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Steven Wilson - Insurgentes CD (album) cover

INSURGENTES

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

3.83 | 642 ratings

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LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Insurgentes marks an interesting first step into Wilson's solo album catalog, very much sounding like the outcome of a careful producer and songwriter--careful being the operative word.

Few will undoubted come to this album without having first heard some (or likely a good number) of Wilson's other projects: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Communion, IEM, or any combination of those. It is more or less impossible to review Insurgentes without comparing it to these musical outlets. As it is, however, fans of the fellow will undoubted recognize in this solo outing the same traits that endeared Wilson to them in the first place. Here we have the occasional heaviness of Porcupine Tree, the gentle melodies of Blackfield, the soft and heartfelt atmosphere of No-Man, the harsh elements of noise in Bass Communion and IEM, and the pristine recording and mastering found in all of them. But the problem with Insurgentes is that it really does not go much beyond that. Wilson here creates an album comprised of the meat of all his projects, merging them together. All that's missing is the individual flair. It is, in short, not really experimental at all. True, he does tie noise and drone and ambient music together with semi-pop choruses and parts, but in the end, Insurgentes sounds like Steven playing to his strengths. If you are a fan of his other stuff, chances are you'll like some or all of this record. But don't expect anything wonderfully new or different. Same man, similar music. The first layer of sounds and effects may sound different from a lot of his stuff, but underneath, we have simply an average output from Wilson, who remains a very popular figure in modern prog.

The album opens with one of the more standard Wilson tracks, Harmony Korine. This song is built on a melancholic but not dark soundscape, propelled by a pulsing electric guitar. Here we first begin to experience the flavor of this album: gradually building behind the song is a wall of noise. Wilson's distorted falsetto vocals fill out one of the more memorable vocal melodies on the album. On the heels of that comes Abandoner complete with a drum machine, acoustic guitars, and a sort of dripping static in the background. Again, throughout the album the production is excellent, and here is no exception. The vocals are gentle and sparse. Towards the end a lot of dark noise enters, closing out the song in a heavy and somewhat creepy shot of silence. Salvaging is quite similar to Abandoner, except the music is more atmospheric for the majority. Minimalist vocals on top of a building electric guitar drone turn to some strings halfway through keeping the song quiet. The last chunk of the song finishes out with a strong salvo of solid noise and aggressive (but simplistic) drums, very much in the vein of how the previous song ended. The album segues then to Veneno para las Hadas , a song composed mostly of piano and gentle bass. The vocals are strongly reminiscent of those in No-Man (and also, coincidentally, The Sky Moves Sideways).

The album's only true standout track, No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun, comes in next with a laid back Tony Levin bassline and some thorough drumming from Gavin Harrison. Mike Outram contributes a long, harsh guitar solo throughout the opening, much in the vein of Frank Zappa. This is something quite different from Wilson's normal, as he does feature guitar solos in plenty of his Porcupine Tree offerings, none of them are nearly so long, technical, or complex. This stunning intro lasts for nearly four minutes, dropping off to just bass, quiet drums, and half-spoken vocals. Distorted guitars leave and reenter the song at several points, and the heavily distorted Wilson vocals convey angst and general unhappiness. Jordan Rudess donates here a gentle, tasteful, and quite stunning piano break, in the vein of The Start of Something Beautiful. The song fades away, only to explode once more with the heavy opening riff until the conclusion. While the rest of the album is mostly average Wilson material, No Twilight is essential listening for any fan of his, especially those of Porcupine Tree. The heaviest track on the album, it is also the only one where Wilson truly explores some different flavors than he has before. Significant Other is a melancholic, moody song with some nice vocal melodies and performances by both Wilson and the lovely voice of Clodagh Simonds, turning a mostly Blackfield tune into an atmospheric and haunting tune. Chances are if it did not play right after No Twilight, it would be one of the standout tracks on the album.

Only Child is a bass-driven tune with the expected atmospheric overlay. Here is perhaps the strongest clean-vocaled track on the album, though the music itself is mostly grungy. The song does not really go anywhere, though, promising a powerful chorus section but merely playing through some noise and then returning to the verse. Jordan Rudess returns with beautiful piano in the track Twilight Coda, which with some mellow acoustic guitars adds a slightly Latin feel to the album (which is long overdue, the name of the album referring to an avenue in Mexico). The noise builds up to a final crescendo like on several other tracks before it and most notably on the next song, Get All You Deserve (though on Twilight Coda it fades away again before the end of the song). Get All You Deserve is likewise built on piano. The vocals are fairly melancholic and straightforward, pointing the song to the heavily drummed chaotic noise finale. Coming off this wall is the album's conclusion, Insurgentes. The title track here would be a stunning song were it not more or less a new version of Collapse the Light into Earth. As it is, it is a beautiful and shocking ending to this somewhat dissonant album, providing almost a feeling of relief. True, it fits well, but plenty of fans of Porcupine Tree will not be thoroughly impressed with what this track has to offer. Oddly enough, Wilson chose this track, with a title in Spanish, to insert the koto, which fits surprisingly well.

In the end, this is a fairly solid album. It could almost pull another star, but in the end an average rating seems only fair. Fans of Steven Wilson's other projects will invariably find something interesting here and almost definitely should at least give it a listen or two, but I'd advise newcomers to first check out some of Porcupine Tree's or No-Man's top albums first.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |

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