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I.E.M. - Arcadia Son CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.43 | 42 ratings

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4 stars Steven Wilson's musical persona is said by some to be divided between his vast array of projects (more than 8, if you count Continuum and Storm Corrosion), but it is actually the equivalent of having eight musicians into a single body. All his projects, many of them being worked upon simultaneously, and spanning very different origins (Blackfield, for example is mainly based in Tel Aviv), reside in a world of their own, even if they share Wilson's compositional traits, and characteristic aspects of the kind of music they release.

IEM, as is known, is Wilson's Krautrock/Cosmic Jazz outlet, and one in he is virtually beyond recognition (if judged by Porcupine Tree standards). In it, Steven is completely uninhibited by any sort of songwriting theme, or structure, or time limit (precisely the reason why there were so few IEM albums). Not that this is unique to IEM, or that any of his projects sees him inhibited by anything at all, but this fact is the very driving force behind IEM, and Arcadia Son is a very good example of it.

Arcadia Son is an album that has a very clear path in terms of exercising IEM's influences, and in the kind of structure used in their songs. While it is nothing unlike IEM, it is perhaps the most "normal" IEM album by pop music standards.


WRECK: An intro? A teaser? Wilson starts off Arcadia Son in pure IEM fashion, true to its influences. A very random, erratic intro that has no seeming structure or sense at all. The tempo-less drums, the erratic notes on the sax and the purely chaotic feel to this minute-and- a-half opener is a very good description of the album, but it is rather vague, and thus invites you to listen.

BETH KRASKY: IEM is known to release things like this. This track is simply Beth Krasky (anyone know who she is?) speaking about her likes in music and her abilities therein. It's not really a song, but it does contribute to that uninhibited beauty that is customary in IEM.

WE ARE NOT ALONE: Anyone who doesn't like songs that aren't songs would have ejected the CD by now, just when Steven comes in greatly with this simply exquisite song. A song clearly inspired in 60s and 70s cosmic jazz, We Are Not Alone is a sort of jam that is bass- guitar-based, with a very catchy drum set line, and somewhat disturbing apocalyptic announcements carried by Wilson's voice, which is constantly tweaked with, high- or low- pitched, slowed and sped up. The musicians seem to really be enjoying themselves and the song has an awesome atmosphere to it, that sort of cosmic, empty feeling that is really relaxing and makes for a great listen.

CICADIAN HAZE: Theo Travis' flute is the big star here. Over a percussion and bass line, and on top of a vast array of pads and textures created by the masterful Wilson, Travis shines with his melodically beautiful but erratic flute tirades, and delights us with six minutes of his wonderfully proficient playing. Though the atmosphere is not as evident as in We are not Alone, Cicadian Haze does a good job of keeping you there and creating a very calm mood in the album.

POLITICIAN: Another rarity if you will, this is merely a minute-long track with a sort of Bossa Nova music and heavy breathing, moaning and groaning (which heightens itself to climax at the end of the track) that is clearly sexual, and reminiscent of old time pornographic movies. The music, again is kind of Bossa-ish, and could be labeled with "Elevator music". It's weird, but it's there to create the atmosphere IEM is known for.

ARCADIA SON: The title track is a very nice, structured piece of music in which the drums and bass serve as a seemingly monotonous and unchanging foundation to Wilson's effected guitars, the echoes and reverbs galore, and again, Theo Travis' masterful jazz inspired flute. Arcadia Son is very much in the vein of We Are Not Alone, albeit a bit more structured and less reliant on its atmosphere.

SHADOW OF A TWISTED HAND ACROSS MY HOUSE: Well it had to come. A 20-minute piece that is fast-paced and tension-plagued, with mellotron voices creating a sense of angst that is made into a pulsating urge by the bass and the drums. After eight minutes, we are left with an organ that starts to move around, and fades into a very suspenseful set of textures with pads, mellotrons, the organ itself, and several noises which are very much like Bass Communion, albeit much less chaotic. Then the tempo comes back with a melodic line that creates more of that tension and ends the song without resolving it. This is a dense and hard to digest piece, but it really is a good listen. I think it could have been shorter, but it is very good.

GOLDILOCKS AGE 4: Is this Steven Wilson at age 4 telling the story of that bear family? It seems like it. A rarity started the album, and a rarity ends it. This is simply that: a little boy telling the story of Goldilocks (the part when the bears come into the house and see everything where and how it shouldn't be), that ends abruptly and without prior notice, giving the album a very strange end. This is IEM, and this is something you have to get used to if you listen to their music.

OVERALL: Arcadia Son is a terrific album. It explores influences in a way that is so free and so careless that makes for an amazing listen (especially with those tracks that do have a musical structure). Wilson sets himself free in the studio by adding quite a lot of his production magic, sometimes even shadowing the instruments and the music itself. This is a very likeable album, although very unlike anything else Steven does (which can be said about any of his projects). Four stars for this. Not five because I think it is an album that really requires much concentration to analyse, and sometimes less density is good, especially in the minimalistic music it was inspired by (take Neu! as an example). But I love this album, and I love IEM. It is simply breathtaking in every aspect, and this album is no exception.

Juan.Pablo.Gonzalez | 4/5 |


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