on 11 March 2013
For the first time in ages I have just been transported back, reminded of a day long ago and far away of a certain younger man. Having eagerly run most of the way home with his newly discovered gate-fold vinyl album tucked under his arm and finally getting down to listen to some new sounds, waiting to be amazed.
Back then there was always something new to be amazed at.
These days - not so much.
This album is without a doubt the most authentic prog rock album to date by any artist who wasn't actually around in the 70`s. I use the much maligned term prog rock, though it's not a description I like. Sadly it's the only one we have for music as diverse, melodic, complex and compositionally interesting as this.
From the opening moments of `Luminol` and through its 12:10 minutes of intricate tempo changes and mostly instrumental interplay to the last blissful moments of `The Raven that Refused to Sing`, I was held spellbound in my armchair - not wanting this album to end. I couldn't believe 58 minutes had passed.
Sure there are musical references to many bands who were around in the seventies - King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Camel, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd to name but a few.
WHO CARES when it's this good?
Also, if you have followed Steven and Porcupine Tree you know what they are about. The references are meant to be there. For goodness sakes, ALL musicians `borrow` from other musicians whether you listen to classical, pop or rock. It's what you do with it that makes the magic happen.
Steven Wilson has achieved what no other modern musician has been able to do, in my opinion.
He has taken prog rock and made it new again. (Now, if we could only give it a new name) !
To digress a moment, I was intrigued by a previous `review` of incessant whinging by a certain P.Hall `squonk_uk`, who ruthlessly laid into this album with some extremely derisory remarks that were laced with a particular personal axe to grind. OK, he is entitled to his opinion - even if it sucks. (How he thinks any artist should not be protective of his or her work and hopefully earn some money from it, beats me. It's how they make their living for God's sake) !
Anyway, moving on. Most of the other reviewers have already praised this album way more eloquently than me so I'll say no more, except this-
Trust me - this album is worth your attention.
It's worth listening to - all the way through.
It's worth buying...
It's fascinating watching the backlash from certain reviewers about SW. Most of it seems aimed at being annoyed that he doesn't like people ripping off his music or filming his shows. What can you say about that?
He doesn't like being stolen from, and he doesn't like unapproved versions of his performances (captured on smartphones) being the things that hit YouTube. Sounds to me like an artist trying to retain control of his career. It might be foolish, or not, but not worthy of the vitriol here.
And this should be about the product. SW has regularly tried to produce what I would call 'premium' product - a physical experience that makes the purchase worthwhile in a tactile as well as artistic sense. Lush art, nice presentation, sturdy containers, hosts of extras to keep the true fan happy.
The documentary on the DVD is a thing of joy. I had no idea how funny Nick Beggs was until this!
These people are making artsy, pretentious music, but they are neither in themselves - as evidenced herein. As for the music - yes, it references plenty of other artists' work. And I guess you could say he is stealing from them. But if the net result is THIS GOOD, who cares? If the artists that he is borrowing from were still making albums this good, we wouldn't be bitching, we'd be buying them, loving them, poring over them. Not patting ourselves on the back if we happened to spot similarities to existing work.
Lose yourself in the music, kids, its what it's all about - how it makes you FEEL. And this stuff is sublime. I don't care if it is recycled. At all. And I'm not even saying that it is. It sounds amazing. I feel amazing. That should be enough.
on 28 February 2013
Ok, now to quantify this review lets start by saying that I'm not the biggest Porcupine Tree fan. I thought The Incident was excellent, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun was pretty good, and the rest pretty average, a few good tracks here and there but nothing too remarkable.
I would not have bought this if it had not received a glowing review in Classic Rock and thought I'd give it a punt and run a download. For £5.43 what could go wrong?
As soon as it was downloaded (took a while, broadband not too speedy here) I settled down with a mug of tea googled the lyrics and off we went.
Sailing from the speakers came a sublime mix of very retro prog mixed with jazzy interludes, atmospheric keyboards - each song intertwined with a narrative story of regret, death, etc - all the usual 'happy' prog staples. Wilson has assembled a very talented band capable of playing out his visions, an unashamed romp through extended pieces that billow out slowly and dramatically with all their prog roots showing. This is the kind of music that Punk tried, and failed to kill off in the 70's, but with a pristine clarity of recording that is frankly breath-taking. If it sounds good on an Ipod, what does the blue ray version sound like?!
Highlight for me has to the last song, the title track that tells of a man who loses his sister early on in her life, and struggling to come to terms with it convinces himself that a raven he has captured will prove that there is life after death if he can get the bird to sing. As the title suggests, the raven refuses and he is left to ponder whether there is anything beyond this life. Weird? Yes, Morbid? Indeed. Beautiful, heart wrenching and downright genius? You bet your bottom dollar...
Music for the heart, the head, the soul, the past, the future. Marvellous stuff Steve, thank you so much
on 1 December 2013
Best album this year for me, heard it on CD first and loved it so much I bought the vinyl later. Saw Steven's Royal Albert hall show and the band were note-perfect.
Nobody else is making music quite like Steven Wilson, and this makes him one of my very favourite artists. I was previously a little sceptical of his solo project, feeling that he never quite reached the heights of the Porcupine Tree catalogue, but this album has changed my mind.
There are so many moods in this album, the title track in particularly is so sad and haunting, it never fails to make the hairs stick up on the back of my neck.
Carry on making amazing music Steven! And to anyone who hasn't heard this yet, you don't know what you are missing until you have a listen- a musical masterpiece.
This is an absolutely incredible piece of work. Seriously, it's approaching genius level composition, arrangement and musicianship and has brought a much maligned genre (unfairly, in my opinion), prog rock, kicking and screaming into the 21st century. You can clearly hear the influences on this record, namely Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, Camel, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and, naturally, Alan Parsons who is the engineer on "The Raven That Refused To Sing". With this album, prolific Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson has surpassed any previous work he has been involved with, either solo or with his band, and has made a beautifully complex, artistic record that would be hailed as a classic in any pretty much any year since the late sixties. This isn't hyperbole; I own too many albums to be this impressed without good reason and don't bandy the word "genius" around without there being justification for such a high accolade, but Wilson and this tremendous project deserve all the superlatives thrown at them.
Unfortunately, this isn't an album I could write about easily without going massively in depth and I don't have the spare time or inclination to write an essay about the choice of instrumentation, the specific influences on certain tracks, the time signature changes, the stellar performances all of the musicians give, the rich textures and dynamics or the deliberately dark, heavy and slightly opaque lyrics, but, if I had the time, it's the kind of album I could enthuse about and analyse extensively. I will simply say that, from the moment it begins to the final notes, this is intelligent, emotive, creative, mind-blowing music at its absolute finest. I would recommend this without question to anybody who loves progressive rock, but would urge any lover of rock, jazz or classical to listen to this at least once, because this record has a depth and integrity that defies pigeon-holing it into any one specific genre. Just listen, that's all I ask.
on 14 October 2013
Not at all!
In a recent interview, Steven Wilson alluded to a view that at a basic level everything has been done and we can only regurgitate the corpse of what has gone before. (Apologies, if the words aren't exact).
All music has reference to what has gone before. Everyone has listened to one artist and thought: 'That sounds like so-and-so'.
But, this album will be listened to for many years to come just like the classics that came before it and which bear some influence upon it.
From the opening salvo of bass and drums of 'Luminol' to the melancholic denouement of 'The Raven that Refused to Sing' this is an album to savour, to listen to again and again.
All the instruments sound like they are supposed to, not overproduced and mastered into a digital mess. A tribute to Steven Wilson's production and the engineering of Alan Parsons.
The album sounds alive and the tracks have so many turns that you feel at any time the music could soar in a totally new direction.
This album has been called a love letter to the albums of the late '60's and '70's but I think it is a little bolder so perhaps we should call it a wolf whistle down the years!
on 10 June 2016
Bought this mainly because Wilson often guests with the Steve Hackett band, which is my favourite artist. Whilst not disappointed, I wasnt blown away either. Yes its beautifully engineered across two discs to maximize sound quality, and yes, there are some lovely soundscapes here, but it lacks excitement and dynamics, two things which his usual band Porcupine Tree have in bucketloads. If you like your prog more 'Dark Side Of The Moon' than 'Larks Tongues In Aspic' then you'll love this, and your girlfriend probably will too.Headbangers and excitement freaks should try The Jupiter Society or Frost*.
on 26 February 2013
Well I have finally got my hands on this album and it is every bit as good as i'd expected. I have only had one full listen so far and it sounds great, but as not necessarily as immediately accesible as some of the Porcupine Tree albums, but this means I will get to discover more about it over time.
I would expect anyone that enjoyed Steven Wilson's previous 2 albums to enjoy this as much, I would also expect Porcupine Tree fans to find it of interest, especially fans of the more recent albums, (the Incident, Deathwing, Fear of a Blank Planet).
Musically there is a lot going on, it is technically great and sounds really impressive on my headphones (AKG K550s). As I listen to it I keep coming up with bands that it reminds me of, like Yes, early Genesis, King Crimson, Caravan, Hatfield and the North, National Health and Spock's Beard (not sure many people will know Spock's beard, but worth checking out). Whilst I guess it is most likely to be categorised as Prog rock, I would say that it is as much jazz rock as well, but there is far less of a metal element too it that some of the more recent PT albums.
The real highlight for me is the the title track, which closes the album, it is a truely gorgeous and moving song and leaves you wanting more.
How this guy manages to achieve so much with all his various music and producing projects on the go, I simply don't know. Here's to his next offering, be it solo or with Porcupine Tree.
on 26 February 2013
Having heard SW's comments about how he saw himself as a Frank Zappa type of musical director fronting a crack band of technically excellent musicians and having heard the opening track, "Luminol" prior to the album's release, I feared that this album was going to be an hour of self indulgent over-playing. Wrong!
Having heard this once (in 5.1 surround sound) I can say that this sounds excellent already and captures the spine-tingling atmospheres that are there on the very best of SW's past work ('Together We're Stranger', 'Deadwing', 'Storm Corrosion', 'Ghosts On Magnetic Tape'....)
'Luminol' is actually the weakest track on the album and not really representative of the overall feel. I think this is better than SW's previous two solo albums and is certainly an improvement on the later Porcupine Tree albums (been a fan for twenty years and think the albums from 'Stupid Dream' through to 'Deadwing' were their peak).
The production is excellent (as you'd expect from SW) and the whole band is, I'm glad to say, playing as an ensemble, rather than showing off. Can't wait to see him in Manchester this week and am hopeful that sometime soon we'll see SW & Tim Bowness put out a new No-Man album (the best British band of the past two decades).
on 8 November 2015
Steve Wilson's third solo album and for me this is one of his best releases if very different from his earlier material.
The whole production is superb with no filler material.
If you have any interest in complex, intelligent progressive rock music this guy is the pinnacle, never been bettered.
Simply Stunning this is an essential five star purchase, but please also check out his other three solo albums and ten Porcupine Tree records as well.