STEVEN WILSON: GRACE FOR DROWNING
Steven Wilson may be the hardest working man in music today.
Best known for fronting the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson is a self-taught musician and producer who keeps himself incredibly busy. In between Porcupine Tree releases, musical side projects No Man and Blackfield, production efforts (Opeth and Anathema) and DVD-Audio release campaigns for King Crimson, Caravan, and Jethro Tull, Wilson somehow managed to find time during 2011 to release his second solo album, a double disc outing entitled Grace For Drowning.
All of his musical projects each express an individual aspect of his musical taste, so one might wonder why the need for a solo outlet for his musical vision. Given his extensive work on remixing and remastering the King Crimson back catalogue, it’s no surprise that their influence is present on Grace for Drowning.
The album’s skill comes in balancing the deeply melodic with the daringly complex, and he devotes the time to explore it, with epic length songs that, while not a radical transformation of Wilson’s various sonic experiments, is a rich synthesis of his artistic vision and a natural progression considering all that Wilson has done up to this point.
Overall, a stronger record than Insurgentes, with melodic moments that expand into grandly beautiful compositions. While Wilson delves into some progressive jazz experimentation, the more accessible melodic material is actually the strongest. The compositions are characterized by dense soundscapes, but each piece is fragmented with lush, easier-to-digest instrumentation.
One highlight, "Deform to Form a Star," may be the most gorgeous song Wilson has penned yet, featuring a lovely but understated performance by Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess. In true Wilson fashion, the song builds up into a powerful chorus, where he layers multiple tracks of his voice atop each other, creating an incredibly powerful vocal effect.
While Grace for Drowning may not be perfect, the album seems to highlight everything Wilson does right. This is a record that, while by no means an easy listen, is nonetheless highly accessible in many places.
Along with the standard double album, there is a vinyl release, and from Wilson's site, a deluxe edition that comprises of the album on two discs, a bonus third disc with additional content, and a 5.1 surround sound Blu-Ray mix of the record, all housed in a 120-page deluxe art book, comprised of photographs by frequent Wilson collaborator Lasse Hoile.