Steven Wilson’s star continues its meteoric rise through the Progressive Rock universe.
After a long career with Porcupine Tree and an excellent solo output he is also now well respected for his production work as remixer for the reissues of some of the classic Progressive Rock albums of our time. He topped this off by winning three prizes at the Progressive Music Awards held in London at the start of September, the event even making the mainstream BBC news site and appearing on their teletext service (which both surprised and pleased me when I read it).
Earlier in the year Wilson completed a very successful tour to support the Hand. Cannot. Erase. album and the release of Transience has arrived to coincide with the second leg which culminates at The Royal Albert Hall next week. A third European leg featuring more U.K. dates is scheduled for January and February 2016.
What we have with Transience is a strictly limited edition, one-off pressing, vinyl only release. The packaging comes with two LPs containing three sides of music, the fourth featuring an etching of the original handwritten sketches of the lyrics for Happy Returns. The double gatefold sleeve contains some new photos, the black and white front image and colour gatefold by Joe Del Tufo, the rear by Susana Moyaho.
Transience has been specially compiled by Steven Wilson as an introduction to his prolific solo output which is now spread across four solo releases and the Cover Version album. There are thirteen tracks here which are equally distributed across Insurgentes, Grace for Drowning and Hand. Cannot. Erase. with three songs apiece, The Raven that Refused to Sing providing two and Cover Version one. Lastly there is a solitary Porcupine Tree song in the shape of Lazarus from Deadwing. All of this adds up to over one hour of music.
Vinyl is my personal favourite listening medium and here, as one would expect from Steven Wilson, the mix is excellent. It is vibrant, clear and warm, with good definition between the instruments. Indeed the playing throughout is of the highest quality from musicians at the top of their game. The sleeve notes indicate that the players from the band that toured the U.K. earlier this year feature on Lazarus and the Hand. Cannot. Erase. tracks and having seen them live I know what these guys are capable of.
The tracks included show a very high quality of songwriting, construction and delivery. There is beauty and wonderfully crafted melodies, no more so than on Deform to Form a Star where the guitar rises up from the song in such a heart-warming way. The only exception to this would be the inclusion of Index which has a sharper edge to it than some of the other songs, although this is not a criticism. The one surprise could be the cover of Alanis Morissette’s Thank You; I find this track of real interest as Steven has presented a cover that is significantly different to the original, to the point that you almost forget it was originally recorded by someone else. The singles Harmony Korine and Postcard are included here alongside a new edit of the track Transience taken from Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Perhaps the highlight of this package is the new recording of Porcupine Tree’s Lazarus. This version is based on the live recording from the tour, overdubbed and edited by Steven in his studio during July 2015. Having heard this played by the live band it is difficult (for these ears) to spot the overdubs, maybe this is indicative of his production and mixing skills. This track demonstrates the collective abilities of his band and gives the listener a small taster of what they can do live, but as most of these selections are taken from Wilson’s solo output there is a long list of guest musicians who feature throughout and the major ones are listed below.
I previously mentioned that this compilation is meant as an introduction to Steven Wilson’s prolific solo output. The songs do appear to be the more accessible ones so there is some truth to this and I feel it is a good place to start, but it is likely to be restrictive to the chance listener/purchaser due to its format choice. That is not to say that selecting vinyl was a poor decision, indeed I am sure this edition will sell out quickly by appealing to vinyl enthusiasts and fan completists alike and that is at whom this release is ultimately aimed. Perhaps a more comprehensive compilation may follow in time covering the broader spectrum of Steven’s work and on the full range of formats but I would recommend this release if you are a Steven Wilson fan and, in particular, a vinyl fanatic as a well presented, excellent sounding piece of work. Here’s hoping he will do the same with some of his longer, more challenging pieces. I for one would buy those on vinyl.
01. Transience (Single Version (3:10)
02. Harmony Korine (5:07)
03. Postcard (4:27)
04. Significant Other (4:31)
05. Insurgentes (3:54)
01. The Pin Drop (5:01)
02. Happy Returns – edit (5:11)
03. Deform to Form a Star (Edit) (5:53)
04. Thank You (4:39)
01. Index (4:47)
02. Hand. Cannot. Erase. (4:13)
03. Lazarus (2015 Recording) (3:57)
04. Drive Home (7:33)
Total time – 62:23
Steven Wilson – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
~ with (on tracks B1, B2, C2, C3, C4):
Nick Beggs – Chapman Stick
Guthrie Govan – Slide Guitar
Adam Holzman – Piano, Hammond Organ
Marco Minnemann – Drums
~ additional musicians:
Pat Mastelotto – Drums (track C1)
Gavin Harrison – Drums (tracks A2, A4)
Tony Levin – Bass (tracks A4, B3)
Dave Gregory – Additional Guitar (tracks B2, C2)
Jordan Rudess – Piano (track B3)
Ninet Tayeb – Backing vocals (track C2)
Record Label: Kscope Music
Release Date: 11th September 2015