Ground Control To Major Tom…

In tribute to the late David Bowie, Steven Wilson and his band cover “Space Oddity”.

I continue to be perplexed as to why Steven isn’t more well-known for his musical achievements. He is an authentic creative force in a world full of PR created entertainers.

Wintertime Music

Whew! It’s been awhile since I last posted. Thanksgiving, Christmas, a new year have all come and gone since my last communique.

Despite it being wintertime, January is turning out to be a good month music-wise with two of my favorites putting out new work this month. Last week, Steven Wilson released an EP, “4 1/2”, a sort of intermezzo between his last full album and the next.

music album cover

And tomorrow Dream Theater release their latest, “The Astonishing”, a double-album clocking in a wee-bit over 2 hours (yes!).

music album cover

Needless to say, I’ll be setting aside some quality time to digest all of this sonic goodness. Until next time!

Longing for Porcupines

As much as I’m loving Steven Wilson’s solo work these days, I do miss an active Porcupine Tree. Granted, they are currently on indefinite hiatus, so there is at least a possibility, albeit a slim one, that they’ll release at least one more album. But even if they don’t, they have plenty of previously released music to go back and re-listen to or listen to for the first time. 🙂

In the meantime, here are two of my many favorite songs from PT, “Strip the Soul” and “.3”.

Listener Review: “Hand. Cannot. Erase.”

Photos of CD package
I don’t often recommend music to others as it’s a rather personal thing for me. And if it’s that way for me, I assume it’s that way for others. But with the release of Steven Wilson’s latest album, I’m breaking my rule. If you haven’t yet bought “Hand. Cannot. Erase.”, run to your computer, grab your phone or tablet, walk or drive to your local music store or wherever you happen to purchase your music nowadays (and you ought to be paying for it, but that’s a post for another day) and buy this album. It’s that good and, after several listens, here’s my unprofessional opinion as to why:

If you’re looking for a work of art in a world increasingly flooded with music produced only for the sake of money and marketing, then I highly recommend picking up “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” It’s a modern concept album loosely based on the real-life story of Joyce Carol Vincent whose corpse lay in her apartment undiscovered for two years. It explores how a person, in a world so inter-connected as ours via technology and social media, can end up isolated to the point that no one notices that they’re missing or even dead.

The first track, “First Regret” starts out softly with piano and softly pulsing drum beat. It moves into “3 Years Older”, an upbeat track with a very cool rhythmic element to it. If you make it this far, you’ll notice that vocals aren’t introduced until almost 5 minutes into the album, but the wait is worth it to hear some nice lush layering in the chorus. From there, you’ll be taken on a musical roller coaster for another 5 plus minutes as the pace quickens and slows repeatedly throughout. There’s a very nice piano solo midway through with a Hammond organ solo towards the end that is blistering! I’m becoming more and more of a fan of Adam Holzman’s work with Steven Wilson. His is a very tasteful playing with very little, if any, showing off. But when he does turn it loose, he can rip the keys.

Next up is “Hand Cannot Erase”, a straight-ahead pop-rock track that is a nice welcome after such an intense song. It’s followed by my current fave track, “Perfect Life”. There’s a nice dichotomy between the spoken verse of the first half and melodic chorus of the second. It’s a simple four-chord progression, but it’s such a beautiful song musically. That’s one of the brilliant things about Steven Wilson’s song-writing: he’s a progressive rock musician that can write beautifully simple music that stills sounds progressive.

“Routine” is another longish piece that starts out with vocal and piano in a softly melancholic tone, then moves to a quicker and heavier pace about midway through. And the vocal melody from around the six minute mark is one of my favorite themes on the album. The last minute or so is quite beautiful with Steven Wilson singing along to an acoustic guitar and soft choral backup.

“Home Invasion” revs things back up beginning with some Porcupine Tree-esque syncopated riffage segueing into a nice tight groove with a distorted Fender Rhodes leading the way. Finally, half-way through Steven Wilson brings in a bit of funk putting together one of the best grooves I’ve heard from him. Interspersed are a couple of soft breaks with some very nice lush vocal work.

This leads directly into “Regret #9” which begins with, of all things on a modern rock album, a synth lead. Adam Holzman really shines on this album and doesn’t repeat himself with his solo work here. He keeps it moving along, keeps it interesting and crescendos nicely into Guthrie Govan’s stunning guitar solo. If you know anything about Guthrie, you know he is a beast of a guitar player and is highly underrated in my humble opinion. It’s nice to hear Adam’s Hammond organ sitting underneath this section supporting Govan’s playing.

“Transience” takes over at this point with a foreboding synth bass note. But then a light-hearted vocal/acoustic guitar section takes over and helps elevate the mood, if only momentarily.

Although “Ancestral”, the lengthiest track at 13+ minutes, begins with vocals, it’s primarily an instrumental piece that continues the melancholy feeling beginning with a laid back electronic kick and distorted vocal overlaid with flute and strings. Eventually, it breaks into a dramatic instrumental section with a fairly emotional solo from Govan. After which, the song moves briefly into a nice mellow odd-meter section but then cranks up the heavy meter for a bit. And for the finale, it unabashedly goes prog-metal, retreats a bit with a little psychedelic flute and Fender Rhodes interplay, then climaxes with some welcomed guitar chunk.

“Happy Returns” starts out repeating the musical theme heard at the beginning in “First Regret”. It’s a laid-back piece that is one of the album’s more pop-oriented tracks that is likely to be accessible to most listeners.

To finish out the album is “Ascendant Here On…” It’s ethereal, relaxed and leaves one in a hopeful, positive mood.

This album is meant to be listened to actively. Although picking out one or two tracks to listen to that stand on their own is possible (i.e. “Hand Cannot Erase” and “Happy Returns”), one really needs to take it in as a complete work to fully appreciate what Steven Wilson has put together. I won’t sugar coat, it’s an intense experience and it may take several listens for it to sink in. For me, this album is a “grower”. It’s not one that immediately connects as there is so much going on within the music. But once it’s been listened to a couple of times, it begins to put some roots down and one begins to really enjoy the fruits of Wilson’s labor.