Thursday, 9 September 2010

Steven Wilson
Kscope Records
Out Now
Rating: 4.5/5

Now, I wouldn't say that Porcupine Tree's most recent offering, the 55-minute Incident, was a disaster, but it was no Deadwing either. Its central conceit was that the album contained only one fifty-five minute cut; however, those of us excitedly waiting to see what this would entail found that it was actually subdivided into about 13-or-so (off the top of my head) passages. I have a name for passages of music that feature as part of a larger body of work- songs. Indeed, whilst at times tracks did flawlessly flow into one another, and there was an effort to riff on concepts or motifs to link the disparate passages, it simply was not a one hour song as we were promised.

Anyway, enough bitching, for Mr. Wilson has made good with this, his solo effort. Once again, he reminds the listener why he's such an ever-present and prolific force within modern progressive rock; when he's on form he is the best in the world at what he does.

The album kicks off with the soaring early- PT monster 'Harmony Korine' before moving into Bass Communion territory with 'Abandoner'. There follow a number of atmospherics-led post-rock numbers, sparsely constructed of distant piano lines, guitar slides and washes of his inimitable vocal harmonies before 'No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun' shudders into view. It's essentially a melange of dissonant noodling over virtuosic drums that shift through patterns while the guitar tangles itself up, chases its own tail, and finally crashes and burns into a chorus so brilliant that it remains the best break on the record.

Closely followed by 'Significant Other', marked by transcendant operatic guest vocals from Clodagh Simonds, the album peaks before a mood change back to more drone-based space rock on 'Only Child', 'Get All You Deserve' and the title track.

The key to this record is that while Steve is clearly free to experiment as he sees fit, he's always drawn back in to occasional sharp focus by the supporting musicians (the regular cast of Porcupine Tree, as well as Theo Travis, amongst others), making this album as eclectic and exciting as any Porcupine Tree release; indeed, it's probably more experimental and fresh than anything his main project has done in a decade.

In fact, it's scarcely not a PT record (looking at the musicians' credits in the sleevenotes). By the side project moniker Wilson simply bought himself the ability to forego using his bandmates, even if he didn't in practice. With this, he was able to end up with 'Harmony Korine' next to 'Abandoner', and a fantastic LP into the bargain.

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