Steven Wilson


Written by: LF on 06/07/2015 22:45:40

The self-taught multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Steven Wilson is by now a well-known and respected figure in progressive rock. For those of you who might not know, he is the front man of the group Porcupine Tree who have been on an indefinite hiatus roughly since 2010, but lucky for us, Wilson has kept busy since then, working on solo albums as well as other collaborative projects such as Storm Corrosion (with Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt). "Hand. Cannot. Erase.", which was released earlier this year, is his fourth solo album and features the same group of star musicians that he recorded with on his amazing 2013 album "The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)". These include Guthrie Govan on guitars, Nick Beggs on bass and Chapman Stick, Adam Holzman on pianos, synthesizers, and organ, and finally Marco Minnemann on drums.

Thematically "Hand. Cannot. Erase." is inspired by the case of Joyce Carol Vincent, a British woman who died in her apartment in 2003 but wasn't discovered or missed for three years, despite her having family and friends and her residing in a large city. Wilson weaves this story into his recurring themes of loneliness, darkness, and loss, and creates an album that focuses on isolation in modern, digital society. It's overall a more diverse listening experience than Wilson's previous solo records as it embraces many of his different inspirations and unites them. "Home Invasion" and "Ancestral" are heavy hitting, jazzy prog compositions with long instrumental stretches, "Regret #9" consists of spacey solos on guitars and keys, and the songs harbor that certain darkness and melancholy that we have come to know from previous records. But we also get to explore more optimistic and more simply constructed songs like "Hand Cannot Erase" or "Happy Returns" which revolve around catchy melodies, and the album also quite obviously features more electronic elements than what is usual. It is the merging of these different sides of Wilson's songwriting talent that makes this album quite a captivating listen.

Since the album is such a varied and well-composed journey, it's hard to pick out specific songs to focus on out of context, even though at the same time each one of them is a piece of art in itself. "Routine" has grown to be my favorite by now as it seems to kick off the entire second half of the album through its terrifying outburst of emotion from the perspective of a mother who has lost her two young boys. Following this comes "Home Invasion", "Regret #9", "Transcience" and "Ancestral", which all ride on the back of this exclamation of loss, swirling in ominous tones whether it be decidedly rhythmic like in "Home Invasion" or entirely floaty and dreamy as in "Transcience".

I mentioned that the album features both a typical dark Wilson-vibe as well as more optimistic and dreamy ones, and Wilson succeeds in making a coherent album out of all this without it feeling unfocused at any point. Still, his darker and more unpredictable compositions are the ones that truly call for replays rather than his poppier songs, despite their catchiness. The title track "Hand Cannot Erase" might well be one of the most catchy songs I've heard in 2015 and I might return to this album because I have the melody stuck in my head, but it's songs like "Routine" and "Ancestral" that keep me listening for the duration of the record. As such the album's diversity is certainly a strength even though some of us prefer Wilson when he's dark and frightening. It might be nigh impossible to find Wilson's music streaming anywhere online, but I can guarantee you that you won't regret spending your money on this album unless you're just generally not into progressive rock.

Download: Home Invasion, Routine, Hand Cannot Erase, Ancestral
For The Fans Of:Porcupine Tree, The Pineapple Thief, Oceansize

Release date 27.02.2015

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