Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning (2011) (3 cd book)

Well this is one hell of a record. Three cds of music as well as a photo album to go along with it. Is it worth the price? Yes, it is. The mere fact I don’t remember the price is evidence. Apart from that, the music is still recognizable as Steven Wilson’s. But …. he definitely succeeded in finding a new sound distinct from Porcupine Tree and his earlier solo work. His past solo and Porcupine tree work was good and solid, but not really progressing to new levels. This album however is. The sound is less thick with guitars and has more acoustics to it, mix-wise as well as instrumentation-wise. A perfect example is the opening title track even with a piano – not an instrument you hear often in his music (if I recall correctly). Although the roch genre is still dominant, jazz influences can be heard as well. For instance, on Sectarian there is a jazzy subsection with a Fender Rhodes backed by a Mellotron-like string section. The contrast section works very good, although a bit reminiscent of King Crimson. Which is (a) not a nad thing and (b) can be explained by his work on remastering KC’s albums.

The glockenspeil intro of No Part of Me reminds me of Drumming by Steve Reich. It is clear Steven Wilson is eclectic in getting his inspiration. As long as it works he should continue to  do so.

The second disc has some more introvert (Belle de Jour; Just Like I have ….) and extravert tracks (Index, Radier II).  Belle de Jour is very open and acoustic, whereas Index is more analog synth oriented. Radier II is schizophrenic due to the heavy rock and the Crimson-like flute solo’s. It blends very well.

The third disc with demo’s is good. Fluid Tap could have been a Porcupine Tree track. The Map has some synthetic persussion tracks which are quite nice. Although I like Bass Communion a lot (waiting for  Cenotaph to arrive in the mail), Black Dog Throwbacks is not that special.

All-in-all a refreshing Steven Wilson album

Steven Wilson – Insurgentes DVD (2010)

This week I bought Steven Wilson’s Insurgentes, a documentary on him as a person as well as his music. It also has a bonus DVD which contains a long excerpt of a Bass Communion concert and some unreleased Insurgentes songs and some songs with different mixes and edits.

The documentary is interesting to watch. It’s not a straightforward documentary but has some artistically and abstract footage of landscapes, airports and cities. It’s a nice piece of work detailing his opinions about music, destroying Ipods because of their lack of sound quality and the convenience of acquiring music. He revisits his school and school-days, although he’s still a bit young to do so in my opinion.

The added songs on the second disc are very nice. I especially like A Western Home, according to Wilson an orphan song because it didn’t fit other albums. Maybe that’s why I like it. And the drums are beautifully recorded.

Interestingly, he mentions Frank Zappa twice, once as a genius. I don’t think Steven Wilson is a genius. But I do like his work ethics, releasing a lot of music, mostly of high quality and very diverse. However, most of the times his influence on various can be heard clearly.

From all his projects in which he is involved I think No-Man is the one I’d take to the proverbial deserted island.

Steven Wilson – Insurgentes (2009)

A solo project by Steven Wilson. Interesting, but will it be different from all the other projects he undertakes? Well yes and no: it depends with which ones it’s being compared. In short, it mostly sounds like Porcupine Tree, with some Bass Communion and No-Man influences. The general mix is somewhat more spacy or roomy. Maybe Insurgentes is even revisiting the sound and songs of the early Porcupine Tree. I think it’s in general more melodic and laid back than the last Porcupine Tree albums, which were more going to the heavier side of rock music. As such I think it is a welcome additional to the already large catalog produced by Steven Wilson.

Still I wonder when he’d play with equally avant garde musicians outside his own circle. I bet he can be more adventurous than he is on this record.

What I like is the attention to detail to the release in a large book with two cds and a dvd. amd many pictures. It’s not cheap, but worthwhile. And it is the means to battle downloading illegal copies. That is, the real fans and those that can pay it will buy it will not upload it to torrent sites. And if you do, Steven Wilson assures us he will track you down.