Review: "4-1/2" - Steven Wilson

by Matt Hamm,

The hardest working man in Prog is back with new album, or rather interim EP, .

Bridging the gap between Steven Wilson’s 2015 5 star rated corker Hand.Cannot.Erase. and next studio album, is a two-pronged musical amuse bouche; cleaning the palette for something new and quenching the thirst of his ever hungry fans.

…and quench it does.

His iconic sound is here in delightful droves. The 6 track EP made up of unused songs from 2013’s darker The Raven that Refused to Sing and 2015’s more contemporary sounding Hand.Cannot.Erase.

My Book of Regrets is a confident opener. As Wilson purrs nostalgically of “Taxi cabs in London Town”, guitars and drums cascade familiarly over each other; pathing the way for 9 and a half minutes of swarming prog perfection. We’re in good hands.

Year of the Plague is undoubtedly from The Raven recordings. Though lacking in Wilson’s gorgeously haunting vocals of the 2013 LP, those heart wrenching violins are back, drizzling and coating each chord with something profoundly more other-worldly.

Happiness III is Wilson at his most upbeat and, dare we say, accessible. A coltish chorus in “Sorry if that was cruel, I only meant for you to lose your balance in the snow” paints a playful picture of past love, sprawled blithely on a bed of instantly loveable soft-rock toe-tappery.

Sunday Rain Sets In and Vermillioncore, however, are different beasts entirely.

The former basks in poignant piano and strings, that fall hand-in-hand with Wilson’s iconic guitar crescendos, warmly trickling down the hairs on your neck and arms. A beautifully crafted non-vocal track.

Vermillioncore raises the stakes. Pulsing drums, thumping bass and rocky thrashing electric guitars remind of late Porcupine Tree; but Wilson keeps you guessing, leading you down a synthier path that scales a wall of sound to immerse the senses.

Long-term Wilson fans will embrace ’s conclusion Don’t Hate Me like an old friend. A 1998 track from Wilson’s much loved Porcupine Tree, this new version updates the fan-favourite with a feistier keyboard and punchier sax solo. Though the purist may miss Wilson’s tenderly strained vocal chorus from the original.

Much like all of Wilson’s albums, leaves you chomping on the bit for more. Blissfully combining the differing sounds of The Raven and Hand.Cannot.Erase., Wilson superbly signs off the latest chapter in his solo career with this 6 song nod of the floppy haired head.

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