It’s not often that I am gobsmacked by a new release but the new album from no-man, the Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness project, left me quite a bit dumb-founded on first listen.
Like some strange symbiosis of 80’s pop, 90’s dance music and noughties prog, Love You To Bits wasn’t what I was expecting from prog’s standard bearer – Wilson – and the master of cool – Bowness…
The new album, the first studio release in eleven years consists of two connected five-part pieces (Love You To Bits and Love You To Pieces), was twenty-five years in the making and lyrically chronicles the aftermath of a relationship from different perspectives.
Adam Holzman, David Kollar, Ash Soan, Pete Morgan and the Dave Desmond Brass Quintet guest. Produced by no-man, the album was mixed by Bruno Ellingham and mastered by Matt Colton.
Steven Wilson has been very successful at re-inventing progressive rock over recent years and, with his long-term partner in crime Mr Bowness, it appears that they have decided to re-invent what would be considered ‘pop’ music to most ears.
And, to my utmost astonishment, it actually bloody works (I make no apologies for the expletive, I was that surprised!). Using the velvety, comforting tones of Tim’s excellent vocals over an EDM/electronica inspired back-beat is just genius. There’s a vibrancy that is absent from a lot of today’s music, be it pop, progressive or whatever, it just leaves a huge grin on my face.
This inventive and entertaining album never fails to surprise at every turn with elements of pulsating fusion and a wistful and poignant ambience interspersed with crashing guitars and edgy drumbeats.
I have no idea what Steven and Tim were on when they came up with the idea for this pulsating masterpiece but, by golly, can they please give some to the rest of what is becoming a very moribund music scene.
Love You To Bits is a utterly fascinating and overwhelmingly entertaining musical adventure with superb dynamism and a diversity rarely seen in the strictures of conventional music.
Just do yourselves a favour and go and buy it, you will not regret it!
It appears I may have dropped the ball big style when it comes to Blackfield and I’m big enough to admit my mistakes, no matter how bad they are!
I always dismissed this collaboration between the legend that is Steven Wilson and Israeli songwriter and musician Aviv Geffen as not for me (yes, pretentious on my part, I know!), considering it monotonous and well, boring! How wrong can you be eh? After listening to this compilation from their five albums it dawned on me that they are actually really rather good!
‘The collaboration, extending from their self-titled debut in 2004 to their superb return with album V produced with Alan Parsons in 2017, has proven to be a prolific partnership for creating striking and affecting music.’
Erm, yes, the promotional material hits the proverbial nail smack bang on the head, it is extremely striking and very, very affecting. I could go on about all fifteen tracks on the album but I’ll just tell you the ones that really stand out for me. Opener Blackfield, the uber-smooth and emotive 1000 People, the energetic and dynamic Oxygen, my personal favourite How Was Your Ride with its surfeit of soul and oh so cool strings and vocals, From44 to 48, the heartfelt Faking, the pared back brilliance of Dissolving With the Night, honestly, as collections go, it really doesn’t get much better than this.
‘Perhaps the debut album’s Lasse Hoile cover art—a bottled elixir lurking in the gloomy shadows of an apothecary—signifies that Blackfield is a dark medicine to be administered through the listener’s ear.’
I don’t know who writes this promo stuff but, damn, they’re good and so is the music, perhaps Steven Wilson himself puts it best:
“Blackfield appealed to me because it was a chance to focus firmly on the art of the classic pop song with concise songs and strong melodies, harmonies, orchestration, and a very lush ‘golden’ production.”
If, like me, you have never thought Blackfield worthy of your attention then please, please heed my advice, get your hands on this new collection and enjoy every single note!
The best of the peerless collaboration between Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen. Features 15 essential tracks, including “Blackfield”, “Once”, “Family Man” and “Pain”.
Blackfield is the collaboration between Israeli songwriter and musician Aviv Geffen, and British musician and producer Steven Wilson. The collaboration, extending from their self-titled debut in 2004 to their superb return with album V produced with Alan Parsons in 2017, has proven to be a prolific partnership for creating striking and affecting music.
The pair makes for a formidable musical force; Geffen has worked with legendary producers Tony Visconti and Trevor Horn, has also recently performed with and hosted Jake Bugg, played as support for Biffy Clyro, and was a judge on the Israeli TV show The Voice. Wilson, after a long tenure as the leader of the hugely influential band Porcupine Tree, has since embarked on a highly successful solo career, most recently earning a #3 album in the UK Charts and #2 in the DE Charts, as well 4 Grammy nominations.
This collection, curated by Wilson and Geffen, selects the best works from an impressively rich Blackfield catalogue with each of the five records combining both sweet and tart elements. It’s an uncommonly potent mixture. Perhaps the debut album’s Lasse Hoile cover art—a bottled elixir lurking in the gloomy shadows of an apothecary—signifies that Blackfield is a dark medicine to be administered through the listener’s ear. There’s no recipe on the aged and frayed label of the bottle. Yet some lyrical ingredients can be discerned within the mix: Take a dash of childhood memory, sprinkle in some heartbreak, pour in a drop of blood from an open vein, add a pinch of angry conscience (carefully weighed), puree the dew of a kiss, and then garnish with the bitter tears of adult disillusionment. Stir carefully and name it after the very first Blackfield collaboration: “Open Mind”.
Steven Wilson – “Blackfield appealed to me because it was a chance to focus firmly on the art of the classic pop song with concise songs and strong melodies, harmonies, orchestration, and a very lush ‘golden’ production.”
Open Mind, featuring new artwork by Hajo Müller will be released on 28th September 2018 on CD / LP and is available to pre-orderHERE
Aviv Geffen, the Israeli singer/songwriter as one half of the rock duo Blackfield with prolific British musician Steven Wilson, is taking their critically acclaimed studio album ‘V’ on a new 9-date European tour in January 2018. Following the successful Spring 2017 tour, which saw a surprise appearance from Steven Wilson on the UK dates, European shows with Biffy Clyro and shows with Jake Bugg, Aviv Geffen has answered the many fan requests for more live performances.
Blackfield’s beloved music was recently celebrated with reissues of their classic first two albums on vinyl and CD, with the second also being remastered by Steven Wilson.
Their latest album ‘Blackfield V’, was written and recorded over 18 months in both Israel and England, and contains 13 linked songs that form a flowing 45 minute ocean themed song cycle. The duo expertly handle the vocals, guitars, and keyboards, with Tomer Z from the Blackfield band on drums, Eran Mitelman on keys, and string arrangements performed by the London Session Orchestra. ‘Blackfield V’ is a powerful journey through catchy melodies, lush arrangements, and stunning production, with legendary producer / engineer Alan Parsons working on three of the album’s key tracks.
The pair make for a formidable musical force; Geffen has worked with legendary producers Tony Visconti and Trevor Horn, has played live with U2 and Placebo, and is currently a judge on the Israeli TV show The Voice. Wilson, after a long tenure as the leader of the hugely influential band Porcupine Tree, has since embarked on a highly successful solo career, achieving 3 UK top 40 albums (the most recent also making the top 3 in Germany, and The Netherlands), and 4 Grammy nominations.
For the release of their latest album ‘V’,Blackfield revealed two music videos, created by long time collaborator Lasse Hoile (www.lassehoile.com), for the Wilson-penned “From 44 to 48” and for “Lonely Soul”.
Steven Wilson has announced details of a new digital album, due for release on 1st December via Caroline International. ‘Last Day of June’ is the official soundtrack to the critically acclaimed PS4/Windows game of the same name.
Inspired entirely by the visuals and ideas from the video for Steven’s 2013 single Drive Home, ‘Last Day Of June’ is soundtracked by music from Steven’s first four albums – Insurgentes, Grace for Drowning, the Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) and Hand. Cannot. Erase. – and his electronic/ambient project Bass Communion. All of the tracks included are specially re-edited instrumental versions created exclusively for the game (and this subsequent soundtrack), including alternate versions of Steven Wilson classics including Routine, The Raven That Refused To Sing and Deform to Form a Star. The result is a series of mesmeric, minimalist musical snapshots, each deeply evocative of autumnal melancholia.
Steven Wilson on ‘Last Day Of June’: “A couple of years ago I was asked if I’d be ok with some of the ideas from the video for Drive Home being used for the basis for a computer game. They wanted to explore further the characters that Hajo Müller drew so beautifully and that director Jess Cope gave life to. I had no idea how it might work, but was happy to let them show me. The game grew out of my music and that original video.
It’s been one of my long held ambitions to score a movie. In a way I feel like I’ve done it now. After sequencing these tracks – recorded all over the world with different musicians – it was amazing how much it felt like they were all written specifically for one cinematic project. I’d never thought computer games could be ‘art’ before – having seen and experienced Last Day Of June, I’m now convinced they can be.”
‘Last Day Of June’ tracklisting:
Some Things Cannot Be Changed
That Day by The Pier
There Must Be A Way
The Last Day Of June
Suspended In Me
I’m Still Here…
The Boy Who Lost His Friends
Time For A New Start
Suspended In You
Under The Shadow Of My Father
Together, Forever Again
Steven Wilson’s fifth album To The Bone was released in August this year. It charted at No 3 in the UK and No 2 in Germany and was top 10 across the continent. Steven sets out on a previously announced world tour in January – the UK leg takes in three nights at the Royal Albert Hall in March (27th – 29th).
A long awaited welcome re-issue from the 4th album by the No-Man pairing of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson, ‘Returning Jesus’ was the follow up to 1996’s ‘Wild Opera’, and was originally released in 2001, which was quite a big gap for the group, due to Steven Wilson’s profile raised somewhat by the success of Porcupine Tree no doubt.
Fully remastered and expanded to a double disc set, including a new remaster by Steven Wilson of the album, and plenty of b-sides, EP material and unreleased tracks, this is the definitive edition you might say.
As a connoisseur of remastered products, particularly those where Steven Wilson has been given a free hand, it’s a little disappointing that there isn’t a 5.1 mix, as No-Man records are perfect for 5.1 (the mix on ‘Together We’re Stronger’ for instance is sublime) still, that’s my only quibble with the reissuing, and as ever it should always be about the music and not the medium.
It’s hard to talk about ‘Returning Jesus’, as I tried it once but didn’t have the receipt, so Jesus is now living in my cupboard, still it’s nearly his birthday so I might get him out then…
I digress, the music maketh the album, and this is an excellent example of the collaborative skills of Bowness & Wilson, I have long stated the opinion that Tim Bowness is one of the finest vocalists around today, and having seen him perform with Henry Fool and his own solo shows, I can without a doubt keep repeating that opinion without fear of contradiction. Here, the beautifully haunting low key, almost minimalism of the opener OnlyRain (which features performances from guests like Ben Christopher (guitar) the late Ian Carr (on plaintive trumpet) and David Kosten (synths) is the perfect symbiosis of Bowness’ vocals and Wilson’s music, the slow build and the evocative imagery is sublime.
The hauntingly wistful No Defence is one of those song stories that Tim specialises in lyrically and with some wonderful trumpet from Ian Dixon, it is another one of those wonderful No-Man songs that could be from a soundtrack.
In fact No-Man specialise in making movies using music, and these albums with their evocative lyrics and sublime widescreen performances transcend the normal, and take music into a different stratosphere.
(Both pictures of Steven and Tim by Carl Glover)
I adore the work of No-Man, and love the trilogy of albums that Tim has done recently, however I understand that this kind of music is very much mood music, you have to be in the right space mentally and emotionally to listen to No-Man, and bittersuite slow burners that grow like Close Your Eyes (8 minutes long on the main event, 7 minutes on the EP version from 1998 included here in the bonus tracks) is one of those heartwrenching songs that will either have you sobbing with the melancholy, or fill you with some kind of uplifting joy, and the guitar solo in there is an absolute belter by the way.
Music like this from No-Man seems to grow organically, and the length of the tracks show this, the shortest Slow it All Down being cut from the 5 minute demo on the 2nd disc to a 3:43 song on the actual album. I know some people think bonus tracks that weren’t originally released , were unreleased for a reason, but as an anorak I do like hearing demos and seeing how the final piece ended, it gives an interesting insight into the songwriting process, and whilst for some it’s the equivalent of breaking the 4th wall, for others it’s a part of the process we don’t always see, and I don’t see it as breaking the spell, for that reason the 5 demos on disc 2 are an interesting place to visit.
The fact that only 2 songs clock in at under 5 minutes shows how the music on this album grows into itself, there’s plenty of soft sounds and spaces that give the music room to live and breathe, and is very much a fantastic example of where less is more.
The star of the record is undoubtedly Tim Bowness’ vocals, and Steven Wilson sensibly allows the music to build around these, and on this album (and their others) the lyrics are as important as the music, and lets face it, when you are making an album with Tim Bowness singing, you don’t want to drown his voice out in a sea of instrumentation do you?
Carolina Skeletons, with its wonderfully evocative title, it’s laid back groove and it’s reprise (Carolina Reprise on disc 2) is one of the standout songs on the album, and showcases all that is good about No-Man.
Returning Jesus, the title track is full of low fi percussion, bubbling electronica and metronomic beats that skitter and pulse, whilst Tim’s voice again pulls the song together, one of the more experimental tracks on the album, it seems to fit the flow, despite it jarring slightly in parts.
The fantastic Lighthouse, features guests like Theo Travis and Colin Edwin, whilst Steve Jansen (who drums throughout) out does himself here. The track builds and grows into an absolute treat throughout, foreshadowing Tim’s later solo work, and work with Henry Fool.
This album ebbs and flows throughout with sublime musical work, and Tim’s fantastic vocals, and I have always found that people either love No-Man or have never heard of them, this re-issue is an excellent place to dip your toe in if your new to the band, and as a long time fan, is a fantastic addition to the catalogue.
Originally released on the 3rd Stone label in February 2001, Returning Jesus is a collection of ambitious songs which combine Singer-Songwriter, Chamber Jazz, Progressive and Ambient influences with the band’s unique widescreen production and seductively melancholy compositions. Released two months following Steven Wilson‘s 2017 solo album To The Bone, which reached #3 in the UK charts, #2 in DE, #1 in FI, #4 in NL and CH, #7 in AT, #12 in BE, #14 in IT and #15 in NO, and following Tim Bowness‘ 2017 album Lost in the Ghost Light, which reached #5 in the UK Rock charts and #8 in the UK Progressive charts.
Returning Jesus received positive reviews in Q, Uncut, Billboard, Classic Rock and other publications at the time of its release and has continued to be seen by both critics and fans as one of the best albums by the duo of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson.
Guest musicians include Steve Jansen (Japan/Rain Tree Crow) on drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass and double bass, Theo Travis (Soft Machine) on saxophone and flute, and Ian Dixon on trumpet. The late trumpeter Ian Carr (Nucleus), David Kosten (Faultline, Bat For Lashes) and Ben Christophers contribute to the evocative opening piece “Only Rain”.
The double CD edition features a 2017 remaster from Steven Wilson and sleeve notes by Tim Bowness – and contains the original album, plus a bonus disc of b-sides, demos and alternate versions; plus additional artwork and photographs from regular No-Man collaborator Carl Glover. With the double 180g heavyweight audiophile double vinyl edition also featuring a 2017 remaster by Steven Wilson, packaged in a gatefold sleeve with additional artwork and photographs from Carl Glover.
(Picture of Tim and Steven also by Carl Glover.)
Listen to “Outside The Machine” here:
NO-MAN – RETURNING JESUS – TRACKLIST DETAILS (2CD VERSION )
‘Epiphany’ – now there’s a good word, it brings to mind realization and the awakening of the mind to something new. It can apply in all walks of life and situations but today we are using the word in relation to music and, in particular, the 1970’s legendary English progressive rock band Gentle Giant.
I must admit to being slightly miffed and betrayed by my prog-loving friends who have harped on about the relative merits of Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator (to name a few) with ne’er a mention of Gentle Giant, their educational skills have been found wanting in this case!
It’s not that I’d never heard of the band but that it was almost like rumours and last minute thoughts when the questions were asked about the great early prog bands. It was only when I was sent the promo of the Gentle Giant retrospective ‘Three Piece Suite’ that I really discovered the talents of this quite remarkable group of musicians.
‘Three Piece Suite’ is a specially curated selection of songs and compositions from the band’s first three albums (‘Gentle Giant’, ‘Acquiring The Taste’ and ‘Three Friends’) presented in both 5.1 surround sound and stereo, all remixed by Steven Wilson. The fact that there are only 9 tracks is due to the fact that these are the only songs known to exist as multi-tracks. Also included is a pre-debut track also remixed by Steven Wilson.
The undoubted re-mixing talents of Mr Wilson are put to excellent use on this album, adding extra layers to the tracks and subtleties never heard before. Add in the exhaustive liner notes by the incredibly knowledgeable Anil Prasad and you have a package worthy of long time fans of the band and those that are relatively new to them, like myself.
The first three tracks are all taken form the band’s debut release in 1970, ‘Gentle Giant’. Giant is a mighty bassline driven piece of jazz/prog which could only have come from the 70’s and, the band freely admits, is hugely influenced by Zappa. It is the first part of a creative manifesto for the band and is a bundle of nervous, almost psychedelic energy. With a definitive ‘wide-eyed’ vocal delivery it has an identity far from the likes of Yes and Genesis. Next comes Nothing At All, a nine-minute epic that opens with a delightfully simple acoustic guitar melody before alternating with a Sabbath-esque guitar riff and contains a classic chorus line. The story is that the recording wasn’t going so well until a break for a trip to the pub seemed to focus everyone’s mind on the task at hand and the three-and-a-half-minute drum solo and incandescent guitar would seem to confirm the tale at hand! Again, to my ears, this song is very different to what was originally considered progressive rock in those days and is what is really drawing me to the band. Highly inventive guitarist Gary Green came from a blues background and that is wholly evident on Why Not?, a track where the band are saying ‘Why not try something new as opposed to something commercially successful but that you’re not happy with?’ Edgy and funky with elements of orchestration and a passionate vocal, it is highlighted by the inspired solo and closing 12-bar blues-rock jam which showcase’s Green’s superb playing perfectly and has been on permanent repeat on my stereo.
The next two tracks are from Gentle Giant’s second release, ‘Acquiring The Taste’, released in 1971. A significantly more experimental album than the debut and one where the songs were written for the studio and not performed previously. This, combined with the band’s growing ambition, give a totally different feel to Pantagruel’s Nativity, a pretension and aspiration with its alien sounding Moog introduction, orchestration and subtle trumpet in the back ground give it a freshness and a truly progressive touch. The excellent distorted guitars and vocal harmonies also work so well that, when asked to describe what the band were all about in their early days, Multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear will always point people in the direction of this track. To my ears another heavily blues influenced track, ‘The House The Street, The Room’ is another vivid and vibrant piece of music and emerged from a fairly simple lyrical idea, according to Phil Shulman,
“The songs describes the place you went to score your drugs, that’s the essence of it.”
It is complex and maybe even crazy with some mind-bending guitar playing and uses 32 instruments in total. You almost feel like you’ve been affected by a legal substance while listening to it, it is ordered chaos but utterly captivating and mesmerising in places. I challenge you to listen to this and not have an inane grin creep across your face the further you get into the song. A wonderful piece of music that shows the confidence and self-belief that was growing within the band, the scope of their ambition seems to have no bounds.
1972’s ‘Three Friends’ contributes four tracks to this collection and was the album where the band took over all production duties from Tony Visconti and where new drummer Malcolm Mortimore joined. A more sentimental album which is evident in Schooldays, a song that focuses on the titular characters from thew album and where, as children, their lives care carefree and their hopes and ambitions were the stuff of whimsy. Lush and choral with some excellent orchestration, it is true progressive rock as a storytelling medium and has a whimsical feel as you look back on life with sepia tinged nostalgia. Peel The Paint takes a low key symphonic opening and leads it into hard-edged, heavy riff led, rock. The track is about peeling back the layers to show that even the calmest, most moral people can turn into anger-fueled monsters of hate. The music is dynamic and powerful and the vocals have the requisite fervor and intensity, intelligent progressive rock fused with high energy blues and heavy rock with a hypnotic guitar solo thrown in for good measure. The finale of this collection is Mr Class and Quality which segues into the title track of the band’s third album, Three Friends. The first part is an involving and complex song with a convoluted theme and intricate rhythm, it never seems to sit still with its skittish nature and sci-fi interludes. Yes, to a certain extent, it is classically trained musicians showing off but, when it is done this good, do you really care? The segue brings around a much more choral focused and anthemic track with sumptuous harmonies and an expansive sound driven by an elegant bassline, musical rapture indeed!
Freedom’s Child was a song that was written in the band’s first sessions in 1970 and yet didn’t make it onto the debut album. Originally written with a TV program in mind, the words were changed and a stylish vocal harmony added. To my ears, the use of a violin and this Beach Boys-like harmonies give it a sound non unlike early Kansas, it also has an innocence to it which was never replicated on any recorded work. For completeness, the CD also has a Steven Wilson 7″ edit of Nothing At All which, while a good track in its own way, seems to lose some of the fee of the full length version.
As musical epiphanies go, ‘Three Piece Suite’ has to be up there with the best. A band that really deserve more recognition have been brought to the forefront by Steven Wilson’s remixes but the brilliance and originality of the music was always there. A great package for long-term fans and those new to this wonderfully innovative collection of musicians.
Steven Wilson has announced details of a third and final show at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in 2018. He plays the venue on Thursday March 29th – his two previously announced shows there are sold out. Steven Wilson’s 2018 UK tour dates are:
Thu 15th Mar Warwick Arts Centre
Sat 17th Mar Belfast Mandela Hall
Mon 19th Mar Dublin Olympia Theatre
Wed 21st Mar Cardiff St David’s Hall
Thu 22nd Mar Birmingham Symphony Hall
Sat 24th Mar Glasgow Clyde Auditorium
Sun 25th Mar Gateshead Sage 1
Tue 27th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (sold out)
Weds 28th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (sold out)
Thu 29th Mar London Royal Albert Hall (NEW DATE)
Sat 31st Mar Manchester Bridgewater Hall (sold out)
Prior to the tour, Steven releases another track and brand new video. One of the many highlights of Steven’s recently released fifth album To The Bone, Nowhere Now is a gloriously soaring paean to the joys of everyday escapism. The video for the track was shot on location at and around Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma) in Chile – the world famous, high altitude radio telescope array. The video was directed and edited by Steven’s long time visual collaborator Lasse Hoile.
Steven’s fifth album To The Bone (Caroline International) was released to massive acclaim in August. Quotes from some of the reviews:
“Resolutely independent… the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of” The Telegraph
“A near perfect balance… flash & flamboyant with lovingly crafted big tunes” Mojo 4*
“An inimitable rabbit-hole of psychedelia” Planet Rock, 5*
“Lush and ambitious… insistently melodic” Uncut
“Wonderfully executed… pop brilliance” Q 4*
“The album we’ve been waiting for Steven Wilson to make… marries intelligence and ability with straightforward popular music with progressive overtones… astonishing” Record Collector 4*
“A fervent and meticulous tribute to the very notion of the song itself… Steven Wilson is consciously rehabilitating an approach to pop music that, let’s face it, is long overdue a widespread revival. And, as with everything else, he does it better than most” Prog (album of the month)
“To The Bone features squalls of furious guitars and occasional shifting time signatures… it’s artful, sophisticated pop-rock, channelling the favourites of his youth: Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring, Peter Gabriel’s So, and Tears For Fears’ Sowing The Seeds of Love” The Guardian
“His best and most complete solo album yet” Classic Rock 4*
“It’s a new challenge to keep changing your music. I like words like transformation, reinvention, and chameleon. Because one word I don’t like is predictable.”
I’m sort of paraphrasing a quote from Naomi Campbell there, I like the way that, to me, it seems to describe how I view Steven Wilson and his music.
There’s lots of words to describe this artist, challenging and pioneering are two but predictable he definitely is not! I was a big fan of Porcupine Tree but it took me a long time to become enamoured with his solo work and I’m still not a big fan of albums such as ‘Insurgentes’ and ‘Grace For Drowning’. While they were no doubt groundbreaking and forging a new way for his music, I didn’t subscribe to the hype at the time.
I’ve grown to love ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ and ‘Hand.Cannot Erase.’, although both were uneasy relationships at first. Through every release he has sought to change his style, not any major changes but subtle transitions that have transformed each piece of work.
Now comes possibly his most controversial work and one that seems to have split the music community in two, ‘To The Bone’.
After many years with Kscope Steven has now signed to Caroline International and his new album is described as:
“A gloriously dynamic modernist pop record as imagined by the UK’s biggest underground artist…”
There’s been a flurry of singles released from the album but I’m going to review it as whole and, with a break from tradition, I’m not going to dissect each track but just give a relatively short synopsis of how they feel to me after a few listens.
Let’s just say that ‘To The Bone’ is a really accessible album but one which also has longevity, the opening and title track To The Bone starts with a voice over before hitting you with something that is rather edgy, full of a funky guitar riff and with some rather tasty harmonica work that adds a driving pop-infused groove to the whole track. Nowhere Now seems like a homage to the bombastic 80’s stadium rock that was the forte of bands like U2 and can still be heard in the alternative rock of Foo Fighters today. A memorable, catchy chorus and some excellent guitar work are the icing on the cake.
The first single release from the album, Pariah,features the unforgettable tones of Ninet Tayeb and is a lush, cinematic piece of intelligent and emotive pop music. A song with a serious overtone and one which envelops the listener in a cosseting soundscape and fuzzy, dynamic guitars. It’s possibly the best song on this release and is immediately followed by another great track, The Same Asylum As Before. This time we’re treated to power chords and crunching riffs that are mingled with chiming pop sensibilities and a falsetto vocal (an abomination to some but I like them) to give an acute and perceptive discourse on the world we live in today.
Refuge is a slow burning, incredibly immersive piece of music that captures the imagination and draws the listener in to its dark world of sanctuary. Haunting and deeply meaningful, the music plays its part in giving the song an otherworldly, almost alien, edge especially with the squalling guitar and harmonica soliloquy and the slow, gentle ambience that closes out the track.
Now onto the marmite song on the album, Permanating is either a wonderful piece of modern, driving pop music, Mr Wilson’s homage to ABBA and E.L.O or empty, mindless pop. I fall firmly in the first camp and love the pastiche and the good feeling that emanates from every note. To each their own and I can see both viewpoints, make your own mind up on this one. Sepia tinged nostalgia drips from every note of the criminally short Blank Tapes, a song that channels Porcupine Tree to these ears. The heartfelt vocals and hushed, delicate music add a huge dose of pathos, just make it longer!
Post-punk Pop with clashing guitars and edgy vocals, People Who Eat Darkness is another fast-paced and hard living track that has hints of Steven’s earlier solo works. A toe tapping song with undertones of developing anger amid the quieter moments., it fits right in with the current mindset of this troubled world. Song Of I is ‘a story of unrepentant obsession set to a sharp-as-a-tack rhythm trackand an orchestral sandstorm’ and is the one track on the album that fails to reach the lofty ambitions of the others. It’s a track I have to be in the mood to listen to other wise it is just a meandering piece of music that seems to have no destination and is in no hurry to get there. Perhaps a victim of it’s own sagacity, it would be no detriment if it wasn’t included.
Detonation isthe longest song on the album at just over nine minutes and never outstays its welcome, building layer by layer of hypnotic and haunting music amid vocals that seem slightly disconnected and uneasy, it has a chilling tone. Primeval guitars and a discordant rhythm section add to the tense and agitated aura that pervades. A modern mystery where the answers always seem just out of reach. The album closes with the wistful grace of Song of Unborn with its touching chorus and sepia tinged ambience. A piece of music that almost makes you hold your breath before breaking out into a dynamic, soul-stirring wall of sound dominated by a solemn guitar solo.
‘To The Bone’ is intelligent,driving modern pop music with vibrant punk and rock roots and sees Steven Wilson cement his position in the music fraternity. Who’s to say his next release won’t be a 70’s disco-funk pastiche? And who’s betting that, even if it is, it won’t be as good as this striking new album.