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Old 08-28-2012, 11:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning- 2011


Steven Wilson- Grace For Drowning- 2011
RMR Album Rating- 9


Steven Wilson’s sophomore album, Grace For Drowning, is an extremely challenging recording, and its radiance will only reveal itself after many repeated listens.

The album’s sum is more important than its individual parts, as there are no songs that will immediately jump out at you, and if you think of each song as only an individualized puzzle piece, you won’t initially see much brightness. However, if you can connect the individual song pieces and complete the album’s metaphorical puzzle, the result is an album that is sparkling with brilliant color and vibrancy.

Taken as a whole, the 80+ minutes of music on Grace For Drowning is packed with an unbelievably diverse palette of ambience, atmospheric soundscapes, jazz, and metal. These styles are forged together with seamless precision by Steven Wilson and his long list of all-star guest musicians. There are a total of 14 musicians who play on the album, and all of them really shine, but the most important players for me (other than Wilson) are Jordan Rudess on piano, Pat Mastelotto on drums, and Theo Travis on saxophone and flute. Rudess and Travis give the album a very vintage feel, but that is completely balanced thanks to Mastelotto’s drum work and Steven Wilson’s instrumental, lyrical, and production contributions. Overall the sound of the record takes the jazzy (yet heavy) saxophone sound of Lizard era King Crimson and Pawn Hearts era Van Der Graaf Generator, and combines it with the metal sound of Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet.

The album is absolutely designed to be listened to as a complete album, but all the songs are worth dissecting for closer examination, and songs can be broken down into a few different types.

Of the 12 tracks, four are instrumentals, and three of these are ambient, atmospheric songs driven by Rudess’ piano work. Although not an instrumental, “Deform To Form A Star” also falls into this group, and it is really Rudess’ shining moment on the album.

“Sectarian,” and “Remainder the Black Dog” fall into another group, and they can really be considered twin songs in that they both have extended run times, have a vintage feel, and they share the same sharp, searing saxophone and guitar work. The major difference between the songs is that “Sectarian” is fully instrumental, whereas “Remainder the Black Dog” contains vocals.

Then, there’s “No Part of Me,” “Postcard,” “Index,” “Track One,” and the closer “Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye.” These are more traditionally formatted songs, but they are no less interesting than the more complex and abstract songs on the album. The standout of this group of songs is “Index,” on which Wilson and Mastelotto create an almost industrial sound combined with eerie lyrics delivered from the perspective of an obsessive collector: “I catalogue, I preserve, and I index… If I collected you and put you in a little cage/ I could take you out and study you every day.”

Lastly, “Raider II” is the album’s 23-minute centerpiece. It is magnificent and epic in every way, and it is bursting with discordant vintage style progressive rock jazz, layered over soft atmospheric soundscapes, yet these softer sections are completely balanced by several hard hitting modern metal crescendos that explode through the song’s atmosphere with interminable impact and power. The key section of the song runs from about the 4:40 mark to the 12- minute mark, with the main crescendo hitting right in the middle of this section. The apex of the crescendo is then followed by the fastest and heaviest guitar work on the album. “Raider II” certainly takes some time to warm up to and understand its structure, but once you do— it flies by, and it is easily the highlight of the album.

Grace For Drowning, as mentioned, is a completely challenging and often perplexing album that sounds very vintage, yet sharply modern at the same time. The record is certainly a demanding listen, but if you give it time, it will completely immerse you in a stunning and graceful way.

"Index"


Raider II (Edit)
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Old 10-07-2012, 06:10 PM   #2 (permalink)
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What I admire about Steven Wilson is that he manages to strike a perfect balance between complexity/inventiveness and accessibility in his music. His music is never too complex that you emotionally detach yourself from it, but is never too simplistic to become stale, repetitive and boring.

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Old 10-07-2012, 07:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Wilson just put out the DVD Get All You Deserve, which is recorded live from a show from the Grace For Drowning tour, and it might be my favorite live DVD.
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