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Steven Wilson - Insurgentes CD (album) cover

INSURGENTES

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

3.83 | 669 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ergaster
4 stars Insurgentes, released in late 2008, marked the first solo effort of the endlessly prolific Steven Wilson, to great excitement among fans of his numerous other projects and collaborations. As of this writing, the accompanying documentary (directed by Lasse Hoile) is about to be released, to similar anticipation. When I first heard the album (early 2010), all I knew of Steven Wilson's body of work was maybe four Porcupine Tree songs. I think that was to my advantage: Insurgentes had to speak for itself, unencumbered by the possibility of any comparisons. And this old proggie listened, astonished: Insurgentes was the finest thing I had heard for about two solid decades.

This is not a concept album, but it is of a piece: the tracks are carefully linked together with an affective logic clearly meant to manipulate mood and feeling. Steven Wilson aims to take you on an emotional journey, therefore Insurgentes should be listened to in sequence, from the first song to the last, and preferably with no stops along the way. That is how it was put together, and that is how it is most rewarding.

The journey begins with "Harmony Korine", a sweeping hopeful piece sweetly sung, one of those beautiful simple melodies that are a Wilson trademark. But this faintly optimistic mood doesn't get very far. "Abandoner" reeks of foreboding, building slow and thick over a morse-code background. We seque into "Salvaging" with its brooding relentless rhythm that transforms into a smooth orchestral bridge ?finally dissolving into pure bleak dissonance. "Veneno Para las Hadas" provides a soft, meditative recovery.

Now would be a good time for Wilson to flex his massive compositional, arranging, and interpretive muscle as he demonstrates what King Crimson-type prog rock of the mid-1970s really meant. Mostly instrumental, aggressive, with virtuosic drumming from Gavin Harrison, "No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun" puts the "force" in tour-de-force. It is the best piece on the album, and may well be among the best Wilson has ever written.

"Significant Other" starts pleasantly enough as a medium-tempo pop tune?but one learns rather quickly never to take Mr. Wilson for granted. Suddenly, in lieu of choruses, we are engulfed in an almighty Niagara of dense and layered chords and ethereal voices sweeping us towards the stratosphere, and abruptly ending in a scratchy music-box tinkle. This astonishing piece leads into "Only Child", a dense, powerful, richly-textured almost straight-up rocker that buzzes with foreboding.

With good reason. After a short contemplative bridge called "Twilight Coda", we encounter "Get All You Deserve". From the slow melodic voice-and-piano introduction it descends into a dark, relentless, pulsing discordant madness that suggests that all you deserve is existential horror in the face of the void. This is an exhausting song.

"Insurgentes" completes the journey. We pull back from the pit: not all the way, but enough to reflect on the journey, via simple melody, layered with piano and koto, thoughtful and weary.

The deluxe release contained 5 bonus tracks (4 on the double vinyl LP). These bear mentioning because at least three of them ("The 78", "Puncture Wound" and "Collecting Space") fit in well within the mood theme of the regular release. "Collecting Space" itself is an incandescent masterpiece of heartbreaking majesty and should just be given free to everyone in the world because everyone needs such a dose of sheer beauty in their lives.

As one would expect from Wilson, Insurgentes is impeccably produced, a richly textural album with carefully placed instrumentation and voice, and clean, dense, sound. This album cannot possibly be appreciated to the extent it deserves on any sort of mp3 player, iPod or otherwise. I only have a conventional sound system, and the mere thought of what the DVD-A 5.1 surround version must sound like scares me.

So should you buy this album? If you don't know Wilson, it is a spectacular introduction to the work of that rare breed, a true musical visionary, and you won't be burdened with the temptation to compare everything on it to his huge catalogue. If there is a flaw, it lies perhaps in Wilson's overuse of dissonance to make a point. Still, Insurgentes is an album that demands and rewards attention and effort. It grabs you and shakes you, overwhelms with a deluge of sound and noise, lulls you into a sense of false security and then scares you right out of your chair. It is dazzling and inexorable.

.

ergaster | 4/5 |

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