Friday, February 27, 2009


For those who are well acquainted with the music of Steven Wilson, you know that he never does anything halfway. Whether it be with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, IEM, No-Man, Bass Communion, or one of his many collaborations, Mr. Wilson is not one to disappoint. You know you are in for a poignant and awe-inspiring monolith of an experience whenever you listen to something with his name on it, and these were my expectations for his first solo album, Insurgentes. Incredibly, he has topped himself again and exceeded all expectations.
Insurgentes received an official release February 24th, but a very limited special edition (which I happened to get my hands on) came out this past November. This edition comes packaged in a hardback book with 120 pages of high-quality photos taken during the recording of Insurgentes and the filming of the accompanying documentary, set for release later this year. The majority of the photos were taken by Danish photographer Lasse Hoile, with other contributions by Carl Glover and Susana Moyaho. The package itself is beautiful. The album was recorded all over the world, with major portions recorded in Mexico and Israel, and the documentary follows Mr. Wilson as he records the album and explores these foreign countries. As he wanders about the globe, he meets with important figures in music, such as producer Trevor Horn, and discusses how music has fallen in the MP3 generation. In this he discusses the issues of album artwork, quality of sound in MP3's versus vinyl, and how much attention is given to music when downloaded for free versus when it is carefully chosen and invested in. Wilson explains how when he was young, he had only enough money for one record a month. This record had to be carefully chosen, and was listened to over and over to pull any sort of inspiration possible from this record in which his time was invested. "Nowadays," Wilson says "if a kid hears about Pink Floyd or the Beatles and wants to check them out, he can go online and download all their albums, doesn't cost him a penny, he can listen to a few tracks and, if it doesn't jump out at him immediately, delete it." He explains how this instant access allows us to dismiss something just as easily as we obtain it. 
Now for the music itself, which is some of Wilson's best and most diverse. The opening track, "Harmony Korine," begins with a melancholic verse leading to a soaring chorus showcasing Mr. Wilson's flawless falsetto and bringing to mind the music of Sigur Ros. The next, "Abandoner," has an electronic feel straight out of a Nine Inch Nails album. "No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun" brings the prog fashions of King Crimson to mind, and the album closes with a simple piano ballad featuring Steven Wilson on piano and vocals and Michiyo Yagi playing an 18 string bass koto. Other guest musicians on this illustrious release include Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, King Crimson bassist Tony Levin, vocalist Clodagh Simonds, and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison. This album is more than just another cd; it has a legacy, and is easily one of the greatest accomplishments in music in the last few decades. For those who are more curious, visit .

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