on 7 March 2009
In common with another reviewer I was lucky to get one of the 3,000 limited edition box sets.This is up there there with anything the great man has produced. For once an album that lives up to expectations and one of the most original albums I have ever heard. Mr Wilson continues to amaze with his music from porcupine Tree, No-man, black field and Bass Communion. If this was a Radiohead album it would be hailed as a masterpiece.
It's an intoxicating premise, a solo Steven Wilson album. For a man with such a pedestrian name, his ubiquitousness and level of output amongst certain genres is humbling/terrifying.
And "Insurgentes" may have been a while in the making, but you can bet he hasn't been twiddling his thumbs in between times.
Though to begin with, you do find yourself thinking "ah, that's a Porcupine Tree track", "oh, this wouldn't be out of place on Blackfield III", "this is a bit Bass Communion". But a few listens in and there is more going on.
To begin with, the care, the layering, the lushness of it all; the variety of palette.
On first listen "Significant Other" and the title track shone out for me. Others grew to stand abreast with them after a little more time.
But it soon becomes clear that this isn't a rag-bag of left-over bits and pieces cobbled together for the sake of it. What it is, I wouldn't care to say.
But it gets 5 stars and I'm delighted to own it. A rewarding listen.
Actually, strike that. Rewarding listens.
The man is prodigiously talented.
There are several different versions of this album, which can be confusing to purchaser. The original edition is the one marked CD + DVD, and is a perfectly good one to get. There is also a three-disc boxed set which contains the CD, DVD + the RMXS remix album: when I bought my copy, this version was actually cheaper, and it's definitely more desirable, but the remixes are definitely "nice to have" rather than essential. There is also a 2-DVD set which is basically the feature-length making-of documentary with lots of bonuses. That's nice to have as well, but you'll be wanting to start with the original album. (There was also a limited edition book version of the album which is long sold out so expect to pay a small fortune if there's one listed.)
So, now that you know which edition to buy, should you buy it?
If, like me, you spent money on a surround sound system, or just a good stereo system, or just some nice headphones, there comes a time when you want to hear music that just sounds great. In the old days, that meant Pink Floyd, but fortunately you have a lot of options these days, including the once-very-Pink-Floyd-influenced Steven Wilson who is pretty much the best combined musician/producer/engineer working today. One example is the title track here: the song itself is fine, but the thing that makes it exceptionally beautiful is the 17-string bass koto performed by Michiyo Yagi. Just the sound of the instrument in the song is exactly right: whether in 5.1 surround sound (where this album really sings) or in stereo.
Not everything on Insurgentes is mellow: far from it. With both this album and its successor, Grace for Drowning, the first experience of the album involves turning the music up for the quiet bits and down again when things get very noisy. It's not long, though, before you realize that this music is intended to go from quiet, almost ambient sounds, to in-your-face metallic extremes. Set the volume dial and then stick with it and the dynamics will reward you. On the Crimsonesque "No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun" the final bars explode with massed electric guitars and feedback pounding out the riffs, yet the song that follows is drenched instead with walls of guitar fuzz reminiscent of Cocteau Twins' Robyn Guthrie, gradually spiralling into a more distorted fog of distortion.
Wilson's approach is almost architectural, with the mix seemingly more important than the songs themselves, which are often fairly forgettable. Sonically, Insurgentes is an album that you owe it to yourself to hear, preferably in DTS 5.1. This isn't in any sense a "great prog rock album" (as you might hope from the reverence with which Wilson is treated in prog rock circles). Instead, it is an album for everyone who ever got excited by sound quality.
on 31 March 2009
Insurgentes Limited Edition
Steven Wilson looks and sounds to me like a mild-mannered Maths or Physics post-graduate from Oxford or Cambridge who dabbles in music in his spare time and who is not really sure if he is any good at it. At least, that's the impression I got from seeing Porcupine Tree live at The Astoria in London twice in recent years (and felt like I might have been the oldest person in the audience!); both times he apologised in case the band made any mistakes, but they played perfectly anyway!
In fact, it's thanks to a Californian internet radio station called Radio Paradise that I discovered Wilson's music in the first place - when I heard the eerily beautiful "Stars Die" for the first time, perhaps two or three years ago, and got hooked. Now I consider him to be one of England's finest musical talents, someone who can consistently fill an album with songs, none of which are bad, however weird some of them are; and whilst one half of me thinks he deserves to be a superstar, the other half says it would be nice to keep him, in a sense, as our best kept musical secret!
For me, this first solo release is one of those "I'm not quite sure if I like it on initial listening" albums, the same as Fear of a Blank Planet was; but that's doubtless a good thing, as the most rewarding music is usually that which grows on you after more than a few listens. If you like Porcupine Tree then you are bound to like this.
This deserves five stars, but I am giving this particular version only four stars because the menus on the DVD are impossible to read, either on my TV set or my computer screen, so navigating the DVD is a horrible experience. Whoever thought thin grey text on a black background was a good idea should go back to design school! If anyone knows what the menu buttons say, please get in contact, as I don't think Snapper are going to!!
on 14 March 2009
This is a very textured-layered dark and moving Album for the intriguing Steve Wilson. Up there with the best stuff of PT but different in it's own right. GH percussion is up there again with intricacy like Neal Peart brings to table in rush.
Very Deep-Dark-Moving as good Rock music should be.
PT fans will not be disappointed. This guys has so much talent totally uncompromising and has such volume of output and energy he really is something special.
on 11 March 2009
Steven Wilson's body of work is astonishing. Not only contributing to his own projects: Bass Communion; No-Man; Blackfield, the superb Porcupine Tree and producing albums for many more artists. He also finds the time for a solo album.
That this album will probably only sell in limited numbers is something that his many fans, myself inculded, will find staggering. But is further proof that the music industry at the moment is only really interested in the 'next big thing.'
I had probably hoped that this album would sound like Porcupine Tree, which it does in parts, but there are so many ideas in here that it really defies catagorization.
'Harmony Korine' starts things of slowly, gradually building to a massive wall of sound as the track progresses.
Other favourites of mine are the brooding 'Salvaging,' Veneno Para Las Hadras (now that does sound like Porcupine Tree) and the excellent 'Get All You Deserve' that escalates to a wall of noise at the end, something that Mr. Wilson does so well.
As mentioned above in another review the original release came in a lavishly packaged binder (now discontinued) containing high quality pictures and extra tracks. That a couple of these tracks, ie 'Collecting Space' and the wonderful 'The 78' didn't make this release is a shame but there is still plenty here to admire.
If you don't know Steven Wilson's work give this a try. If you like quality, thought provoking music you won't be disappointed. But be warned, the above mentioned band's back catalogues are vast and you could find your bank balance much the smaller for it.
on 30 May 2009
Having been a recent convert to Procupine Tree, I thought I'd have a go at this after checking out the Harmony Korine Video.
This is just brilliant, as an earlier review said you can't pin down exactly what it is about this album that hooks you in, but you find yourself drawn into the sound as the music progresses.
I know some people have a problem with Steve Wilson's singing style, but I can't really find any other type of vocals that would fit with this material.
Any Radiohead Fans out there should seriously give this a spin, it sounds at lot like the direction I thought they were heading in with OK Computer.
Stand out tracks for me have to be Significant Other, it really reminds me of Arriving Somewhere off Porcupine Tree's Deadwing, and the Title Track which has that slightly creepy vibe to it despite sounding like a ballad.
The package is topped off by the 5.1 Mix on Disc 2 that adds an immense amount of space to the Production that only adds to the atmosphere.
on 26 September 2011
3 years that is, since the Deluxe version was released... I have had 3 years to digest this album, and while on the surface it is as solid and as beautiful as any Porcupine Tree release, it lacks a certain replayability (is that even a word?) and is therefore lacking in substance. That isn't to say it isn't a good/great album, especially when you compare it to OTHER bands, but against the PT legacy this pales in comparison. As with the recent 'Grace' album I have awarded 4 stars. In reality I would say 3.5. An interesting listen now and then but for a better introduction to his work try 'Deadwing' and 'The Incident' by Porcupine Tree first. These 2 ablums are similar to this solo release. Whichever way you choose to introduce yourself to this man, you will soon realise that he is one of the most underappreciated British musicians of the last 30 years.
Or the best kept secret?
on 30 May 2009
How does a guy from Hemel Hemptsted get to be this talented?
Every track on this album is enagaging, fresh and different. More varied and experimental than his recent Porcupine Tree material, the album takes in contemporary musical influences such as the 'drone metal' of Sunn ((0)) evidenced on tracks like 'abandoner' and 'get all you deserve'. Whilst this gives the album a welcome leftfield edge, just as strong are wilson's ear for melody and a talent to write a good song. A beautifully layered and textered production, together with an engaging mini documentary DVD, makes for a very appealling package indeed. First Class.
on 9 May 2009
This isn't going to be much of a review because I don't think a few words can really do justice to an album like this. It rocks out - in places - but it's so much more than an, albeit excellent, rock album. I don't know what the correct genre term is these days (so I'll make one up - "nu prog") but it's a wonderfully ambient listen that explodes into life in all the right places. It's just brilliant, and I find it quite reassuring that there's still someone in the music "biz" who's capable of coming up with rewarding, beautiful, sweeping, thought-provoking music. Other reviews have mentioned Radiohead, and I agree that like their albums it will certainly reward repeated listening. Thank you Steve Wilson.