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STEVEN WILSON

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Steven Wilson biography
STEVEN WILSON, perhaps most widely known for his role as the frontman for the popular act Porcupine Tree, is an artist from the UK who, through his various side projects, has spanned a vast number of musical ideas and concepts. Some of the styles he has been known to utilize are heavy prog, psychedelic, electronica, post-rock, ambient music, drone, metal, and art rock. Furthermore, WILSON is intensely focused on production values, dynamic mixing and mastering, and all other sorts of building albums that sound best in high-quality systems. In short, WILSON has always been an artist that appeals to audiophiles and fans of meticulously produced music. This shows up strongly in each of his bands and projects, but it plays even more of a role in his solo efforts.

Though some of his earliest musical recordings were demos that predated even Porcupine Tree, his solo releases did not truly start appearing until his "Cover Version" singles began in 2003. Essentially releasing one a year, each "Cover Version" contained a particularly unconventional song that WILSON chose to reproduce and one original song by WILSON. Also, in 2004, WILSON put out his experimental electronic album "Unreleased Electronic Music Vol. 1." Neither the "Cover Version" singles nor "Unreleased Electronic Music" feature any other performers, aside from some input from THEO TRAVIS on the latter.

That trend changed at the end of 2008, however, when WILSON released his first full-length, proper solo album, "Insurgentes." Featuring, among others, PORCUPINE TREE drummer Gavin Harrison, Prog bass legend TONY LEVIN, current DREAM THEATER keyboardist JORDAN RUDESS, and saxophonist/flautist THEO TRAVIS, "Insurgentes" proves rather quickly that it is not simply another ambient or electronic release. Toying with many of the styles that can be seen in PORCUPINE TREE, "Insurgentes" is a mature, laid-back album marked by less metal and more noise than PT's later albums. WILSON has stated that the album draws a lot of influence from shoe gazer, post-punk, and drone music.

Essentially, before "Insurgentes," WILSON used his solo moniker for a final catch-all for some of his music, making it difficult to draw comparisons to other bands. Nevertheless, "Insurgentes" makes it possible to site some bands with similar sound. Of notable similarity or inspiration are RADIOHEAD, JOY DIVISION, GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR, THE MARS VOLTA, and other WILSON projects such as BASS COMMUNION and PORCUPIN...
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Hand. Cannot. Erase.Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Import
KSCOPE 2015
Audio CD$6.23
$12.94 (used)
4 1/24 1/2
KSCOPE 2016
Audio CD$7.20
$6.19 (used)
Raven That Refused to SingRaven That Refused to Sing
Kscope 2016
Audio CD$7.29
$7.05 (used)
The Raven That Refused to Sing: And Other StoriesThe Raven That Refused to Sing: And Other Stories
Import
KSCOPE 2013
Audio CD$5.26
$5.21 (used)
Insurgentes (CD & DVD)Insurgentes (CD & DVD)
Kscope 2009
Audio CD$15.19
$17.98 (used)
Grace for DrowningGrace for Drowning
Import
Kscope 2011
Audio CD$6.70
$3.99 (used)
Drive HomeDrive Home
Import
Kscope 2013
Audio CD$7.57
$13.62 (used)
Get All You Deserve [Blu-ray]Get All You Deserve [Blu-ray]
Multiple Formats · Blu-ray
Kscope 2012
Blu-ray$13.39
Cover VersionCover Version
Kscope 2014
Audio CD$7.98
$7.00 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning 2016 USD $7.23 [0 bids]
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3h 4m
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USD $50.72 Buy It Now
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ADAM HOLZMAN - Overdrive (CD, 1995, Lipstick Records) keys for Steven Wilson USD $6.00 Buy It Now 3 days
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STEVEN WILSON discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

STEVEN WILSON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.83 | 853 ratings
Insurgentes
2008
4.20 | 1449 ratings
Grace for Drowning
2011
4.31 | 1595 ratings
The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
2013
4.32 | 990 ratings
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
2015
3.55 | 207 ratings
4 ½
2016

STEVEN WILSON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.29 | 161 ratings
Catalogue/Preserve/Amass
2012

STEVEN WILSON Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.52 | 129 ratings
Insurgentes - The Movie
2010
4.60 | 257 ratings
Get All You Deserve
2012

STEVEN WILSON Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.84 | 100 ratings
Nsrgnts Rmxs
2009
3.02 | 82 ratings
Cover Version
2014
3.23 | 37 ratings
Transience
2015

STEVEN WILSON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.72 | 39 ratings
Cover Version
2003
3.59 | 37 ratings
Cover Version II
2004
3.69 | 39 ratings
Cover Version III
2005
3.68 | 40 ratings
Unreleased Electronic Music
2005
3.86 | 35 ratings
Cover Version IV
2006
3.40 | 39 ratings
Cover Version V
2008
4.48 | 66 ratings
Harmony Korine
2009
3.66 | 51 ratings
Vapour Trail Lullaby
2010
3.57 | 40 ratings
Cover Version 6 plus full collection bundle
2010
3.71 | 7 ratings
Demos
2010
4.18 | 44 ratings
Postcard
2011
4.00 | 18 ratings
Cut Ribbon
2012
3.93 | 91 ratings
Drive Home
2013

STEVEN WILSON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 4 ½ by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.55 | 207 ratings

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4 ½
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by LakeGlade12

3 stars 3.2 Stars. A decent B-sides album

4 1/2 is listed in most places as Wilson's fifth solo album, although really that is not the case. This album is basically an EP compilation of various songs that did not get used on major albums + an alternative version of a old Porcupine Tree favorite "Don't Hate Me". While SW insists that these songs were not included on any album only due to them not fitting with the their themes, I can also spot a clear drop in inspiration and originality in these songs. As with most decent B-sides you will find a few good songs and the rest ranging from average to poor.

The album opens with the 9 min song "My Book of Regrets" (recorded during the Hand. Cannot. Erase sessions) which is meant to grab your attention immediately and start this album off on a good note. During this song you will find all the trademark features present on most modern PT/SW album's; Catchy Alt-rock/pop, lengthy instrumentals and mood changes and some pleasant harmonies all nicely wrapped up together. Or in other words it's straight from the modern Prog-Rock handbook and played to Wilson's strengths. Still it's a good song and opener to the album though.

"Year of the Plague" is the only song to come from The Raven sessions and it clearly shows. It's worth saying that The Raven ranks among my top 3 all time favourite albums so I was very curious to listen to this B-side. The song is a delicate and very beautiful instrumental which stands up to repeated listenings. Had it been included on The Raven it would certainly not been a highlight, but it would have not lowered the quality of the album, which is extremely high praise from me. Definitely my favourite from this album and the only one with lasting appeal.

"Happiness 3" is actually a very old song which was written during the Deadwing era but recorded during the H.C.E sessions. It's a standard upbeat pop/rock song which Wilson is very talented at writing. The song is definitely catchy, but does not have the depth that the pop songs on H.C.E/In Absentia have. Still not bad though.

"Sunday Rain Sets In" was also written during the H.C.E era but sounds like it came from the Grace for Drowning sessions. It's a slow and atmospheric piece that would have fit onto GFD, but it far less inspired. There is also a burst of energy towards the end of the song which is awfully done and ruins the atmosphere that had been created. A poor track all-round really.

"Vermillioncore" is yet again a H.C.E era track, but this one could have fitted into the metal phase of PT, especially the nil-recurring EP. The instrumental begins is groovy bass work which bursts into intense metal and sonic distortion later on. It's a pretty cool track and it's been awhile since he has written a song like this, but it does not do anything that has not been already done by that era of PT.

Lastly we have the alternative version of "Don't Hate Me" with Wilson on the verses and Ninet on the chorus, which when you think about it makes no sense at all to the lyrics of the song. It should be reversed so that it's the male that sings "don't hate me, I'm not special like you" as he justifies his stalking. Instrumentally the first half of the song is identical to the original, its only the instrumental in the middle that has been changed. Here there is more of a jazzy emphasis and the degree of psychedelia has been significantly increased as well (no flutes though sadly). Overall it's a OK alternative version that could have been much better with some proper thought into the arrangements.

To sum up 4 1/2 is a B-side album, nothing more, nothing less. If you treat it as a full album then you are only setting yourself up for major disappointment. As B-side albums go it's a fairly standard affair of some good and bad songs but mostly average. 3 stars is the perfect rating here. Not a bad album, but certainly not a Recordings 2.0!

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 4 ½ by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.55 | 207 ratings

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4 ½
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by Porcupineapple

3 stars Having read in a review, how high anyone's expectations should be before listening to any EP from Wilson, I right away told myself that I could not agree more. Why? Well, Nil recurring, for one, is not just the best EP I have ever heard but is also an amazing prog rock journey through everything I enjoy this genre for, even though these are only "leftovers". And let me not even get started on the second cd of The Incident (which is, not admittedly, but also an EP I am sure). So, since Hand cannot erase is so far the peak of Steven Wilson's solo career (anyone cares to disagree please PM me:), it is no surprise that before listening to 4 ½ I had my expectations high as the sky. Unfortunately, it did not deliver.

The opening track, which is probably supposed to sell the album for us, has a decent length that should be enough to surprise the listener, yet it's exactly what it fails to do. It is not a bad song though: it has some catchy moments, a nice flow through melodic parts but also pieces that let these musicians really show their chops, but overall it just does not stand out. And I certainly see how it did not find its place on the LP itself too, for a kick-off of this EP it is not bad though. Year of the plague is ok again, and although it is not more than a fill between the first and the third song, it gets the job done with its catchy melodies thanks to some beautiful violins. Happiness III then is a decent leftover from the pop part of the LP, which means it is catchy as hell, I must admit, even if this is probably not the kind of thing we love Wilson the most for. My problem is that after these songs not much is left on the album, which is worth mentioning, at least in light of how high Wilson's grasp reaches with whatever he does recently. Sunday rain sets in reminds me of the second song of the album but its ideas are much less powerful. Vermillioncore is a bad-ass song, and whilst it comes across great when played live, listening to it on the cd it I have a feeling that Wilson just wanted to reach back to his more progressive side for a second, whilst in fact being rather tired of this genre, which shows in the end result. The main riff relies on the bass player's talent (rightly so) and is a strong one, but it is being repeated throughought the song too much, with not much happening in between. And then as I get to the closing track, I am hoping for something amazing to balance out the minor mistakes of the rest of the album, but instead I get an average and pointless re-working of a Porcupine tree song, which on top of it never even was my favourite. The choice to pick Don't hate me is therefore not obvious, although I have to say that Nina Tayeb's guest vocals certainly jazz it up, but what Steven Wilson is trying to do in between to extend the previous version of the song just lacks its point for me. And unfortunately the live version (when played without Nina and without the trumpets) is even weaker, slowing the whole show down so much that each time I see it live I nearly fall asleep. And looking at how I am not amazed by the other songs also, this closing leaves me disappointed.

But then again, 4 ½ is a decent work, it's just when I look how it comes from one of the most talented progrock musicians of our days, being able to sell even an EP like hot cakes, I am let down. He cannot amaze us with each and every work of his though, so it is an okay listen for the time being, something to hold on to as he is charging his batteries to hopefully blow us away with his fifth album again, out late next year if all goes well.

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 Grace for Drowning by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.20 | 1449 ratings

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Grace for Drowning
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars Steven Wilson has decided in his solo career to take a different approach than with Porcupine Tree. Instead of trying to tight up the structures of the songs as much as possible, he decided to let the things happen during the recording process which give more improvisations and Jazz to the music. The list of musicians here is impressive and brings so much beautiful textures to the sound of this release. I think my overall feeling about this one hour and twenty minutes of music was about like watching a movie and going on a journey trough different moods and atmosphere, but mostly of the dark and melancholic side. The use of acoustic guitars, many gentle piano lines is sharing the parts with some heavier guitars which is nothing new when we know what the man did previously in his career. Not only the mix of Metal, Pop, Ambient and Prog is taking the listener to different moods but even in those dreamy slow tempo passages, we can always feel some intensity growing sometimes with a sax or clarinet solo which are abundant here. Sometimes like in the song "Index", we are waiting for a blast of guitars, but it never does, we are left with a cool melody, some ambient vibes driven by drums, keyboards and the vocals of Steven. For those older listeners here, the use of flute and clarinets of Theo Travis will remind you of the old King Crimson sound of the 70's, especially brilliant in the instrumental "Sectarian" and the epic "Raider II". The complexity of the arrangements here and the overall sound of each instruments are impressive. The sound of mellotron can be heard, while i can't say that they use a real old one, but i know that Steven has played on a real one. "Belle de Jour" has some affinity with "Entangled" of Genesis. Also one more thing to notice, it's the good use the choir in some songs with arrangements that have been done by Dave Stewart. There is too many highlights here to go any further , you have to get this, especially in surround sound to live the full experience of great songwriting and sound.

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 Hand. Cannot. Erase. by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.32 | 990 ratings

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Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by AndyJ

5 stars Steven Wilson's 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' is probably the finest piece of progressive art so-far released in the 21st century. Quite a statement, in fact I'd go as far as to say it rivals even some of the timeless epics from the 1970's. Steven Wilson of course needs no introduction to readers of PA. His work with Porcupine Tree is all absolutely essential, and his four solo albums are must-owns for any fan of progressive art.

So I've used the term 'progressive art' a couple of times. That is exactly what I think this album is - it's one of those albums which transcends any one medium. It is pure sonic artistry rendered in a perfect vision. This album is a journey, not just musically, but in the minds-eye imagery Wilson & co conjure up in the listener. Steven Wilson is such a creative tour de force that any composition he turns his hand to is destined for greatness. And the collection of songs on this album are by far some of his best work.

Released in 2015 this album can be best described as bringing together all of the different elements of Wilson's previous work, both solo, side-projects, collaborations as well as Porcupine Tree. This has got it all. Chilling electronic music, haunting pianos and synths, majestic guitar, soaring leads and the most amazing story and lyrics I've ever heard in a concept album. There's electronica, rock, metal, acoustic and folk styles blended seamlessly together during the 66-minute run-time. Nothing feels out of place, and while it might take the listener a few spins to start the understand the record there is nothing wrong with that.

I think this will be an album that people talk about and remember for decades to come, and could prove to be Steven Wilson's finest moment. The easiest 5 stars I've awarded to an album. If you haven't already got this one then don't waste any more time!

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 Hand. Cannot. Erase. by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.32 | 990 ratings

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Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by arschiparschi

2 stars Steven Wilson's latest full studio outut (not counting '4/2') is in my view one of the most overrated albums of 2015. It actually starts off quite nicely with subte playing by Adam Holzman and the first song blends electronic and acoustic sounds successfully and sets the tone for an album very much in the vein of Wilsons' style on his first two solo albums and some of the Porcupine Tree material. The live performance of this song always sets off with a long clip of a housing block and lights in the windows. Accompanying the song there is a projection of a young woman as she walks around and sits alone in her flat, which also represents the introduction to the album's theme. While the actual story itself is very notable (in a sad way), I find Wilson's rendering of it both with regards to the lyrics as well as the video projection not necessarily profound but rather very in-your-face as if asking "have you got it now"? What underlines this is that the live performance was above all one thing: loud. I would have preferred more subtlety.

Unfortunately, it gets worse with the next songs. The title track is a rather uninspired pop-rock song with really boring lyrics, which is even more the case in "Perfect Life". While the next track "Routine" contains some pleasant melodies and a nice guitar solo, I cannot keep from thinking that it sounds just too similar to others of Wilson's songs. As noted before, it seems like this track's title is quite programmatic for the composition: Wilson has found his forumlae, which he now repeats, adding a couple of variations here and there. The lyrics and video projection again really drag this song done for me. The lyrics are so in-your-face and the video of an animated lady with eyes that are contantly red from crying is just trying too hard to drive the point home.

"Home Invasion / Regret 9" to me sound like a collage of elements from the prog handbook: an odd (or rather not so odd) time signature to start the song, followed by a disharmonic "riff" played on the synthesizer, all wed into a song that is longer than 7 minutes. The distorted vocals sound rather irritating to me and the lyrics represent Wilson's lamely polemic remark during the concert "Internet - truth = irrelevant". Holzman's synthesizer solo in the middle of the song is again an enjoyable element and also the guitar solo that follows is nice, even if slightly too long for my taste. "Ancestral" starts off like any other poppy Wilson song and in the second half again sounds to me like trying very too hard to be Progressive Rock, which makes a rather strange mixture. I find the second half absolutely boring as the last six minutes basically consist of a very basic riff stretched out to make an unnecessarily long song. The closing song again introduce the quite nice opening theme but fade into a slightly-above-average pop rock song. Again a nice guitar solo towards the end (though it is quite similar to the one heard before) and a seemingly unnecessary two minute ambient soundscape, which again gives the impression that its purpose was to distinguish the song from pop by its length. One thing which is again excellent throughout the entire album (and also live) is the musicianship of Wison's band. The sound and production of course leave nothing to be desired either, Wilson is, after all, a master of Mixing. But that does not remove my overall impression of an album that is mostly just pop rock with strained prog elements and sits very firmly in the multitude of songs already heard on previous Wilson (and Porcupine Tree) records. So to me the album is surely inferior to Wilson's "The Raven That Refused to Sing" and by no means the sensational release of 2015 it was so often hailed to be. 2.5/5 stars.

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 4 ½ by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.55 | 207 ratings

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4 ½
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by The Jester

2 stars I have been a fan of Porcupine Tree since I don't remember when. When Wilson decided to leave the band aside and follow a solo career I was kind of disappointed, but I continue following his solo works. I have all his solo albums in my collection, with 'Insurgentes' being the only exception.

Starting this, I have to say that honesty, I can't find any reason why someone would like to buy this new album of his. (Wilson's music collectors are excluded). First of all, this is not a "proper" album. It includes songs that were recorded in the previous years, (mostly during the "Raven" and "Hand" sessions) and for some reason were not included there. Furthermore, there is nothing new here. Nothing! The songs are similar in style to the songs on his 2 previous albums, but not so good ones. (Maybe that's the reason they were not included in the first place).

4.1/2 works like a "bridge" let's say, between Hand.Cannot.Erase, and his next album. There are only 6 songs included in the album, and the total length is almost 36 minutes. I listened to the album a couple of times so far, and the first word that comes to my mind is 'boring'. If I had to pick a couple of favorites, I would choose 'Sunday rain sets in' and 'don't hate me' which I think is the best song here, and it belongs in the Porcupine Tree era. I'm sure that many people will disagree with opinion, but from my point of view this is his least interesting album ever!

If you are not familiar with Steven Wilson, then don't start with this album. Try any of his previous works - and even better - with Porcupine Tree's albums. If you are a fan of him, then you are going to buy it anyway, like I did. As for my rating, i'm sorry but i can't give more than 2.0 out of 5.0 stars...

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 4 ½ by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.55 | 207 ratings

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4 ½
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars This release by Steven Wilson in 2016 is not exactly an album. It's a compilation of tracks recorded in the past few years, a few leftover songs from his last two studio albums, some outlying songs not yet released, and one live version of a Porcupine Tree piece, from Wilson's 2015 tour.

The star of this album, to me, other than Wilson's always perfect production, is bassist Nick Beggs. His playing seems to lift even the most mundane spots to higher levels.

The songs, from worst (relatively) to best:

"Year Of the Plague" - recorded during the "Raven That Refused To Sing" sessions and "Sunday Rain Sets In" - from the "Hand. Cannot. Erase." sessions are both somewhat short, low key instrumentals, that sound to me like they were meant to just carry along a theme on the aforementioned albums. They are nice, but on their own here, not memorable out of context.

"Happiness III", also from the "Hand. Cannot. Erase." sessions, is a nice psychedelic piece, based on a minor/major 2-chord progression that too many lesser bands overused in the 1970s.

"My Book of Regrets" is a more typical Wilson piece, starting with an alt-rock sound, and building to pure modern prog. Much of this was recorded live, and then overdubbed in the studio, but just as in many of Frank Zappa's similarly produced works, the issues usually apparent in live recordings do not come through.

"Don't Hate Me", known from the 1998 Porcupine Tree version, played live by Wilson's recent touring band, starts out nice, but when Beggs' bass takes off, it lifts the piece to new heights.

The crown jewel of this disk is "Vermillioncore", which starts out with a smooth jam, reminiscent of King Crimson's "A Sailors Tale", and builds to a crescendo which sounds more like the 2000's version of the same band. Beautiful piece.

Then album is short for these days, coming in at 36 minutes. And as a leftovers collection they don't always flow together.

So. the songs range from somewhat good to great. I'd rate the album 3.5 stars, but I'll round it down to differentiate it from the absolutely 4 star albums "The Raven That Refused To Sing" and "Hand. Cannot. Erase."

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 Hand. Cannot. Erase. by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.32 | 990 ratings

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Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by raven31

5 stars 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' is one of the greatest triumphs of Mr. Wilson in several respects. First and foremost, this album shows that Wilson succeeded in assembling his electronic and ambient textures and virtuoso performance in brilliant forms. Clearly, he could make records that were supposed to be lauded by prog fans following the approach of 'Raven', which had complex structures and one of the finest performances in modern prog genre. Making such albums, however, could be artistic failure; admiration guaranteed by following the rule might imprison his strengths in making layered and constructed sounds and the results of that choice would make 'Hand.' a generic record. Fortunately (I might have to say expectably) Wilson took fresh sound elements and influences from electronica and contemporary classic music to make the latest full album (we could recognize BoC, Murcof, and Arvo Part etc. in the album) and his arrangement between those current experiment in genres and classic prog influences is in the greatest form he has ever achieved.

Lyrically or thematically the album covers broad and urgent issues; social alienation, freedom, and modern technology etc.. What makes these themes interesting is, however, not the theme itself but how Wilson narrates that kinds of familiar issue. Based on the real haunting story, the theme of album is clearly more concrete than Wilson's last attempts to deal similar issues; furthermore, he adopted various representations, images, and motifs from novels and movies (from Kafka to 'Under the Skin') and mixed those various fragments with superb sound design. For instance, 'Ancestral' is like Sirens voices extended by modern classic music and death metal. 'Routine' could be considered as melancholic poetry read by Kate Bush. The deluxe edition of this album provides much more interesting and imaginative experimentation in that direction.

Needless to say, the production is top-notch and performances are brilliant. The more you listen to the album, the more elements worth delving into you will find. Highly recommended.

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 Hand. Cannot. Erase. by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.32 | 990 ratings

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Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja

3 stars I'm a bit late to the game in terms of listening to this album but modern prog is hardly something I've been making an effort to keep caught up with.

What I found after finally getting around to hear Steven Wilson's work for the first time (aside from his remasters of 70's classics) is an album that delightfully exceeded my expectations. The production is top notch, as can be expected, and the music isn't too shoddy either. The album contains a mix between shorter, more pop-oriented tunes and longer symphonic prog tracks with a good balance between electric and acoustic textures. The songwriting is strong and some of the solos are quite emotionally moving, especially on Home Invasion/Regret #9, which I believe to be the peak of the album. As with many modern prog releases, "Hand. Cannot. Erase." suffers from the typical problems. The biggest is something that modern prog bands are awful for, which is excess. There are some moments that can be trimmed shorter and quite a bit of padding that isn't really necessary. As well, it sounds very derivative at times; some Yes here, Genesis there, Pink Floyd all over, but it doesn't distract and Wilson definitely plays up his influences as sources of strength. The only other complaint I really have, and goes hand in hand with the derivative bit, is that this album doesn't really break new ground. It's something that we've all heard before, a symphonic-ish/crossover-ish/metal-ish/neo-ish prog record that sounds like Joe Satriani playing revamped Genesis material with added ambient Pink Floyd stretches.

All in all this album is somewhere in between a 3 and a 4 star rating, an album that any prog fan could enjoy but not one that they need to have to complete their collection. I'll settle with 3 stars for a good piece of work that does the job.

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 4 ½ by WILSON, STEVEN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.55 | 207 ratings

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4 ½
Steven Wilson Crossover Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars Modern progressive music icon and workaholic Steven Wilson could have rested on the popularity of his very well-received `Hand. Cannot. Erase' and `The Raven that Refused to Sing' albums and successful tours of recent years, (or better yet, got to work on a long awaited new Bass Communion album, hint hint!), but noooooo! He jumps right back a few months later with a superb budget-priced 37 minute compilation entitled `4 1/2', a reference to it being a stop-gap release before his next proper studio album. Sounding like a perfectly coherent true album as opposed to simply a selection of outtakes and newly completed original fragments that it is, it's comprised of three vocal driven tracks and just as many purely instrumental pieces that should please the faithful Wilson devotees that lap up his every release, but it also holds a few genuinely exciting and unexpected welcome surprises buried within as well.

The highlight of the disc is the opening almost ten-minute stunner `My Book of Regrets', an unpredictable mix of indie-rock, observational lyrics with a deceiving poppy chorus and plenty of proudly prog-rock instrumental flourishes over a range of tempos and numerous soloing spots. But the best surprise of all, Steven delivers a guitar solo in the middle that almost calls to mind all those beautiful Delirium Records-era Porcupine Tree releases like `Staircase Infinities', a spacey and chiming ethereal performance that compliments perfectly the finale of `Dark Matter' off Porcupine Tree's classic `Signify' album. Overall it's a terrific piece that covers plenty of ground both current and historical that Steven Wilson and his previous band Porcupine Tree moved through, and most prog rock fans should absolutely adore this one.

Thankfully the rest of the disc also offers very superior material. An outtake from the `Raven' recording sessions, the mysterious shimmering electric piano of instrumental `Year of the Plague' quickly gives way to reflective acoustic guitar, piano and a mix of sampled violin, choir and orchestral elements to give the piece a warmth and great heart. Written in 2003, recorded in 2014 with the musicians from the `Hand. Cannot. Erase' sessions, `Happiness III' reveals itself as one of those rare up-tempo and spirited intelligent (not to mention quite upbeat and joyous!) pop-rockers from the artist, powered by jangling distorted electric guitar strums, humming Hammond organ and a pleasing chorus.

Also from the same `Hand...' sessions, instrumental `Sunday Rain Sets In' (unsurprisingly) moves between gloomy and ghostly eerie instrumentation (some nice darkly jazzy piano runs here and there), but thankfully Steven's acoustic guitar brings little traces of warmth. Sadly, an obnoxious and thrashing heavy burst in the final quarter of the piece for only a few seconds is completely lazy and ruins the beautiful subtle mood the piece was drifting through.`Vermillioncore' just may be the best instrumental piece of all on the disc, a delirious and addictive mix of glistening electric piano, Elephant9-like organ violations and twitching electronics, relentless upfront bass with some heavier guttural spasms, gutsy guitar heaving and even Hawkwind-like up-tempo heavier races.

The album closes on a remake of the wonderful Porcupine Tree track `Don't Hate Me' from their terrific 1998 crossover album of prog rock and indie-pop `Stupid Dream', and while it hardly reinvents the piece completely, it's a worthwhile reinterpretation with plenty to offer. Certainly at the start it badly misses Colin Edwin's thoughtful and distinctive bass murmurs throughout the early verses, sounding quite naked and empty in comparison. A lot of listeners greatly enjoyed female singer Ninet Tayeb's contributions to the `Hand...' album, and she offers a very pleading alternative approach to the chorus compared to Steven's fragile and wounded original. But thankfully the middle instrumental passage lifts the track considerably, a frantic dash of spiralling electric piano, thrashing drum rumbles and bouncing fluid bass raised loud and proud all worthy of any Seventies jazz-fusion album, and Theo Travis delivers another gorgeous Gong-flavoured sax solo, a standout on both versions of the piece.

`4 1/2' is very much comparable to Porcupine Tree's b-sides and unreleased material release `Recordings', which was far more than some mere throwaway compilation (It could be argued that it's much more challenging and complex than the two proper studio albums `Stupid Dream' and `Lightbulb Sun' that came from the same sessions), and it proves that even apparently `lesser' Steven Wilson compositions may just be as worthwhile or even far superior to the strongest outwork of endless other progressive artists. Full of his usual intelligent ideas, plenty of his expected modern and vintage musical influence variety and impressive playing from his musical collaborators, `4 1/2' keeps Steven Wilson's reputation soaring nicely, and fans of both Porcupine Tree and his solo works will be very happy with the results here.

Four stars.

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