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Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase. CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.30 | 1605 ratings

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3 stars Wilson's fourth solo album welcomes the same musicians as 'The Raven That Refused To Sing' but it sounds entirely different and that is not just due to the Theo Travis's all but absent flutes and saxophone. While the 'Raven' was a tribute to the sound of early Yes/Genesis/KC, this is very much a modern prog/pop album trying to find a middle ground between late Porcupine Tree, Blackfield pop and the delicious instrumental freak-outs from Wilson's excellent band.

It begins with a slow moody start 'First Regret', featuring some electronic beats reminding me of 'The Incident'. The 10 minute '3 Years Older' hits the scene with its already renowned 'Rush riff' that hurls us through the first 4 instrumental minutes and reappears at the end supporting a crazy organ solo from Adam Holzman. Unfortunately, the song part that sits in the middle is a very conventional and actually forgettable light pop tune. This gets worse on the next two songs. The title track sounds like a leftover from later Blackfield albums and the 'Perfect Life' is probably the cheesiest moment ever on a Wilson/PT album. All in all, despite the 'Rush' riff, a very bad start.

Then something interesting happens, 'Routine' still starts with the same type of singersongpop vocals of the previous 20 minutes but quickly turns for the good when guest singer Ninet Tayeb takes over and takes this album to a next level (well make that 5 levels up given how low we were). Even a little boys' choir joins in to spice up this interesting duet. It paves the way to what I find the most fun 25 minutes of Wilson's solo career so far. 'Home Invasion' starts like a jazzy/metallic take on 'Mother and Child Devided' but halfway in it turns into a groovy funky song. Wilson's vocals are again a bit underwhelming at first but he finds a better voice in the chorus, which seems to come straight off some Signify-era PT. I'll spare you my inadequate wordings for what happens on the instrumental 'Home Invasion'. It's a synth and guitar solo fest that's simply too good to be true, very Floydian but more virtuoso.

'Transcience' is the only 'song' on this album that I fully enjoy, it's a 'Heartattack in a Layby' meets Nick Drake doing Pink Floyd's 'Goodby Blue Sky' type of thing. Wonderful. It's followed by the exceptional 'Ancestral', another multipart long track with a 5 minute trip-hop like vocal section building up to a wonderfully epic chorus, it ends with an 8 minutes instrumental 'King Crimson in space' closing. The ending 'Happy Returns/Ascendant' suite is the type of ballad we've come to expect as a Wilson album closer. It's ok but he's done better.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is an album of contrasts touching almost any style Wilson explored before, with some new angles on top. The main schism for me is between the (unbearable) old-school poprock of the first half and a second part that is rather dark and crammed with instrumental workouts. I must say I'm surprised of the very positive reception it got, I had taught more people would be struggling to make sense of the contrasting styles and moods on offer. Maybe Wilson's fans developed very eclectic (schizoid?) mindsets over the years.

Bonnek | 3/5 |


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