NR848492C (2007) 19.42
wvndrkmmer (2008) 8.30

CD4
litany 1 (2009) 6.43
litany 2 (2009) 15.25
the flight of song (2009) 22.17
temporal a (2012) 10.10
temporal b (2012) 10.25

...An interesting slice of difficult (but rewarding) listening. As much a visual piece of art as an auditory one. A fantastic collectors item and a must for Bass Communion completists like myself!


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [DVD] [2013]
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Martin Freeman
Price: 10.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Film but comparatively disapointing, 18 May 2014
As a standalone film this film is an enjoyable Hollywood blockbuster. Ignoring the success of the Lord of the Rings and even the first part of the Hobbit Trilogy this film is good for what it is. It is an entertaining action packed visually stunning fantasy film.

You may have watched the first instalment of the film and had some gripes with the unnecessary inclusion of certain characters?, or perhaps the needless action sequences? or perhaps you felt the pace was slow moving?...well in that case you may find this film considerably worse that the previous. This film looses major points for me because it simply assumes the audience is stupid. It changes many plot lines as a means to add extra action sequences and to include cameos from the lord of the rings films. There were many iconic chapters in the Hobbit book that I was really looking forward to seeing on the screen, but they were all replaced by silly action scenes more like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean than Tolkien. Why can't Peter Jackson realise that just because it's a children's story, it doesn't need to have endless action in order to prevent boredom. I for one would've loved to have seen less CGI and more dialogue.

What this film ultimately lacks is a sense of wonder mixed with danger that the books conveyed. I'm sure every reviewer says this but I'm a huge Tolkien Fan but I don't agree that the film necessarily has to stick outright to the book. However, this film seems to lean closer to the imaginary work of Warhammer or the Zelda universe than Tolkien. The sense of wonder that I got from the lord of the rings films was not in it's battle sequences, but in it's beautiful scenery and plot setting. In this film however, the scenery is over the top and it's lacks any kind of believability or even credibility that was one of Tolkien's aims. Even the casting is bad in this film; I normally love Stephen Fry, but his character was so un-Tolkienesque and untrue to the general feel of the book that it actually made me a bit angry. I question Peter Jacksons intentions with these films. Many truly iconic moments in the books were lost or twisted into almost laughable sequences and this really saddened me.

This isn't a standalone film, but treated as one it doesn't further the plot enough to justify a 3 hour running time. However it did entertain me. The soundtrack was good. The film looked good. The acting was good (if occasionally over the top for comedic effect). The script was mostly good but it really looses points for being a bloated actionfest that looses track of the plot one-too-many times.


Shades of Orion 2
Shades of Orion 2

4.0 out of 5 stars Warm blissful ambience, 11 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shades of Orion 2 (Audio CD)
Pete Namlook certainly has a vast catalogue. Of all his collaborations it is perhaps with Tetsu Inoue that he is most well known (perhaps alongside his work with Klaus Schulze). I am unfamiliar with Tetsu Inoue's work, but I have heard 2350 Broadway, their other major project (and perhaps best known). Although the Fax label is best known for it's high quality ambient releases (inparticular the early to mid 90s), their output has also produced some stunning ambient-techno and sequencer driven 'berlin school' electronic music. This release rests firmly at the ambient end of the spectrum.

Its kind of hard to review music such as this. It is a single 'song' over an hour in length (thankfully cut into 14 segments each 5 minutes in length), which seemingly doesn't really stray very far from the sounds first layed down in the opening few minutes. To many I guess this could be the most boring album ever. However, to those who enjoy space music and enjoy the pictures these sounds can paint then this is indeed one of the warmer sides of the Fax releases. It has a breezy warm organic feel to the album which is in stark contract to some of their other releases (2350 Broadway 3 for example).

Music such as this takes things very slowly. There is a progression to the music, but it reveals itself gradually over the course of 70 minutes. There are no stand out moments and there is no driving melody or percussion. What there is, is a very slight pulse that comes and goes with a breezy organic drone ( I hesitate to use that word because it is not drone music) and spacey wind-like sounds that operate in the background and foreground. That is about it!, but of course there are all the textural subtleties that the interested ear can choose to pick up on. I for one find this the perfect late night music and it often sends me to sleep (in a good way of course!). This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but hey!, if you've found this page then it could be for you!


Fear Of A Blank Planet
Fear Of A Blank Planet
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: 6.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning future Classic, 10 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Audio CD)
Okay, I'm a huge Porcupine Tree fan, and I love everything that they've released but please don't let that fool you into thinking that this isn't something special.

This release sees the band continue their heavier direction that first made an appearance in In-Absentia. It also sees the band return to a heavier emphasis on the atmospheres that made Signify so great and while its a far cry from the psychedelia of their earliest work, it carries a similar vibe. Of the many times I've listened to this album, I've come to realise that there are no wasted notes. Every single piece of this album is simply incredible and serves a purpose. The artwork hints at the content within, just as much as the lyrics carry the message...

"Out at the train tracks I dream of escape
But a song comes onto my iPod
And I realize it's getting late

I can't take the staring and the sympathy
And I don't like the questions "How do you feel?"
"How's it going in school?"
... "Do you wanna talk about it?..."

The musicianship is really second to none yet the song writing is tasteful (no over-long guitar solos here!). Steven Wilson certainly knows the importance and value of good song structure and flow. While the album's centrepiece is 17 minutes in length, it feels perhaps a little under 10 minutes. Honestly, this track makes long car journeys fly by! I could go on and on, but suffice to say that I cant find anything to fault in this album. Alongside Deadwing, this is perhaps my favourite Porcupine Tree album but really, they are all fantastic.

I know Porcupine Tree have been grouped within the Prog-Rock category, but their work is far more accessible than 90% of artists working within the genre and without sacrificing any talent or bowing to radio or media wishes. I believe anyone who is looking to find proof that good modern rock music still exists today will be more than satisfied with this album.


Z
Z
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: 16.15

5.0 out of 5 stars One of 'modern' rocks best albums, 5 May 2014
This review is from: Z (Audio CD)
I went through a phase around the time that this album was released where I began doubting that modern rock was good any longer. I tried looking for artists who didn't just try to recreate the sounds of the late 60s or 70s but rather tried to sound fresh with new ideas. Of those albums that I discovered there were two that really stood above the rest. They were 'Deadwing' by Porcupine Tree and 'Z' by My Morning Jacket; both released in the same year.

'Z' may not sound retro, but it holds onto many of the ideals that made many retro rock albums great. For starters, its 47 minute length is just right; not too long, not too short! Secondly, some thought has been put into the track order because it flows very well. Thirdly, unlike many other bands around this time, the guitars had a very sharp clear sound, not destroyed by distortion. Lastly, it sounded fresh!, it didn't just try to sound like yet another Black Sabbath rip-off.

I didn't buy any other albums of theirs for a while because I was afraid of being disappointed. When they released 'Evil Urges', I gave in, and decided to give that album a go. Despite several great songs, it was a disappointment, so I looked into their earlier material. I was let down by far far far too much reverb in the vocals. It seems to me that 'Z' really stands so much higher above the rest of My Morning Jacket's material for the very reasons mentioned above. Whatsmore, after hearing 'It Still Moves', it seems to me that 'Z' represents a huge creative peak (I'm not saying their other albums aren't creative!). The band were willing to sacrifice a few fans in order to pursue a new direction and that is another reason why this album is great.

So what's new? Well there is still reverb, but its toned down tastefully. The country influences of earlier albums is all but gone. There is far more variation in style and tempo within the album (Evil Urges took this one step too far in my opinion). And at the risk of sounding 'petty' I would also say that the song-writing is just that much better!

2005 ended up being one of my favourite years for new music giving us such albums as Eels - Blinking Lights And Other Reveletions; LCD Soundsystem - Sounds of Silver; Opeth - Ghost Reveries; Kate Bush - Aerial; Sufjan Stevens - Illinois; The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan; Gogol Bordello - Underdog World Strike; Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft; Supergrass - Road to Rouen; Sigur Ros - Takk; Porcupine Tree - Deadwing; King Creosote - KC Rules OK; Jack Johnson - Inbetween Dreams; Coil - The Ape Of Naples.

This is one of the best albums of the 00s and one of the few genuine rock bands (no Nickelback are NOT a genuine rock band!) that actually achieved commercial success.


Songs for Ships and Irons
Songs for Ships and Irons

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically Unique, 4 May 2014
I'm a huge Steven Wilson Fan. I own almost everything he's released including his 7" cover of 'Stoneage Dinosaurs' despite not owning a record player. I finally found a CD version of this song in the form of 'Leader of the Starry Skies' - a tribute to frontman Tim Smith. Strange as it seems, my introduction to this band was a tribute CD! Anyway, hearing such fine music I had to listen to the originals! And this is the one I chose. A strange choice perhaps? being a collection of compiled EPs long since out of print - but hey, it had Stongeage dinosaurs on it!

I fell in love!, Its mad, even crazy!, and yet it's not random. It took several listens to fully appreciate, however I began to hear rather complex musical passages hidden beneath the child-like antics. Some songs are instantly enjoyable and some (probably the majority) are growers. While to many the deranged vocals and comic style may be off-putting, I find this is what makes the music so charming and ultimately unique. Its almost like Madness were on their debut, but instead of fusing Ska and Pop they chose Punk and Progressive Rock. For an album that comes across as 'just a bit of fun' It sounds remarkably accomplished and for a collection of various releases, it sounds remarkably cohesive (in a similar vein to The Beta Band's Three EPs). I will be looking into obtaining further releases by the band. Popular opinion seems to point at 'Sing to God (parts 1 and 2)' and ' A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window' as their best, however, as a newcomer to the band, I found this release a really enjoyable listen also.

As a final comment please don't pay the stupid prices being asked by sellers online; their albums are no longer 'unobtainable'. I bought this album from the bands own website and as far as I can tell, the majority of their catalogue is available there also.


Signify
Signify
Price: 11.90

5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite 'Early' Porcupine Tree Album, 20 April 2014
This review is from: Signify (Audio CD)
My introduction to Porcupine Tree was 'Stars Die - The Best Of Porcupine Tree'. Very shortly after that I went on a spending spree that amounted to (several months later) owning all ten of their studio albums (and years later owning everything they released!). Of their earlier albums, the two that really felt special were 'the sky moves sideways' and 'signify'. While 'The sky Moves Sideways' took it's influences from the likes of 70's Floyd, 'Signify' was a much more diverse offering. I certainly hear Krautrock influences here, but most importantly, I hear the band finding their own unique sound and style. This album sounds to me more like the same band that created 'Fear of a blank planet', whereas 'The Sky Moves SIdeways' and earlier albums sound like they were made by another band . But that makes sense because this was their first album as a fully functioning band, whereas previous offerings were either fully solo or Wilson with occasional band support.

Signify matches the psychedelic soundscapes of earlier albums with a rawer guitar sound that didn't fully re-appear until their early 2000's album 'Lightbulb Sun'. This album is more song focused than their preceding albums, but a far cry from their 90's pop albums that came after. Certainly there are more instrumental tracks and 'interludes' than fans of 2000's era porcupine tree might be used to, however I believe they fit well with the album's more psychedelic nature. This album is also significantly darker than previous efforts, and probably their darkest until their excellent breakthrough album, In-Absentia. All in all, I believe that if you appreciate Porcupine Tree as they are today and perhaps are looking into acquiring their vast back catalogue (ohh its more than 10 albums believe me!), then Signify if your best place to start. If you need any further convincing, listen to 'Dark Matter', it stands as one of Porcupine Tree's finest songs they ever made.

As an additional comment, special mention must be made to the excellent packaging, presentation and extras that come alongside this release. The extra CD is a long out-of-print 47 minute release that compiles a collection of outtakes and demos from the Signify recording sessions. While the sound quality may not be quite up to the usual high standards, its an interesting listen (if not essential). The album is cased in a a 'digi-book' style design and is really a work of art when compared to the bog-standard jewel-case.


Collapse Into Now: Special Edition Digipack
Collapse Into Now: Special Edition Digipack
Price: 9.02

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I wish R.E.M. had quit before this..., 6 April 2014
I got into R.E.M. during the early 2000s, as such I missed their early IRS Years (too young) and missed their Warner Bros years with Berry (didn't really appreciate music as I do now!). When I went to university R.E.M. became the band of my days there. Unfortunately around that time, they had past their prime. Still, of their latter albums I loved 'Up' the most, I thought 'Reveal' was good, but their follow-up around the sun was average. They came back with 'Accelerate' which was another good album and if R.E.M. had finished there I would've been happy. Accelerate seemed to incorporate their jangly guitar sound of 90s era R.E.M. and Michael Stipe seemed to have found his singing voice again, it seemed like a return to form and would've been a fitting (if not amazing) ending to an amazing band. But they followed it up with this album...
...And it sucked!

I sometimes think that people give single star reviews to drag rating down to the level they want rather than because they think it actually deserves a single star. In this case however, I honestly think this album deserved the lowest possible rating, and it pains me to admit it, but this album is awful. Where to begin... Lyrics were never R.E.M.s strongest point, but the lyrics here are meaningless nonsense and only serve to fill a space left by instruments. The melodies (always one of R.E.M. strongest attributes), are average to poor and even border on the self plagiarising. There are two songs that had a good melody and they are 'It Happened Today' and 'Walk it Back'; one of those songs is 90% humming (no lyrics hooray!) and the other is actually quite good, though I've no idea what its about. R.E.M. were never stellar musicians, but they could play well and while the musicianship remains good there's never a great moment on this album. The vocals were another of R.E.M.s finest attributes, but Michael Stipe sounds old and tired here. There's the occasional moment where his vocals are back to the high standards I've come to expect, but as a whole they sound lifeless.

This album is the most disappointed I've ever been in an album. If there is a single good thing to say about this album its the song 'Walk it Back', which is quite good. To make matters worse though, they quit soon afterwards then released another (another!!) best of collection with three songs from this album (Three!!!) and three additional songs of equally poor quality. If you are new to R.E.M. I urge you to ignore R.E.M.s existence at this stage in their career. If you want a best of go with the I.R.S years and In Time. I really have nothing else to say other than I am amazed at the high ratings that this album achieved!


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