on 4 October 2011
Steven Wilson never does things by halves. And Grace For Drowning is no exception. With this being one of my most anticipated releases this year (along with Opeth's Heritage) I was hoping that it wouldn't disappoint, and I can happily say that it doesn't.
Broken up into two discrete albums, Grace for Drowning starts with the beautifully mellow title track which leads into the thumping instrumental Sectarian. It's a driving, energetic piece which shows it's roots in seventies Prog and also alludes to the more jazzier sections which will appear on the album later on. Sectarians leads into the 'title track' of the first album, which is Deform to Form a Star. Now this to me embodies everything that Steven Wilson is all about. A beautiful ballad, incredibly well constructed and performed. Lush harmonies make up the sublime chorus, and to me, one of the best songs on the entire record (sorry, showing my age there). No Part of Me is up next, and this feels a lot more laid back - a light and airy track laid on a bed of soft electronica which leads into a heavier closing section. If anything, this track highlights the level of diversity which appears on the album as a whole - it would be impossible to label this album, or to pigeon-hole it into any one category, as there are bits of everything in here - and that is a good thing believe me. As the glitchy electronica fades, the soft piano of Postcard kicks in - and again, another one of Wilson's masterstrokes. An impossibly sad song, which climaxes in strings and choirs - magical stuff. Raider Prelude is exactly what it says, a short instrumental piece which prepares the listener for the second album's centrepiece. A short number, but it doesn't need to much more than it is. The final track on "Deform" is Remainder the Black Dog - an unusually titled piece which drifts from Jazz to Rock and back again. This track feels darker than the rest and is a good closer, as it paves the way for disc two.
Like Dust I have Cleared from my Eye is the second disc of the album and opens with Belle De Jour, a pretty little instrumental which lightens the mood a little after the closing strains of Remainder, but the mood isn't lightened for long, as the listener is then taken into the dark side of Wilson's imagination with Index - a dark and brooding piece where Fender Rhodes and electronic beats are the foundation for some of Wilson's darkest words - this track swings from minimalistic to frenetic and the ending could be described as epic as it builds into a crescendo of strings and electronica. Immediately crashing down from Index, the listener is taken into the quiet Track One, which has a few twists and turns of it's own to offer. The opening notes of Raider II really set the scene - this is the centrepiece of the entire record, clocking in at over 23 minutes. This track has everything - dark and mysterious, wild, rocky, jazzy, slow, epic, electronic - all under one roof - it really is a special piece of music. If there was one track to showcase the wonderful musicianship which went into making this album, this would be it. Absolutely wonderful. The second disc closes with it's title track which is a melancholy ballad set over electric guitar, and fades out to the tones of a hammond organ.
This is wonderful listening experience. The whole offering takes the listener on a wild ride of ups and downs, and is everything that you would expect, and probably lots that you wouldn't expect from a Steven Wilson project. This is not Porcupine Tree, it's not Blackfield or No-Man - but you can hear their influences - this is Steven Wilson doing exactly what he wants without the constraints of anyone else, and the result is incredible. Buy it now, you won't be disappointed.
on 28 September 2011
I am well impressed with this album. Steven has made remarkable things in the past but never as eclectic in style. If you like long musical passages with layers of sound, composed and produced with a great attention to detail, you will find it all here. I believe this album will appeal to a wide spectrum of fans, including those yet not familiar with Steven's great talent. There is something for rock, jazz and even classical music fans. I find the album more mature and in many ways better than his debut. It is hard to say if any of the songs can become potential classics, perhaps there are no hit songs, but the album seems to have good odds to become a classic as a whole. I rarely hear albums so elaborated, still interesting and enjoyable after a few careful listens. If you already are a Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson's fan this album is simply a must. I could as easily recommend it to anyone with a taste for a high quality progressive rock, certainly too demanding to reach the so called mass audience. Thanks to Amazon for a quick download.
on 4 October 2011
I have been listening to progressive rock music for over 30 years and until a few years ago, I was convinced that the progression had stopped. My favourite band through the seventies and right up to today were/are King Crimson. It was when I first heard PT, that I found another band of the same high standard... and now they are both closely linked. Steven Wilson, whether solo, in PT,Blackfield, No-Man, or any of his other guises has shown that talent still exists and he must rank very highly as one of the finest composer/players around today. He also manages to find the best musicians to accompany him.
His latest release is a wonderful mix of different styles, tempos and emotions, yet still retains his own unique imprint.
Like the best albums, you won't fully appreciate it until you've given it several listens. Then, it will stay with you and never sound dated.
Steven has taken his influences and what he's learned from his recent collaborations and put together a stunning selection of music, which will one moment, wash over you, then blow your brains out, without any warning.
Some of the influence is obvious. Steve Hackett appears on the album and Steven appears to have "borrowed" from A Tower struck down, but with his own subtle twists. The highlight for me is Remainder the black dog. Every musical style in one song, starting with a piano riff that Eric Satie would be proud of.
All I can say is, buy it. You will be repaid a thousand fold.
on 28 September 2011
This album is long at about 80 minutes and has a wide range of musical styles on show from Jazzy to pop to Ambient and the very occasional jump into heavy. It is let me say not an easy listen but it is well worth the effort. SW always produces records that make you work but at the same time are in the mainstream is some ways. That is a feat that is hard to do. So did he do it here?
Well overall yes he has. The album is a change in direction without losing what makes his music so distinctive. This is not for the X Factor generation and will probably sell well to the Porcupine Tree fans but not hit the heights of the charts. That's a real shame because he has crafted a fine album.
There are shades of King Crimson (apparently he has been remixing some of their albums), and lots of jazz influences but the core of the album is fine song writing.
There lies the most important thing. The songs are good and the playing of them spectacular.
If you like a challenge and want to hear a great album then buy this. You won't regret it.
on 19 October 2011
Having owned a copy of Stevens last album since the limited edition was released, I always thought that whilst it was good, it smacked a bit of a Porcupine Tree album, just not played by the other PT members. Grace for Drowning however, whilst on occasion tipping its hat to Stevens main group, very much establishes an identity all of its own.
And how. For those blessed with a BluRay and a 5.1 surround sound system, be prepared. This is a lesson in how to create a surround sound mix that tolerates continued listens, with each listen offering something new. I love this version.
That said, the 2-channel version is pretty darned good. From searing guitar work we would associate with Steven, we have rich multi layered vocals, choir and orchestral accompaniments. It is a treat.
Current favourites are 'Deform to Form a Star' from the first album, and the sinister 'Index' from the second album.
on 20 October 2011
It's very rare to find an album, let alone musician whose music is a timeless piece of art and creativity. With the second solo release from Steven Wilson, I am nothing less than impressed with his ability to create and layer sounds that I would never expect, or have ever heard before on an album. He has a unique skill to be able to put emotions in to each chord, and each note that comprises a song and album as a whole. This album can be listened to countless times over and what makes it most special and separates it from most music today is that it can be listened to as a whole without having to skip a song, or just play your favorites. Greatness does not even begin to describe how well put together and what pure genius this album is. Buy it. Enjoy it. Share it with everyone you know!!!
on 23 September 2011
On the surface, it's business as usual for Steven Wilson on his second 'solo' album. Of course that could mean ANYTHING! As one of the UK's most prolific artists, his musical style is instantly recognizable on the majority of projects he lends his name to. Like every previous SW related release, this album is a mixture of everything that has gone before with a twist of something unusual or different... There are echoes of Porcupine Tree of course, along with No-Man, Blackfield and the occasional dab of IEM for good measure. There are also nods towards 70's Prog Rock as well as hints of Talk Talk and for one fleeting moment, Level 42! It is also a very Jazz influenced album and is all the better for it! Wilson's vocal style has changed somewhat on these tracks, maybe not obviously so, but there seems to be a more direct delivery to his words which also appear to blend in with the instrumentation from time to time. For such a long album, there aren't a great many passages with vocals, so you will have several minutes pass without them (other than harmonies and choirs). As a PT fan I am used to this, but it seems a lot more noticable on 'Grace' and that is where my first, and only major problem lies within these 12 pieces. Every song is it's own musical style and vary in length from 2 and a half to over 23 minutes. In context, listening to each piece gives you a great deal to listen out for, musically and sonically. Is just, as a collection it is very disjointed. Of course, his solo work is more experimental than his 'day job' exploits with PT, as witnessed on 'Insurgentes' and there are boundaries crossed here that will probably take PT to the next level. I would say that of all his releases, this is the best 'produced'. Many of the new ideas are sonic rather than performance or lyric based, but his attention to detail on everything he does means that every moment is honed to perfection, be it the full blown blasts of heaviness, of which this record (in my opinion) is severely lacking in, or the soft, barely audible whispers that occur now and then. This is gonna kick some butt in 5.1!
All in all, it is what you may come to expect from SW but at the same time it DOES do something new. 4 stars is maybe a little too generous but 3 would be an insult to the genius behind it. If I could give it 3.8 then I'd say that would be spot on.
on 24 March 2016
I must admit I find a lot of the prog rock that I used to listen to as a teenager pretty unlistenable now. It just comes across as being too smug and knowing- too clever for the sake of being clever. Yes, they can play in some weird time signature or with really complicated harmonies, but does it sound good, does it move me? Often it doesn't. Many of the new prog rock acts I hear are either following that same path, or it's just bland stuff I've heard many times before. However, none of this applies to this album or to Steven Wilson as an artist and I think it actually does him a disservice to label his work as 'prog rock'. In fact the styles he works in are so wide, it does him a disservice to use ANY label. Sure, there are prog rock influences and it's fun to try and pick them out, but on this album there's also 80s electronic music, metal, jazz, film music, choral and classical styles. Now, that probably sounds like an awful mess-how can that go together? For me, this is one of Stephen Wilson's real talents: the ability not only to write in different styles but to mix them together within a track or consecutive tracks in a way that works. I'm not going to give you a blow by blow account of each section of each track, it'll be like someone down the pub telling you a Monty Python sketch-you need to listen to it yourself, BUT if you have a wide taste in music and you're drawn towards stuff that is intelligent and sometimes complex and challenging, then I urge you to listen to this guy. Savage, delicate, powerful, beautiful, wonderful. This particular album is probably a little less accessible than others, but is one of my favourites.
on 6 October 2011
I've bought everything Mr Wilson has released and have been astounded by his consistency- until this year. The Blackfield album was easily the weakest of their 3 albums, and I'm afraid that I am finding this album difficult to love also. It's ambitious, dark, challenging, and musically excellent- but does that alone make it a good album? I think Steven Wilson also happens to be a killer songwriter but I find this album lacking in good songs. Sure, there are wonderful soundscapes and fantastic production- but I keep finding myself a little let down by the songs. Raider II in particular I found to be complete disappointment. Don't get me wrong- the album is far from bad, but I'm afraid I don't find it as rewarding as much of SW's other recorded work.
on 6 October 2011
With Grace For Drowning, Steven Wilson achieves musical apex.
Grace For Drowning seems a long time coming for Mr. Wilson. The range of influences in this album are incredible, and manage to create an amazing listening experience. Dark, experimental, jazzy, lonely, and erratic are some ways to describe Grace For Drowning... but the only way to really "describe" the album has to be done through careful listening. GFD gets only better and better with each listen. The production value, as always, is extremely good. Steven's main collaborator on this record is obviously Swede Lasse Hoile, and his artwork is a great companion to the music.
Without a doubt certainly one of Steven Wilson's greatest works. If you're a fan of experimental, dark, or jazz music, please do yourself a favor and purchase this LP. You will not regret it. Bravo, Mr. Wilson, you have once again surpassed all expectations!