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Blackfield - Blackfield CD (album) cover




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3.81 | 432 ratings

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5 stars The first and best Blackfield album from Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen, showcasing a variety of 'pop' songs if you like. I wouldn't really give them the general pop label as that would be a huge injustice to the great music that is heard on this album and these are not just average pop songs. Wilson sprinkles subtle hints of his own prog background with Porcupine Tree into the songs which makes for a very interesting listen. Furthermore, when we do get to hear Aviv Geffen's voice it adds a different colour compared to Wilson's voice, a nice contrast to have.

The opener, 'Open mind', is an opener to rival all other openers with its clever deception. It starts with a gentle acoustic section before a raging electric guitar literally descends the piece into chaos, taking the listener into one of the most epic sections of noise - the unexpectedness of it makes it all the more effective. It is probably the closest sounding song to Porcupine Tree on the album and it's a close favourite of mine. 'Blackfield' is closer to a pop song, following an ordinary structure and being very catchy indeed, especially in the chorus. Yet the harmony is not so ordinary; the open strings of the guitar are used wisely in the verse chords to make them sound less fulfilling as major chords and therefore gives them an edge of darkness. Likewise, the chord changes in the chorus keep the listener guessing and the inclusion of an augmented chord surely proves that this is not a regular pop song - a treat to the ears. I love the opening of 'Glow' due to how mysterious it is, plus it's a lovely keyboard sound to be heard isolated. The addition of strings brings a sombre tone to the music and it stays at this level until the final minute and a half in which the drums enter and the electric guitar repeats the tonic note of the chords. This changes the mood from being sombre to now being quite angry or perhaps this anger represents a breakdown of emotions - whatever the intention is here, it succeeds in taking the listener on a brief journey of emotion. These first three tracks begin the album beautifully as they are three dissimilar songs that bring a variety of different ideas to the table.

Other notable tracks on the album include 'Lullaby', 'Cloudy Now' and 'The Hole in Me'. The delicate 'Lullaby' begins with a vulnerable piano that plays a melody similar to that of a children's lullaby. It sounds so innocent until the listener hears the sharpened 5th chord (G#) which adds a dark undertone to this supposed innocence - clever writing. This song is also accompanied by strings to add to its fragility; there is some lovely piano work when the strings enter. It's strange because the song is in a major key, yet the music doesn't really sound happy and the lyrics, in typical Wilson style, are ambiguously morbid. 'Cloudy Now' has a similar undertone of darkness but it is definitely more noticeable, especially in the chorus with that repeating pattern on the piano: it sounds so menacing. I always find myself waiting for that pause in the song that signals the transition from quiet to loud; sometimes a pause can be so much more powerful than sound itself and, in this instance, it works so effectively. The loud section is full of anger, anger directed towards the planet as we hear Wilson shouting his views over the blistering noise of the rest of the band. 'The Hole in Me' is very different, not as sombre or angry, and interesting in terms of musical features. Furthermore, we get a chance to hear Geffen's voice which is heard only in the verses. The verse works well in 5/4 and to me sounds quite Medieval but perhaps that is because of the flute sound used and the way the acoustic guitar is played. The sound then changes in the 3/4 chorus as it is louder and sounds more modern, this time with Wilson singing - what a great contrast in terms of music and voicing. This is another example of how these songs deserve to be called something of a higher accolade than a 'pop' song as they are full of clever little embellishments.

I think that anyone who says they dislike this album, or even just complain, due to its more pop-like approach obviously need to have a more open mind (excuse the pun). Even if it is pop, it is pop done extremely well by two very clever musicians that strive to be different. Of course, I prefer the Porcupine Tree stuff because it is more obviously prog driven, but this is still a masterpiece in its own right - it may not entirely be prog, but it certainly gives off the subtle aroma of prog.

DominicS | 5/5 |


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