Steven Wilson To The Bone

 


The announcement was clear: “don’t expect the same old stuff”.  And, bearing in mind that, leaving the K-Scope and signing with Caroline (The Universal giant), Steven Wilson had already alarmed his beloved fans afraid of a mainstream direction, we can clearly understand the tsunami which hit the progressive rock world; yeah, with “To The Bone” we are clearly turned into Progressive POP…”Pop” for God’s sake. We’ve all thought so…Mistrust and curiosity blend together with expectations in a prog world which has always been one of the most difficult in the music scene, drawing inspiration from his idols such as Prince, The E.L.O, Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, Talk Talk. But the word “Pop” blew the nostalgic fans minds out. Fans who were born with the Porcupine Tree and thanks to his psychedelic works.
It is a challenge, more with himself than with his audience, for one of the most representative artist of the modern Prog. He decided to create a total brand new album, completely different from the other,  taking an advantage from the general shock in which he left his public .This work underlines his capacity of doing what he wants and what he likes hoping it would be well accepted.
These are the preconditions of “To The Bone”, his 5th album which will be released on the 18th of August this year. Four songs have already been broadcasted with the intention to get used to that sound. And, we all know, it hasn’t been so easy: the duets, the chorus and his waist up videos confused our minds ; with  “Permanating” we really got worried! An assault to our ears. But he is always Steven Wilson, ladies and gentlemen, and he doesn’t like our mistrust: In fact the rest of the album breaks out like a rainbow after the storm making us understand that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Even if it is far from our memories of him. 
You have to listen to the songs more and more to get into his new world, to shape his new ideas and then you can understand that maybe we are not listening to an english pop tribute,  his intention was giving his trademark to a genre which was disappearing from the music scene, the real Pop which, in its real meaning, was something in which everyone could rely on. This new genre challenge himself with an experimentation.
The result has been a multifaceted album from the point of views both of style and topics faced, from the concept of truth, to the terrorism and existential questions.
The first track , “To The Bone”, introduces ourselves to this new Wilson’s adventure, a mixture of Prog and Pop styles: bas rythm/ rolling  drums and ’80 guitar sound. An easy track to set in mind, which swallows to a Wilsonian  solo guitar made of dreamlike atmospheres we knew with his former album “Hand. Cannot.Erase”
Going on there’s “Nowhere now”, which you can listen in one shot: Wilson’s voice is an intro to  an instrumental melancholic, a bittersweet nostalgia moment . This track  goes on without any particular interruption, with an easy going way towards the end where the drums frees itself to express movement to underline the musical message. Its closure is made of Wilson’s piano and voice. Hard to forget…
“Pariah”is the first track we listened. It winks to Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. The duet between Steven Wilson and Ninet Tayeb is clear and clean, full of pathos until it breaks with the female voice which divides the two main parts, the instrumental one and the vocal one as “Insurgentes”.
 “The Same Asylum As Before”: The Wilson’s falsetto gives an English pop  mark, very light and positive, givin’ chance to the guitar and strings section to sway our thoughts. It’s definitely a massive hit.
 “Refuge” is a total different style; it is absolutely the dreamlike digression of this album, starting with the piano and with Wilson’s controlled voice and it takes us to a drumming crescendo towards the epic harmonica of Mark Feltham and the solo guitar of Paul Stacey, enchanting, and our thoughts seem to blend in the air.. it is the most emotional track of the album without any doubt, with a nostalgic and armonic fading-out effect with the piano.
The sixth track is the accused “Permanating”:we can listent to Abba, E.L.O and so on in it, a real fusion of dance pop which sadly follows the poetic “Refuge”  but yes, it makes sense: Wilson tells us that it represents our refuge to escape from reality and it wants to express moments in which we desire to be free. As the video suggest. We watch Bollywood dancers in a fresh dance.
“Permanating” is still the weak link from the musical point of view but it’s deeply profund for the reflections that it gives us.
Through “Blank Tapes”, with the Ninet voice, we arrive at “People who eat darkness”:a light rock and roll track with a growing rythm marked by the open wide drums and the bass and guitar blending together. The instrumental final calls back to “Home invasion” in “Hand.Cannot.Erase.” The listening  is really enjoyable…..maybe too much.
Here is  “Song Of I”, the third track we listened at the beginning with the contribution of Sophie Hunger: with a sensual and lilting rythm and an hypnotic video, we feel we are listening to some Prince dark electric stuff however, for the turnover between closing and open sound, we can find  clearly an echo to  the dark atmosphere of “Harmony Korine”.
"...Finally with "Detonation" the explosion of Wilson's eclecticity occurs: the strong imprint of funky-jazz prog shows itself in an instrumental crescendo that culminates in David Kollar's masterpiece. Mr. Wilson's ability to keep alive the attention and tension until the last seconds of the piece reaches his full accomplishment here...His fans could relief themeselves among these overwelming sounds which climax reaches the peak of the entire album.
But it isn’t the end: “Song Of Unborn” takes us, on the final act, to the Porcupine Tree alienate atmospheres, with an eye on “H.C.E”. A melancholic tone spreads all over the track allowing us to taste what we heard before.
It’s a logical conclusion, the calm between the storm, a relaxing moment after so many astonishing emotions; it’s the final crow  of  “The Raven That Refused To Sing”, it’s the Happy Return of “Hand.Cannot.Erase”. It’s the nostalgia for the time passed but also the excitment for what is going to come.
What you lived is enough? Are you satisfied with the listening? I hope so, because   that’s me. To the bone. Me looking at myself. Me, Steven Wilson.
No backwards steps but a forward one. A desire to overcome art, a will to go beyond it to match what he has always been to the others different from his creation of music  and intentions.
We challenge who loves Steven Wilson to not love To The Bone which is going to be a milestone among his musical path.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Review by Lucia Grammatico, Translate by Simona Faiella and Cristina Negri.
Graphic elements are from CSS Zen Garden theme by Pierre Antoine Viallon (Creative Commons license), Lasse Hoile and Porcupine Tree.