STEVEN WILSON – Grace For Drowning [2CD] (2011)
Steven Wilson is one of the most prolific and talented rock musicians active today.
The frontman and driving engine for modern progressive rock icons Porcupine Tree and collaborator in the melancholy rock group Blackfield, is also developing a strong solo career and even found time recently to remix five vintage King Crimson albums for their deluxe reissue editions.
Indeed, in the last two years, the singer/multi-instrumentalist has been heard on the Porcupine Tree concept album ‘The Incident’, the Blackfield CD ‘Welcome To My DNA’ and on his solo disc ‘Insurgentes’.
“Grace For Drowning” is the second album released under Wilson’s own name, and builds on the artistic inroads he forged with his 2009s exceptionally well received previous effort.
This brand new double album also represents a milestone in audio fidelity as the first-ever new rock album released primarily as a Blu-Ray video disc, with music in high definition 5.1 surround sound and accompanying video content for every song, starring Wilson as well as excerpts from the recording, mixing and mastering sessions, presented in interactive formats that bring fans closer than ever to the production process.
This truly is Steve Wilson’s most ambitious musical project to date. Not only are the instrumentals simply superb but the layering of sounds creates such a wonderfully atmospheric experience reminiscent from the late 60’s to 70’s classic progressive rock music.
Steve managed to take the sounds and feelings of some of the best artists of that era while still making it distinctly his own. King Crimson, ELP and Jethro Tull are among some of the strong influences that this recording exudes.
The album features a bevy of talented musos: bassists Tony Levin, Nick Beggs and Trey Gunn (also on Warr Guitar), sax, flute and clarinet player Theo Travis, drummer Nic France and ex Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, among others. A London string orchestra and a choir were employed for some tracks and arranged by Dave Stewart.
“Grace For Drowning” is certainly a work of art.
The gentle, lullaby-esque title track begins the first disc in a disarmingly tranquil fashion before the riffs of instrumental “Sectarian” twist and turn in a style that would make Robert Fripp proud.
The piano led “Deform to Form a Star” is genuinely beautiful and the metallic trip-hop of “No Part of Me” makes for a bewildering detour.
By the time the first disc closes with the double header of “Raider Prelude” and “Remainder the Black Dog”, the album is veering into progressive jazz territory with delightful results. Yet despite the menagerie of influences and genres present nothing feels out of place.
The second disc again starts off gently with “Belle de Jour”, but progresses into disturbing territory on the creepy “Index” and into full on avant-garde jazz land on the mammoth twenty-three minute “Raider II”.
By the time “Like Dust I Have Cleared from My Eye” closes the album completely, Wilson has managed to lure the listener in not just with incredibly atmospheric soundscapes but also the odd genuine hook or two, and of course some incredible musicianship.
“Grace For Drowning” is not an album that will appeal to everyone. It is hard work at times and it takes a good few listens to fully appreciate, but the reward of perseverance is astonishing.
Although there are occasional moments of genuine heaviness, this is not a heavy record. Whilst some of Porcupine Tree’s recent albums could easily be filed in the metal section, this is an album that uses heaviness as a tool only sparingly, making it doubly effective.
Without doubt this is one of the most original records produced in many years and in years to come. It should, with any justice, be remembered as a landmark release by one of the world’s few true ground-breaking artists. The recording quality of the CD’s is excellent which isn’t surprising.
If you are a fan of progressive rock or genuinely good music in general, you owe it to yourself to pick up “Grace for Drowning” in any of the formats it will be offered in.
Steven Wilson – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Tony Levin – Bass, Stick
Nick Beggs – Bass
Trey Gunn – Bass, Warr Guitar
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
Theo Travis – Sax, Flute, Clarinet
Nic France – Drums
Add. recording made by musicians on location in the UK, USA and Germany
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