Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Steven Wilson—Insurgentes (kscope)

No one’s straying outside their comfort zone on Insurgentes—neither Steven Wilson or his audience. If you like Porcupine Tree’s recent output, then you’ll be more than happy with what is billed as Wilson’s first solo album (ignoring the fact that he oversees everything to do with Porcupine Tree, which started as Wilson’s one-man project). While the sounds and atmosphere on Insurgentes haven’t fallen far from the Tree, differences emerge with repeated listens. The album has given Wilson the chance to work with different musicians (including Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess, and Clodagh Simonds from Mellow Candle). PT drummer Gavin Harrison plays on nearly every track. Every time you think the album is going to settle into an intimacy typical of a solo album, Wilson throws in something to subvert it and take a song in an unexpected direction. Even a fragile little song like “Abandoner” is host to a series of what must have been painstakingly constructed textures. Likewise, the plain piano and voice format of “Get What You Deserve” is eventually consumed by crashing guitars and layers of noise. “Salvaging” moves from a heavy trance groove to a dissonant orchestral end piece. As with Stupid Dream’s “Tinto Brass,” Wilson celebrates another, erm, underappreciated director in tremendous fashion with album opener “Harmony Korine.” “No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun” opens with an unusually jammy feel based around a recognizably Levin bass line before an extreme quiet/loud dynamic takes over. I don’t know if Wilson would devote space on a PT album to a creepy little experiment like “Twilight Coda.” Open the booklet and you’ll find a photo of smashed and incinerated MP3 players, an unsubtle indictment of the prevailing lo-fi culture. In the face of this widespread indifference to audio quality, Wilson’s other response is to include an additional DVD containing 5.1 and 24-bit stereo mixes, which I’m sure would blow your head off on the right setup. However you choose to listen, new sounds and new voices make Insurgentes a more interesting album than the last PT outing, Fear of a Blank Planet. I hope Wilson brings more of his left-field impulses to the sessions for his main band’s next release.

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