Steven Wilson, Kscope, $11.99
Without eulogising, we can safely say that Steven Wilson is to prog rock what Bach or Beethoven are to classical music. The musical savant, after conducting a score of different acts has been concentrating on his solo eponymous project. His latest offering, eschewing his usual policy of having a concept or a story, is a luminous addition to his oeuvre.
In 4 ½, a mini-album with six tracks, clocking in at a short but powerful 37 minutes, Wilson doesn’t so much make music as he creates six individual soundscapes, each with its own contours. Still not eulogising.
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My book of regrets, despite its title, starts off the album with nine minutes of steadily progressive sound, reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, the band he founded, with its lilting rock ballad quality. Wilson appropriately finishes the song with the line, Don’t let it bring you down, just wait till the morning comes. The plague, coming next, is less ebullient, almost melancholic, with strings and synth coming together for a little over four minutes. But it ends well, as it leads to Happiness III, a pop rock track with a rather atavistic spirit.
When Sunday rain sets in, it adds a noir quality to the EP. It’s a smoky, mysterious number with just the appropriate amount of menace. All one needs is a sepia-toned setting and a girl in a diaphanous dress to complete the effect. The musical denouement, as in all good pulp fiction, follows with a crash and a wallop, in this case, of the cymbals and piano. Even without the girl, this is our favourite number.
A threatening bass line carries on the noir quality to the next track, Vermillioncore, at least for a while. Then it gravitates towards a heavy progressive sound, guitar frets flaring and drums thudding, the music rather evocative of Wilson’s good friends, the Swiss progressive metal act Opeth.
The almost aggressive instrumental gives way to Don’t hate me.Just like the first track, the last track has a plaintive quality, getting us back to Porcupine Tree. Indeed it is a hybridised version of various studio recordings by the band. Israeli singer and songwriter Ninet Tayeb lends her vocals to the number, playing perfectly off Wilson’s vocal delivery, even as they both beg, Don’t hate me.