Thursday, November 27, 2008

Steven Wilson ~ Insurgentes

At last this has been released. With all the tantalising snippets and trailers on the web site, the anticipation for this, Wilson’s first solo album has been very high. As the frontman for Porcupine Tree, No-Man and Blackfield this has a lot to live up to. He does seem to have the midas touch, not only with his own material but when working with others like Opeth.

But typically for a man who takes care about his recordings and how they are released this is no simple album. Initially released as a 2CD and DVD set in a limited edition of 3000 all housed in a large, lavishly illustrated hardbound book, this is a thing of beauty. Long time visual collaborator Lasse Hoile supplies the bulk of the photographic material in the book, with layout done by Carl Glover. Wilson is making a point here. Furthering his concerns touched on in the last Porcupine Tree album “Fear of a Blank Planet”, he wants to show that music is not just a downloadable commodity. Wilson is seen smashing IPods to bits in the film which Lasse Hoile is making about the album, fragments of which are shown within the book. Also what is it about Wilson and dolls? With this album Wilson wants to remind us that music is something to cherish and is an art form. Those of us brought up in the 70’s remember that the album artwork and packaging were part of the listening experience and were integral to the overall experience. The importance of Roger Dean and Hipgnosis to Yes and Pink Floyd respectively cannot be over-emphasised. Ok, the packaging is great, but what of the music. I am actually surprised by the cohesiveness of the album. Recorded in many locations over a lengthy period of time I was expecting a more sketchbook feel to the album. But there is a consistent feel to the tracks. This contains some of Wilson’s darkest songs to date. There is a Porcupine Tree feel to some of the pieces, for instance in the opening “Harmony Korine”, but the textures employed don’t really suit the band format, here instead utilising a number of musical colleagues, like Theo Travis, Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess and many others with Gavin Harrison on drums throughout.

On the limited plays I have made of the album, this is superb stuff. I love the use of drones, noise and an almost shoe-gazing feel to the use of the guitars. I think being freed from the constraints of writing within the band format of Porcupine Tree or No-Man has enabled Wilson to stretch out sonically. There is a lot to explore here.

Luckily there will be a retail version, released on K Scope next February. But Wilson has made it clear that this deluxe version is the ultimate “Insurgentes” and to really get an all round picture of Steven Wilson you need the music and the book to fully understand and appreciate this unique musician.


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