Tag Archive: Steven Wilson


2011 – Music Year in Review


Well, what a bloody good year for music, if I do say so myself. Yes it’s that time of year to look back over the last 12 months and reflect on how all those sound waves reverberating off of my eardrums have done!

We’ll do the awards in reverse order starting with the ever so predictable individual awards before looking at the runners up and then the big top 5!

I will also post links to my recommended song on each album, so with one swift click you can check some of these babies out, sound good?!

So here we go then…

Most Disappointing Release

Opeth – Heritage

I’ve tried so much to get into this album, I love Opeth. Now when I say it’s a bit of a disappointment I’m by no means implying it’s rubbish. There’s a lot to like here, heavily inspired by 70s progressive music, it’s jazzy in places and technically fantastic. However if I wanted to listen to King Crimson, I’d go and listen to an album like ‘Red’. Therein lies the problem, it sounds like Opeth trying to not sound like themselves (they still do, but it sounds forced).  Surprisingly for me it is the lack of death growls and heavy guitar passages that let this album down, and I’m not usually a fan of heavy for heavy sake.  I will admit having a soft spot for the track ‘Folklore’ though!

Check out: Folklore

Best Album of 2011, not from 2011

The Cooper Temple Clause  – Kick up the Fire and let the Flames Break Loose

Indeed. This album was released in 2003 and the band have subsequently split up, so what relevance does it have on this list? It is the album that I’ve been listening to for the past couple of weeks that’s practically become the background music to my life as we close off the year. Not a bad song on the album, and I find myself relating to every single tune on the album, it’s spooky!  The first time I heard the melancholic opener ‘The Same Mistakes’ and the electro driven ‘New Toys’, I knew this album would quickly become an instant classic for me.  I will certainly be checking out their other two albums.

Check Out: New Toys

Best EP

Amplifier – Fractal

4 tracks of pure instrumental Amplifier genius, probably the only chance to catch them improvising extremely tight prog-goodness. The excitement a song like ‘The Chase’ creates is in complete contrast to the EP closer ‘Solaris’ which is more like music akin to listening to whilst sunbathing on the Moon.

Check Out:  Executive

Band we didn’t want to see spilt up

Sad times. Well it is if two of your favourite bands decide to call it quits:

Oceansize called it quits in February (very quietly) not citing a reason for the split, entirely bizzare set of events considering their 4th album ‘Self Preserved Whilst the Bodies Float Up’ was a masterpiece of melody, texture and emotion.  To speculate; I’m convinced that it may have been down to them not getting as much media exposure or popularity as they deserved. I’m of the opinion they are the best band to come out of Manchester (Oasis? Who are they?) it would seem they were just very unlucky with timing. I will lament their passing but I can always listen to their 4 albums and 2 EPs knowing they were one of Britain’s best kept secrets. Oh and Steve Durose has gone onto join Amplifier so not all is lost.

Check Out: Oscar Acceptance Speech

 

Pure Reason Revolution in the other hand announced a very amicable split citing it was just time to move onto other projects. Fair Enough. They did a farewell tour around the UK which I attended which was fantastic. I will miss not hearing how their sound would have probably continued evolving especially as they had started to incorporate more electronic elements. Still I can always go back and listen to a track like ‘Deus Ex Machina’  and smile lots!

Check Out: Last Man, Last Round

Runners up

The following 5 albums came very close to entering my top 5, therefore they are all subsequently tied in 6th place you could say. These are the albums I’ve enjoyed thoroughly this year, but faced very stiff competition. I recommend them all HIGHLY.

Blackfield –Welcome to My DNA

There’s a lot to like about Blackfields 3rd attempt, whether it be the Arabian metal tinged vibes of ‘Blood’, the orchestral drenched ‘Dissolving with the Night’or the energetic acoustic arrangements in ‘Waving’.  Not as strong as the first 2 albums though as explained in my full review here.

Check out: Blood

M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

Multi-layered, beautifully composed soundscapes with chilled vocals, I fell in love with ‘Midnight City’ the first time I heard it, the electro beats and childlike humour of ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ are awe inspiring and the album finisher  ‘Outro’ is perhaps one of the soothing ends to an album I’ve heard.

Check out: Midnight City (Official Video)

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Delightful, delightful, oh delightful Mogwai, they deliver something different on every album, and this one is no exception. Listen to a song like ‘White Noise’ and it’s hard not to fall in love with the ethereal vibes. Having a song like ‘Rano Pano’ on the same album certainly helps gear things up a notch, and the video (see below) is pure genious!

Check out: Rano Pano (Official Video)

Anathema – Falling Deeper

Running this risk of sounding like a complete girl, I listened to this album once on the way to work and by the time I arrived I wanted to quite literately weep.  By taking old classics from the early albums and reaaranging them with such deep emotional changes (the addition of an orchestra  helps) it’s hard not to be moved by tracks  like ‘Sunset of Age’ and ‘Kingdom’.

Check out: Crestfallen

Lunatic Soul – Impressions

Mariusz Duda (The frontman and bassist from Riverside) certainly delivers with his 3rd solo album,  it’s dark in places, beautifully haunting yet carries a positive optimism about itself in tracks like ‘Impressions Part 4’ and ‘Impressions Part 8’.  Stick your headphones on and turn the lights off.

Check out: Impressions Part 4

HERE WE GO THEN – MY TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2011!

5. Mastodon – The Hunter

Perhaps the heaviest band on my list, I’ve always been aware that Mastodon are fairly prolific, but not a band I’d previously invested much time in. Let’s get one thing straight ‘The Hunter’ is a metal album, you’ll hear chugger-chugger riffs, metal screams and thundering flurrying drumming but it also has mellower moments. You’ll also hear some of the most refreshing progressive music of our generation, technically the band are on fine form here and also at their most experimental. Take a track like ‘Creature Lives’ for example that starts with the most crazy mindblowing bit of synth manipulation I’ve ever heard. ‘Blasteroid’ grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let up for 2 and a half minutes, ‘Stargasm’ is a personal highlight with contrasting heavy counter melodies dominating the track and then the relative gentleness of the album closer ‘The Sparrow’ proves that Mastodon are a band that think about the dynamic range of their sound.

Check out: The Sparrow

4.Thomas Dolby –  Map of the Floating City

Well it only took him 20 years to release a follow up to his last album ‘Astronauts & Heretics’, but the man best known for electro-pop new wave hits in the 80’s with ‘Hyperactive’ and ‘She Blinded me with Science’ has finally returned. The reason for his long hiatus probably stems from the fact he created a company back in the 90’s now known as Beatnik Inc, they were the ones who created the .RMF  (Rich Music Format) format for electronic music distribution, he’s largely responsible for creating the technology behind just about every ringtone in existence for mobile phones, a very profitable endeavour no doubt.  His new album is spilt into 3 sections each covering a different musical genre (electro-pop, bluegrass & ambient) with  songs like ‘Spice Train’ and ‘Evil Twin Brother’ certainly harking back to his glory days. Despite not being a massive fan of Bluegrass music, you can’t help but smile when you hear a song like ‘Toadlickers’. The albums most moving moment comes in the form of ‘Oceanea’ which is structured to a carefree perfection. The album also features guest appearances from many popular musicians such as Mark Knopfler, Regina Spektor & Imogen Heap.

Check out:  Oceanea

3.  Amplifier – The Octopus

The first of two double albums in this list, and bloody hell, what a double album! I’ve known Amplifier for a fair few years; I own their first two albums which aren’t half bad, just not masterpieces. ‘The Octopus’ most definitely is though and contains some of the best music I’ve heard all year. ‘Interglacial Spell’ contains magic by the tonnes, the title track ‘The Octopus’ is a pulsating odyssey with a killer bass line but the albums high point definitely reaches a climax with ‘Interstellar’; a song I guarantee would motivate the most lazy of individuals and get them air guitaring during the high peaks of musical pathway it soars. Sel Balamir and Co. really deliver on this release to say there’s only three of them, each one sounding brave and bold on their respective instruments. Atmospheric soundscapes, heavier bridge sections and lots of guitar effects make for quite a trip. Now that Oceansize have folded, Manchester’s best band? YOU BET.

Check out:  Interstellar

2.  Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning

You may be surprised to see Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) in 2nd place on my list, however that’s just the way it is, considering I think my number #1 album of the year is well deserved for the artist. It’s obvious though to anybody who knows me, that this album would make the list. Sounding completely different to his debut attempt (Insurgentes) for his double album Steve has embraced 70s progressive music and used influences learnt to create something rather refreshing in this decade. Full of jazz influences and free form movements thus witnessed in songs like ‘Sectarion’ and the epic ‘Raider II’, the album also contains more self contained pieces such as the deliously dark industrial sounding ‘Index’, the gentle to heavy ‘No Part of Me’ and the beautiful sadness of ‘Postcard’. As is typical of anything Steve releases, it is very well produced, it has a certain charm and warmth to it that endears me to the album everytime I play it. That and I got him to sign it when I met him earlier this year! It’s a great sophomore effort, and his best solo work to date. Can we have some new Porcupine Tree next year please Steve?!

Check out: No Part of Me

…and the winner is:

1.Tides from Nebula – Earthshine

This album IS 2011 for me, might come as a surprise, I wouldn’t imagine many post-rock albums by relatively unknown Polish bands would make the top of any Englishman’s list, but it’s in at number #1 on mine. Music for me is very much about how it makes you feel, and music to party to aside (for that has its place also) can also be an extremely private and personal experience. Everytime I listen to this album, nothing else matters, it’s like I’m floating in a tranquil sea, completely at peace. This is powerful music, entirely instrumental yet in this case the absence of lyrics enhances the experience for the music can be interpreted in so many different ways each time around.  A Track  like ‘Caravans’ was written to be listened to in the dark on your headphones as you float away laid on your bed. The guitars here are often used dynamically to build up layers and to set the scene, yet moments of ethereal heaviness come and blow all this away in moments of breathtaking clarity. This is not the most immediately accessible music, yet upon repeat listenings the most rewarding album of 2011. ’Siberia’ really does conjure up desolate arctic settings and ‘The Fall of Leviathan’ sounds like a battle of hearts and minds forever fighting and winding down. I actually reviewed this album in full  here. I highly recommend investing in 60 minutes of your time, to get relaxed, turn off the lights and LISTEN – pure bliss.

Check out: Caravans

…and there we go folks, I hope you enjoyed seeing the musical word of 2011 through my eyes for a little while, certainly a year to remember for me. Lot’s more to discover next year no doubt, and I look forward to all the upcoming new releases with my usual excitment!

D.P

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Genre:  Art Rock

Year of Release: 2011

Record Label: Snapper

Recommended for fans of: Steven Wilson, Aviv Geffin, Porcupine Tree

Track Listing:

1. Glass House
2. Go To Hell
3. Rising of the Tide
4 . Waving
5 . Far Away
6 . Dissolving With the Night
7 . Blood
8 . On the Plane
9 . Oxygen
10. Zigota
11. DNA           

Review:

NB: This review contains swearing…

I felt compelled to write this review due to unfortunate passing away of Steven Wilson’s father whilst the band were touring North America. Indeed testament to Steve as he performed the show in Toronto knowing this fact and many fans (who were unaware of the events at the time) have commented saying that he and the rest of the band put on a fantastic show.

The rest of the North American tour has been postponed whilst Steve flies back to the UK for more than obvious reasons, so my maximum condolences go to Steve and his family at this time and I write this review in honour of Steve’s father.

This album marks the first time where Aviv has been responsible for most of the songwriting, in fact Aviv wrote all but one of the songs. The reason for this seems to be that Steve has been very busy working on his 2nd solo album. I’d say that the album sounds quite different to the first two entirely for this reason.

The album opener ‘Glass House’ lacks the punch that ‘Once’ did on the Blackfield II, and for this reason it’s one of my least favourite songs on the album, I always tend to skip it. It’s a rather slow and laborious affair that builds up but never seems to reach the grand heights it perhaps could of. It does feature some rather splendid strings though, what seems to becoming fast a Blackfield staple.

‘Go to Hell’ is next, and in complete contrast to the first song we have something far more edgy. Musically this song is fantastic, I have no complaints, the guitars sound fantastic and the build-up pays off; it’s the lyrics that bug me on this one.

I’m not totally against profanity in songs, the rare use of a swear word can be very effective in conveying the songs message, for example how Roger Waters from Pink Floyd might throw in the occasional ‘Fuck’ to make a point particularly poignant, it works. What I’m not a big fan of is when it’s everywhere. (See generic RnB/Hip-Hop/Rap for prime examples of how to sound like a moron)

The lyrics in ‘Go to Hell’ consist entirely of one line repeated over and over:

‘Fuck you all, fuck you, I don’t care, anymore, go to hell, go to hell’

Well, seeing as I’ve already thrown the word around as above, can I just say ‘What the Fuck?’

Was there any need to have the lyrics like this?

 The problem is that Blackfield aren’t a teenage angst emo band, so when they write lyrics like this, it sounds unnatural and forced. I think we’ll chalk this up to some experimentation, and like I say I love the music on this one, just a shame the lyrics ruin it for me everytime!

Steven Wilson putting foul language to a better use then in 'Go to Hell'!

‘Rising of the Tide’ is classic Blackfield that showcases a nice Wilson guitar solo near the end, and the vocalisations are decent especially when Steve and Aviv harmonise with each other, they really are getting good at doing this.

‘Waving’ is the only song on the album that Steve wrote, and (probably as a result) is my favourite on the album.  A gorgeous acoustic guitar leads the piece accompanying Steve’s vocals, the chorus is sublime and electric guitars enter the fray midway into the song helping to pick up the piece. Love the outro, sounds like something Kula Shaker might have written!

‘Far Away’ is a quiet melancholic number that’s obviously about loneliness, features one of my favourite bit of lyrics on the album, love this:

‘Maybe I’m free, but freedom just means that I’m lost, it feels like I’m driving, without ever arriving, I really don’t know what it means to put my smile on…’

‘Dissolving Away with the Night’ is another highlight. Aviv starts off singing over some sparse sounding piano as the song builds up into what could be described an orchestral climax blitz; you need to hear it really, but conjures up the orchestral pieces from the James Bond films believe it or not!

‘Blood’ is very middle-eastern sounding, punctured with distorted guitar chords, this is the most metal sounding song that Backfield have written and I like it a lot, has a real energy to it, the band have been opening their sets with it at the moment and makes perfect sense why. Has some excellent drumming and riffage!

‘On a Plane’ is more classic Blackfield, not quite sure what the lyrics are about ‘Daddy’s on the Plane?’ but nevertheless the guitar solo is pretty chilled and overall the song keeps the flow of the album going.

Up next is ‘Oxygen’ which is screaming out for a single release, this should be on mainstream radio. It’s a great pop song that was actually produced by Trevor Horn. It’s slightly dreamy and distant sounding.

‘Zigota’ starts off sounding like a No-Man reject but soon turns into something so much more satisfying with some great sections intertwining each other, and features the best outro of any Blackfield song to date. The main problem being is that I think it closes the album perfectly, or at least what I’m trying to say is that ‘Zigota’ should have been the last track on the album.

As it turns out ‘DNA’ is the last track, and I would have switched the running order around because whilst DNA is a good song it doesn’t have that closing track feel to it, it’s a very mellow quiet affair and then the album just finishes…

When I reviewed Blackfield II a few years ago, in my closing remarks I mentioned that I thought the 3rd release would be the one to get them the recognition they deserve, do I still think this?

Well the answer would be Yes, I do think their fan base will increase based on the success of this album, however I don’t think it’s their strongest album to date. I think that this is largely due to the fact that the song writing duties have been weighted heavily towards Aviv on this one. He’s a good songwriter, but the beauty behind Blackfield is when Steve and Aviv write material together and I think the 4th release will need to go back to this format to hold my attention.

Good album, but weakest one yet to summarise my thoughts on this one.

3.0/5.0  

 Lineup:

  • Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Aviv Geffen – vocals, guitars, keyboards
  • Eran Mitelman – piano, keyboards
  • Seffy Efrat – bass
  • Tomer Z – drums

D.P

September Update #1


Hi all!

Should have the third Rush album ‘Caress of Steel’  review up later today, my intention is to get all their studio albums reviewed before the release of their new album ‘Clockwork Angels’ in 2011. So only 15 more to do! I’ll try and get a review of album #4 up later this week, seeing as its one of their best albums, should be a pleasure to review, so expect ‘2112’ sometime soonish!

Also, I’ve been listening to the new Oceansize album ‘Self Preserved Whilst the Bodies Float Up’ and its rather good, review coming in next 2 weeks!

In other news, Pure Reason Revolution have a new album out in October entitled ‘Anvil & Hammer’ and Steven Wilson is hard at work on the 3rd Blackfield Album, his 2nd solo album and an exciting collaboration between himself and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth.

Lots to be excited about!

D.P


 

 Genre: Rock\Metal

Year of Release: 2009

Record Label: Roadrunner

Recommended for fans of: Tool, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.

Track Listing:

DISC 1:

  1. The Incident                                      55:15                                        
  • I. “Occam’s Razor”
  • II. “The Blind House”
  • III. “Great Expectations”
  • IV. “Kneel and Disconnect”
  • V. “Drawing the Line”
  • VI. “The Incident”
  • VII. “Your Unpleasant Family”
  • VIII. “The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train”
  • IX. “Time Flies”
  • X. “Degree Zero of Liberty”
  • XI. “Octane Twisted”
  • XII. “The Séance”
  • XIII. “Circle of Manias”
  • XIV. “I Drive the Hearse”  

DISC 2:

  1. Flicker                                                     
  2. Bonnie The Cat                                    
  3. Black Delilah                                         
  4. Remember Me Lover                        

Review

Well, well, well!

I remember when I originally reviewed ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ 2 years ago thinking that whilst the album was pretty amazing, we only got 6 tracks of ‘pretty amazing’, admittedly one of those tracks was 17 Minutes long; being the epic ‘Anesthetize’.

So what does the band go and do for their follow up release?

They release a double album with the first side comprising of 1 track that is 55 minutes long! Awesome! Sweet! Amazing! You know what’s refreshing about this? If you read on I’ll tell you.

As history as shown since the late 1970’s the album as an art form has declined from the mainstream quite severely, entering the digital age has been both a blessing and a curse. Never before has music been so readily available for the consumer, however I would argue that the download single culture has been to music what McDonalds is to the meal: FASTFOOD!

What Steven Wilson and Co have done here is very brave, and indeed has been praised by the post/progressive/alt rock communities! A massive finger up to the mainstream norm, we don’t want your repetitive churned out nonsense anymore!

Now I don’t expect critics of the album as an art form to be reading my reviews, however I will admit that whilst The Incident is 55 minutes long, and is regarded as a single track, it has been split down into 14 interconnecting suites, all very varied.

The idea for ‘The Incident’ came along when Steven Wilson was driving along the motorway and came across a crash on the way, this got him thinking about how the various incidents happen in people’s lives and that we can feel quite disconnected from certain events if they are not affecting us directly, but nevertheless will be affecting someone else. So there you go, that’s the concept. I don’t want to examine this in any more detail, as I’m a big believer in interpreting music by what it means to you individually.

The Incident opens with the dissident metal thrashes of ‘Occams Razor’ that completely catch your attention, indeed this intro riff is one of the only musical themes revisited later on in the album, a rarity for many concept albums. Any Richard Barbieri fans amongst you are in for a treat as he really shines on this album; listen to the evil ambient synths on the opening track! So if ‘Occams Razor’ sets the scene, ‘The Blind House’ leaves no doubt about the presence of metal influences that PT have started to incorporate more into their music over the last 10 years.

‘Great Expectations’ is a wonderful acoustic led segue into ‘Kneel and Disconnect’ a keyboard led downbeat affair which closes this little trilogy of songs with ‘Drawing the Line’. I must admit that the latter is a song that I didn’t particularly like for a long time; the chorus is quite frankly too poppy sounding for PT! However one day it just clicked, and as part of the suite, ‘Drawing the Line’ is one of the stronger songs on the album.

The album gets a title track next in ‘The Incident’ and oh my gosh, has Steven Wilson been hanging out with Trent Reznor?  This track screams epic Nine Inch Nails style electronic merged with PT style songwriting. This atmospheric track is definitely one of the highlights of the album.

‘Your Unpleasant Family’ wins us round next with a tongue in cheek approach to that of nightmare neighbours, a special mention must be made about the sublime slide driven guitar solo on this track, one of Wilsons best solos!

Prior to the epic centrepiece of the album ‘The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train’ showcases Richard Barbieri going all Brian Eno on us, admittedly doing a better job as well! A gorgeous little ambient interlude which leads straight into…

‘Time Flies’, well PT you’ve done it again, written another long belter of a track, whereas ‘Anesthetize’ was a rollercoaster ride through the genres of modern rock, ‘Time Flies’ is a nostalgia inducing mellow-fest! That’s not to say it’s not beasty loud, it has some nice loud guitars in it, but the overall feel is one of bittersweet contemplation. Comparisons have been made to Pink Floyd time and time again with this track, and Steven Wilson has said it is a bit of a PF tribute, and it does contain some nice nods towards PF, certainly tracks on the album Animals in particular.

The song is reflective, time flies so make the most of it, the beautiful middle section is the highlight of this track which is positively screaming in raw ambient emotion – you can feel the time slipping away from your grasp and can do nothing about it! Sheer genius! Extra kudos to Colin Edwin on this track for some well played resonating bass guitar!

‘Degree Zero of Liberty’ is a connecting track that conjures up the raw chords of ‘Occams Razor’ indicating we’ve moved onto the penultimate part of the album. ‘Octane Twisted’ takes things back to basics with some almost classically played guitar and lovely multi-layered singing from SW.  Not too much quietness though as Gavin Harrisons drumming enters the fray and the raw guitars are back for the 2nd half of the song, pure electric excitement!

‘The Séance’ is another nice connecting piece, play special attention to the cleverly played acoustic guitar at the end of that segues into ‘Circle of Manias’ which is without a doubt one of the most brutal songs PT have ever composed. Not brutal as in Opeth style death metal, but hard rocking nevertheless. The definite ‘loud’ highlight of the album for me.

The album closes with the curiously titled ‘I Drive The Hearse’, whereas ‘Sleep Together’ on ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ was a delicious dark electro-rock closer, this time the Lads have decided to close the album with a far more downbeat number. The song fits into the suite perfectly and builds up pace before coming to a classic PT finish.

‘The Incident’ is by no means a perfect album, in complete honesty I actually prefer ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ as I found it a darker more satisfying experience. However ‘The Incident’ is a 55 minute road trip that you won’t be forgetting about anytime soon, the production is what we’ve come to expect from the London lads and the musicianship is once again 2nd to none.

I was actually lucky enough to see the album performed live in its entirety, an experience I am going to get again later this year in October when they play the Royal Albert Hall for a special gig, and the album works fantastic in a live environment!

CD 2

I’m conscious this is already an epic length review, so I will be brief in my discussion about the 2nd side of the album. These 4 songs are unrelated to The Incident in theme but were written at the same time. ‘Flicker’ is a wonderfully textured experience with more of that excellent Barbieri ambience that showcased much of the first side. ‘Bonnie the Cat’ is pretty out there, Messuggah style riffage and crazy lyrics abound ‘the cells divide and grow inside you, I know what will be’.

 ‘Black Delilah’ is a slow spacey balled, my personal highlight of the 2nd disc, it really is quite breathtaking! The 2nd disc closes with the ‘Remember Me Lover’. Ahhh a good old PT love song to bring the double album to a close. Whereas ‘shesmovedon’ from ‘Lightbulb Sun’ was about lost love and ‘The Start of Something Beautiful’ from ‘Deadwing’ about unrequited love,  this little opus is about that bitter, pent up angry feeling we’ve all felt at sometime in our lives when things just didn’t work out, and it works quite well.

Porcupine Tree have proven that they can consistently deliver the goods time and time again, whilst this is their 10th album they show no sign of slowing down, in fact I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that just like Rush they will be around for a very long time to come, and I look forward to carry on taking their musical rides until the end!

Lineup:

Steven Wilson: Vocals, Guitar, Piano and Keyboards.
Richard Barbieri: Keyboards & Synthesizers
Colin Edwin: Bass & Double Bass
Gavin Harrison: Drums & Percussion

4/5

D.P


   

 

Genre: Rock\Metal

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Label: Transmission\WHD\Peaceville

Recommended for fans of: Tool, King Crimson, Anathema, Opeth, Robert Fripp and Nine Inch Nails.

 Track Listing:

  1. “Nil Recurring” – 6:08
  2. “Normal” – 7:09
  3. “Cheating the Polygraph” – 7:10
  4. “What Happens Now?” – 8:23

Review

This will be my last Porcupine Tree review for a while, with the addition of this one, I’ll have the last 4 releases done and dusted. The PT back catalogue can wait for a while whilst I concentrate on other bands and artists from my collection. I feel like a swan about to take up flight and spread his wings!

First off ‘Nil Recurring’ is not a full album, a brief look at the track listing above will tell you this! What ‘Nil Recurring’ is, is a mini-album containing 3 tracks that were written during the ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ sessions, and 1 track that was originally going to be on the album, but later dropped in favour of ‘Way Out Of Here’.

This is not a bad thing though, these tracks are not ‘rejects’ at all, its just they didn’t fit onto the 50-minute conceptual album that became ‘FOABP’. Instead of letting the tracks rot away in some dark corner of Hemel Hempstead, the band decided to show them off in this E.P release! Quite rightly so!

There is no messing around either, the title track ‘Nil Recurring’ which is entirely instrumental, starts off with some nice guitar-work. Robert Fripp, [who also guested on ‘FOABP’] plays the lead guitar in his instantly recognisable style, whilst the rest of the band plays around his licks. The metal riff sounds a whole lot of fun, and the layering of the instruments is very well done. The quieter middle section, which features Colin Edwin’s groovy bass playing, is almost a nod to the bands improvisational days last witnessed on ‘Metanoia’. The track ups its ante for the last 2 minutes and finishes on a high, one of the better instrumentals the band has produced!

The next track ‘Normal’ is almost like a companion track to ‘Sentimental’ from ‘FOABP’. In fact the chorus is almost identical, however I actually prefer this track to the effort on ‘FOABP’. It has lots of energy, a typical ‘lets catch the listener off guard’ section before some thrash metal is injected into the mix. The vocal harmonies in this song are almost as good as the ones in ‘Drown With Me’. The guitar playing is quite complex mostly because of the tempo, lets just say that Steven Wilson had a little trouble playing the part, so much so he rang Robert Fripp up for technique advice!

‘Cheating The Polygraph’ was originally debuted with the rest of the ‘FOABP’ material on the fall 2006 tour, yet wasn’t as well received by both the fans and the band. ‘Way Out Of Here’ ultimately replaced it on the final edit of the album, which was a good choice. Not that ‘Cheating The Polygraph’ is a bad song at all; it’s just its like biting into more chocolate cake, after you’ve already eaten too much. It’s terribly sweet on the old ears, the guitar solo whilst initially sounding awesome goes on for too long, and everything is just drawn out for too long. The main riff sounds like ‘Futile’, a PT song that I’m not exactly thrilled about. It all adds up…

However despite my criticism, ‘Cheating The Polygraph’ fits very nicely onto this E.P instead of being forced onto ‘FOABP’. A brilliant decision to include it really!

The E.P closes with ‘What Happens Now?’ that features a frequent collaborator of SW, in the form of the very talented Ben Coleman. Fans of this song might want to check ‘No-Man’ one of SW ‘other’ bands! Mr. Coleman features quite prominently on a lot of ‘No-Man’ material. Whilst this song has some lyrics in, its largely instrumental and it closes the E.P off quite nicely indeed. Richard Beriberi’s talents are used alongside Colin Edwin’s during a wonderful elevated middle section that almost seems to make you float along with it! Echoes of ‘Anesthetize’ appear soon after, which is a nice nod to the epic centrepiece of ‘FOABP’ before the song finishes with a rather crushing melody and disjointed sound effects. It would seem at the moment, gone are the days of ‘Stop Swimming’ and ‘Feel So Low’ type album closers, rather the band are finishing heavily and abruptly. Loving it!

Now, recent scouring round the old internet has shown me that ‘Nil Recurring’ has been getting very positive reviews everywhere; [for an E.P that’s tremendous] I don’t want to upset anyone with my score for this review, but it might be slightly lower then you expect it to be. This is because:

  1. I don’t want to get into the habit of giving every PT release top marks, just because they are my favourite band.
  2.  It’s an E.P not a full album so should get scored accordingly.

Ok, so that’s the disclaimer out of the way! ‘Nil Recurring’ is a worthwhile addition to your PT collection, and if you were going to pick up a copy of ‘FOABP’ I’d get ‘NR’ as well, because they complement each other very nicely. Very nicely indeed…

Lineup:  

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards
Richard Barbieri – keyboards and synthesizers

Colin Edwin – bass guitars

Gavin Harrison – drums, percussion, tapped guitar on “Nil Recurring”

 

Guests:

Robert Fripp – lead guitar on “Nil Recurring”
Ben Coleman – electric violin on “What Happens Now?”
 

Score: 3.5/5.0 

D.P


      

 

 

 

Genre: Rock\Metal

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Label: Roadrunner

Recommended for fans of: Tool, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.

 

Track Listing:

  1. “Fear of a Blank Planet” – 7:28
  2. “My Ashes”– 5:07
  3. “Anesthetize” – 17:42
  4. “Sentimental” – 5:26
  5. “Way Out of Here” – 7:37
  6. “Sleep Together” – 7:28

Review

 

This is possibly my most listened to album at the moment [as of early 2008] and I guess I’m going to give it a rest for a few months or so; therefore now is the best time to write the review, seeing as I’m retiring it for a while! Now the clever ones amongst you will notice that since it has been my most listened to album lately, then it must be a good one. It is, in fact its that good that it’s the first review I’m going to give full marks for on this site, and believe me when I say that I won’t be handing out full marks that often. 

Before ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ was released, it was probably the most eagerly anticipated Porcupine Tree album yet, the fact that the band were playing the album in its entirety live during autumn 2006 added to the excitement. I was present at one of these ‘preview’ gigs, when the set was divided into 2 parts, the first part was ‘FOABP’ albeit in a pre-studio form, and the 2ndset comprising of mostly stuff from the previous 2 albums [Deadwing and In Absentia] with some classics thrown in.  I have to say on hearing the material in its early form, I was both overwhelmed and delighted, the freshness and complete unfamiliarity with the material was fantastic, and fan reaction was very favourable. So after this batch of tour dates, PT went into the studio and recorded the penultimate versions that you hear on the final album, and what an album it is! 

Now, ‘FOABP’ is a concept album, I don’t want to go too in-depth about the concept, rather add little slithers here and there when I see fit. SW was heavily inspired by the novel ‘Lunar Park’ by Bret Easton Ellis. The novel is written from the perspective of a father, what SW has done is turned things on its head and made the story in ‘FOABP’ from the fathers sons point of view. That of a terminally bored kid with little to do other to sit in a darkened room playing playstation games, watching hardcore pornography whilst being addicted to prescription drugs. The album is very much ‘this’ kids view on his life as he see’s it.  If you need further clarification, all you have to do is read the lyrics. What is equally as important as the lyrics, is the music, this album is one of the best albums for production and musicianship I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to! 

So the album opens up with the title track ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’after what sounds like someone typing on a computer keyboard [the kid, possibly googling for pornography] a vibrant fast paced guitar enters which is soon joined by Gavin Harrison’s immense drumming. If you though GH sounded good on ‘Deadwing’ you’re in for a treat, his drumming on this album is fantastic. The song is joined with some great rhythmic singing from SW, which opens up the song and sets the scene for the next 7 minutes. The song features some nice playing by all the band members, and it’s a fantastic album opener which draws you in from the very start, the metal section mid-song is awesome, and the outro section bringing a change of pace for the next song. All the tracks on ‘FOABP’ merge into one another, SW has said that he wanted the album to be heard as one continuous piece of music, the transitions are wonderfully done.

So when ‘My Ashes’ appears next you are ready for it. This could be described as the ‘Lazarus’ of ‘FOABP’, with lush acoustic guitars and SW’s soothing voice leading the way. What I like about this song though is the soundscapes provided by Richard Barbieri, they really add a punch to the song in creating a delectable atmosphere. This song works really well in luring the listener into a false sense of security because the next track is possibly the best Porcupine Tree song ever created, at least in my opinion.  

Before the album tracks were officially named, the 3rdsong on the album was affectionately known my fans as ‘The Beast’ and quite rightly so. ‘Anesthetize’ is one hell of a 17 minute ride. Now I don’t initially dismiss long songs  as being pretentious, or overly bloated like many people would do, that’s not to say that some aren’t. ‘Anesthetize’ certainly isn’t, it could be described as being divided into 3 distinct sections, the 1stsection features Gavin Harrison’s drumming at its best, a georgous chorus plus a fantastic guitar solo provided by Alex Lifeson. [Rush] The 2ndsection comprises of a lengthy instrumental part followed by a vocal part that’s so full of texture and hidden depth it comes bursting out of the speakers by the bucketload. The talent displayed by each band member during this section is a delight to hear. The 3rd section is what could be best described as total sweetness for the ears, completely contrasting the other two sections that came before it. The vocal harmonies are out of this world, and overall I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to end the song. Perfection.

 The rest of the album is still fantastic, although nothing comes close to beating the 17 minute centerpiece, the next song ‘Sentimental’is sort of a companion song to ‘My Ashes’. It has some wonderful piano in it, and even manages to give a sly wink to ‘Trains’ off of ‘In Absentia’. The only thing that I didn’t like about this song at first was the weird Banjo solo [if it is indeed a Banjo] that is played over the ‘Trains-like’ riff. I’d hate to listen to the song without it now! 

‘Way Out Of Here’is a little bit of a anomaly, you see this song wasn’t originally debuted with the rest of the album back on the 2006 fall tour. The reason being that a song called ‘Cheating The Polygraph’ was in its place. SW either decided that ‘CTP’ wasn’t good enough to make the final album or just didn’t fit in very well, so the band got together and wrote ‘WOOH’ to fill the void. Good choice because its miles better then ‘CTP’ which actually ended up on the ‘Nil Recurring EP’. The song also contains some rather inspired soundscapes by none other then the legend himself Robert Fripp [King Crimson] who is actually a very good friend of SW. These soundscapes fit lovingly into a section of the song before a big chunky metal riff comes in and rips everything apart. I love the interplay on this song, and the outro features some fantastic bass work off of the wonderful Colin Edwin. 

The album closes on ‘Sleep Together’. One of the best PT album closers yet, normally a PT album closer is a fairly downbeat affair such as ‘Stop Swimming’, ‘Feel So Low’ or ‘Glass Arm Shattering’. Not in this case, what could be best described as Nine Inch Nails meets Massive Attack meets ELO is the meal of choice. I’m an absolute sucker for dark electronica, more-so for strings, you meld the two and oh boy what a result! The outro section is one of the most memorable pieces of music I’ve heard in a decade. 

‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ is without a doubt the best PT release yet, only one other PT album in my opinion would score the same, that being ‘In Absentia’, and I’ve not reviewed that one yet! If you like to lose yourself within the dark corridors of your mind for 50 minutes, and indulge yourself in a reverse ‘Lunar Park’ then I can highly recommend you order this work of art immediately. You won’t be disappointed. 

Lineup: 

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards
Richard Barbieri – keyboards and synthesizers
Colin Edwin – bass guitars
Gavin Harrison – drums  

Guests: 
Alex Lifeson (Rush) – guitar solo on “Anesthetize”
Robert Fripp (King Crimson) – soundscapes on “Way Out of Here”
John Wesley – backing vocals 

Score: 5.0/5.0 

D.P

 

 


 

    

 

 

 

 

 

Genre: Rock/Pop

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Company: Snapper Music/Atlantic/We Put Out Records

Recommended for fans of: Coldplay, Keane, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree.

Track Listing:

 1. Once (4:03)
2. 1,000 People (3:54)
3. Miss U (4:13)
4. Christenings (4:37)
5. This Killer (4:06)
6. Epidemic (4:59)
7. My Gift of Silence (4:05)
8. Some Day (4:22)
9. Where is My Love? (2:59)
10. End of the World (5:13)
 

Review 

Backfield are one of those bands that don’t get the coverage they deserve in certain countries, in this case I doubt if many people in the UK will have heard of them so let me clear a few things up.

Blackfield is a collaboration between Porcupine Tree’s front-man Steven Wilson, and Israeli superstar Aviv Geffen, and by superstar I mean it, this guy is huge in Israel, like Robbie Williams huge. Whereas Porcupine Tree music could be described as having progressive leanings, Steven Wilson uses his Blackfield outlet to explore the world of light rock with a pop twist to great effect; I dare say it works better then the likes of Coldplay and Keane. What I mean by this is that Blackfield’s music is easily accessible to listen to, and any of the tracks they have produced would fit in on commercial radio stations with ease.

This is Blackfield’s 2nd release, the first being in 2004 with ‘Blackfield I’; indeed the Led Zeppelin methodology of naming albums is being followed here with the 2nd album being called ‘Blackfield II’. I can heartily recommend the first album, however this 2ndalbum is a much more polished affair, whereas in Blackfield I the tracks whilst atmospheric, seemed a bit sparse in places.

So the 2nd album opens up with a track called ‘Once’which features some well placed drums and guitar before some soothing vocals, the popish element to the song writing is noticeable straight away yet the addition of a thundering guitar riff within the song is perhaps something bands like Coldplay and Keane wouldn’t use, yet Blackfield take the tempo up a notch and it works. ‘1000 People’ works on so many levels, not only because it’s a simple pop song, but also because it has depth in both its lyrical content and instrumentation, it’s a relaxing soothing 4 minutes with a darker chord progression.

The next track ‘Miss U’opens up without warning to some marvellous guitar work before Aviv Geffen takes lead vocal duties, the song which features some rather impressive orchestration is absolute ear candy during the chorus, and even though its only 4 minutes long, there’s time for a short guitar solo at the end which is perfectly placed in the song.

‘Christenings’ is a bit of an oddball, the song was originally written during the Porcupine Tree Deadwing’ sessions, and for some reason which is probably because it wouldn’t have fitted into Deadwing very well its ended up on ‘Blackfield II’. The plus point of this move is that it sounds more like Blackfield then PT, however I was quite curious to learn that as it appears on the album it’s the version that PT recorded, couldn’t Blackfield have re-recorded it? Seems simple enough to me, they play the song live on stage! Regardless of this criticism the song is a musical delight, and one of the best songs on the album, apparently the lyrics are based on the downfall of Syd Barrett [Pink Floyds original guitarist and songwriter who died in 2006] and work really well.

‘This Killer’ is probably the sleeper track of the album, meaning that whilst it might not strike you as particularly delicious on the first listen, it grows on you and gets better every listen, ambient and full of vocal delight. ‘Epidemic’is a good a choice as any for a single from this album and I have to say my all time favourite Blackfield track, its full of energy from the opening piano playing to the excellent guitar fuelled bridge, most of all the addition of a little shouting [you’ll understand if you hear the song] in the middle of the bridge by Aviv Geffen is quite marvellous, could be an absolute hit if it got regular airplay.

‘My Gift Of Silence’ continues the album focus on lyrical content, swarming in beautiful layers of keyboard melodies and quite breathtaking harmonies, I have a feeling this track is really moving when performed live. ‘Some Day’ is a straightforward affair, with the last 2 minutes of the track being particularly strong with its orchestration and the layering of guitars, ‘Where Is My Love?’was originally included on the first album as a bonus track in the form of a rough demo, this version is far better being more polished in every-way and the build-up to the ending is far more pronounced.

The album closes with ‘End Of The World’that is sure to become a live classic as an encore at future Blackfield gigs. It closes the album perfectly in a rather positive manner, despite the name of the song.

Overall this is the best Blackfield release yet, and its sounds far stronger and more mature then their first effort. Their audience is bound to grow within the UK quicker then they might expect seeing as Porcupine Tree are becoming bigger news every year , Blackfield will be discovered by a whole new legion of fans, indeed times look good for this band, and their 3rd release could be very much the album that gets them the recognition they deserve.

Lineup:

Steven Wilson – Guitar, Vocals
Aviv Geffen – Guitar, Vocals
Daniel Salomon – Keyboard, Piano
Seffy Efrati – Bass
Tomer Z – Drums

Score: 4.0/5.0

D.P