dinsdag 19 september 2017

To The Bone. Steven Wilson

The work ethic of Steven Wilson is huge. His solo output is a steady stream of music that is highly appreciated among prog and rock fans. His collaborations are just as steady going. There is one minor setback, I'm not a progrock fan in general, although there are noted exceptions.

Over the past years I read how good this man's work is. I gave several albums a try and usually I gave up quite soon. This music is just not for me. Wait, I hear you say, you wrote on '4 1/2' in 2016. Yes, I did, but is not all good, is it?

Come To The Bone. Again I read nothing but enthusiastic reviews lauding the man's work in general and To The Bone specifically. As I encountered the album in a digital postbox, I decided to give it a try and guess what? This is not the first time I'm listening while writing this review. Don't ask me why To The Bone is different. I just can't tell you. Fact is I like the album.

It starts with the light touch in the music. I recognise the songs as such and not as compositions containing the lengthy exercises of musical prowess that prog songs so often are. Several songs clock in under five minutes. Others under six. O.k., not all. It goes without saying that several elements within the songs can only be described as prog, but they serve the song and not the other way around where the song is an excuse to go all out and lose me.

One of the other prog bands I can sometimes listen to is Anathema and To The Bone reminds me of that band's music here and there. Especially when a lady joins in to sing. Ninet Tayeb plays a great role e.g. in 'Pariah'. My favourite Swiss singer Sophie Hunger is present also in 'Song Of I'.

A good example of why I like this album is 'The Same Asylum'. The melody is extremely free flowing, a near perfect pop song. The guitar outings are varied in attack, sound and approach, to return to that fine flowing melody, without unnecessary detours. In the guitar everything from Steve Howe to Frank Zappa comes by, so enough to enjoy.

I like the way how song can go from extremely small, just a piano, to a whole fiery band sound, without losing the feel that the song started out with. 'Refuge', one of the songs that creeps up towards seven minutes, does this in a great way.

With 'Permanating' Steven Wilson even presents his fans with a pure popsong with a high mid 70s soul element. The O'Jays or Tavares could have recorded this song if only you think away the loud guitar. Strange but true. It's not my favourite of the album though. Diversity is certainly a part of this album.

'Misplaced Childhood' is the only Marillion album I could sit through and at that only barely. In truth I haven't played it in perhaps over two decades. 'Kayleigh' pops into my head regularly off late and I think it has something to do with To The Bone album. More specific, the ultra short song 'Blank Tapes' may be the messenger setting 'Kayleigh' off in my mind.

'People Who Eat Darkness' is a great rocksong, with, again, a nice role for Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb. The collaboration with Sophie Hunger is a song that could have been a Sophie Hunger song, until the rock elements, hidden deep into the mix, seep in. Very soft, like a ghost at the start of a horror movie. Where we, the audience, are fully aware of what is going on in the background, the cast isn't yet. Strings come in, arranged by Dave Stewart, but the song never really comes alive in the end. It all sounds a bit like the end of a The Beatles song, but by then we had enjoyed the whole of 'I Am The Walrus' and not just the estranging end.

With only two songs left to go, the album has already sold itself to me. My only comment that can be seen as negative is that To The Bone is a bit too long for me. I would have been happy with two songs less. That has nothing to do with the quality of what still follows. After the somewhat experimental beginning of 'Detonation', the song sets off in all the right ways. Over an hour is just a little more than I can handle here.

Yes, I'm somewhat surprised by the new Steven Wilson album. Pleasant surprises are always welcome though. So, is it because of the title? After all didn't The Kinks leave the recording arena with 'To The Bone'? No, this To The Bone does it all on its own formidable strength.


You can listen to To The Bone here:


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