This album (EP, actually) from Steven Wilson is named 4 ½ because it is an 'interim release' between Steven Wilson's fourth album Hand.Cannot.Erase (see review) and his upcoming fifth studio album. It contains songs that didn't make it to the Hand.Cannot.Erase album which was released in 2015, plus a song that was meant for the album The Raven That Refused To Sing (2013, see review). A lot of members who were involved with Wilson's solo band over the years are contributing on the album; Adam Holzman (keyboards/piano), Nick Beggs (bass/Chapman stick), Guthrie Govan (guitars), Dave Kilminster (guitars), Craig Blundell (drums and percussion), Marco Minnemann (drums & percussion), Chad Wackerman (drums and percussion), and Theo Travis (flute/saxophone). The album is 37 minutes long, it could almost go for a full album.
I wasn't really sure about Hand.Cannot.Erase. It's a good album, but not Steven Wilson's best work in my opinion. When I first heard this album I was very surprised, I thought “Why didn't those songs ever made it to Hand.Cannot.Erase? This is beautiful!” This album keeps its tempo and continuity, something that I missed on the previous album. Some songs contain good conceived theme changes. Those theme changes really lead to somewhere, something which Steven is very experienced in.
The album couldn't start better with the track My Book Of Regrets. This song carries a positive vibe and the ambiance of Hand.Cannot.Erase. After two and a half minutes the musical theme changes and the song becomes more edgy. The bass is also really present in the mix which I quite like. After five minutes the song gives you some air to breathe again which is supervised by a splendid guitar solo later on in the track. After eight minutes the song goes back to the same theme as the intro. Second track Year Of The Plague starts calm and serene. It's an instrumental track which contains a piano, violin and guitar. It's very emotional music. Happiness III is my favourite from the album and gives me goosebumps. It starts with only an acoustic guitar and Steven Wilson singing, but after half a minute the track opens up and becomes really bombastic. The song has a surprising fade out while you would expect a solid end of the song. This could have been a great Porcupine Tree track from their Lightbulb Sun (2000) period for example. Sunday Rain Sets In is another instrumental track. The music and atmosphere reminds me of several songs from Steven Wilson's albums Grace For Drowning (2011) and The Raven That Refused To Sing. It's the shortest track on the album. Vermillioncore is, just like the previous one, an instrumental track. The song set-up reminds me a bit of the track No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun from Wilson's album Insurgentes (2008). The song starts dark, and has a very cool bass riff. After 2 minutes the bass is getting louder and more distorted. The bass guitar sound reminds me of the track Luminol from The Raven That Refused To Sing. Last track Don't Hate Me is actually a Porcupine Tree song which you can find on the album Stupid Dream (1999). This is a complete new version of the well-known song. This version comes close to the original version, you can still hear the original elements in it. The chorus, however, is sung by female vocalist Ninet Tayeb instead of Steven Wilson himself. The flute solo, which you can hear on the original, is replaced by a keyboard (Rhodes) solo. Luckily the saxophone solo is still there, which sound comes very close to the original one.
This album is a must have for everyone who can appreciate Steven Wilson's music. If you weren't convinced by Hand.Cannot.Erase, just like me, then this is an album you really should listen to this and become convinced. This EP is wonderful and promising. I can't wait to hear Steven Wilson's official fifth studio album because of this.
***** Iris Hidding (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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