Steven Wilson, for the uninitiated, is best known as the creative brain-trust behind the British progressive rock group, Porcupine Tree. I can already hear a lot of you scratching your heads and asking “who?” right about now, and in America at least, you’d hardly be alone there.
Porcupine Tree doesn’t sell that many records on this side of the pond, and they enjoy what could be best described as a cult following. That said, Steven Wilson and his cohorts in PT have made some pretty amazing music over the past decade and a half or so.
They have also made a buttload of it.
So much so, that after discovering and falling instantly in love with this band roughly a year or so ago, I ended up spending a small fortune going about the process of obtaining their complete recorded catalog. Let me tell you, these guys have made a ton of records, too – especially for a band that by and large remains undiscovered on this side of the world, at least in terms of finding a mass audience anyway.
The records also all sound quite different from one another.
The first PT song which really grabbed me was “Sentimental,” from the band’s 2007 album Fear Of A Blank Planet. The song uses haunting piano minor chords overlaid with gorgeous sounding acoustic and electric guitars as a backdrop for Wilson’s lyrics about youth and alienation (the song, like much of the album, appears to have been inspired by the school shootings at Columbine). An acoustic version of this song, with just Wilson on guitar, can be viewed below:
Elsewhere on the FOABP album you’ll find songs like the opus “Anesthetize,” which over the course of its eighteen-plus minutes goes from similarly lighter shades to the sort of metallic bludgeon played in weird time signatures you’d normally associate with someone like Tool.
Meanwhile, on a wide assortment of E.P.’s, singles, and full length albums (at least two of which are multiple disc sets), PT’s sound runs pretty much the entire table of progressive rock styles – from metal and ambient electronica to atmospheric Floydian space rock (check out the amazing double album The Sky Moves Sideways for the best stuff there). It’s a lot to digest, especially for the recently converted neophyte.
The thing is, Porcupine Tree’s releases only scratch the surface of Steven Wilson’s recorded output. The guy is so prolific in the recording studio you have to wander when he finds time to sleep. In addition to Porcupine Tree, Wilson fronts at least four other “groups,” or recurring projects.
Again, each individual project is so stylistically different from the next it’s hard to recognize each of them as coming from the same incredibly talented musician.
Blackfield is a quieter, more acoustic based pop group where Wilson is joined by Israeli singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen. With No-Man, Wilson explores sounds ranging from avant-jazz to electronica. Wilson’s Bass Communion albums, at least the ones I’ve heard, are mostly electronically generated ambient soundscapes that move from beautiful washes of synthesized sound to cacophonous noise on a dime.
Just this past week, one of my cohorts here at Blogcritics introduced me to yet another of Wilson’s “projects,” with a series of recordings labeled as being by “I.E.M.” (which stands for Incredible Expanding Mindfuck). The group name is about as descriptive of the music as any I could conjure, as I.E.M.’s largely instrumental music consists of psychedelic improvisational pieces with titles like the ten minute “An Escalator To Christmas.” Other I.E.M. tracks run as long as 35 minutes.
So Steven Wilson is a busy guy. He’s also a great songwriter, an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, and quite possibly the most prolific rock musician alive. What this means, if you are anywhere near the fan that I’ve become in the past year, is that you’ve got to keep checking in at his various websites to keep up. Blink, and you could easily miss an album or even two – which is exactly what happened to me this past week.
As it turns out, I hadn’t visited SWHQ, which is Wilson’s homepage, in about a month. I stopped by there a few days ago. What I learned when I did is that Wilson has a new solo album out. From the information I got at the website, and the tantalizing bits I heard on a trailer for the album, which is called Insurgentes, is that it sounds like it could be one of Steven Wilson’s most interesting releases yet.
There’s just one problem. The damn thing is already sold out. Insurgentes has left the building. Gone.
Wilson apparently offered a limited run of 3,000 copies for a “deluxe edition” of the release. This run features the album, a picture book, a bonus CD with leftover tracks from the Insurgentes sessions — hell, there’s even an eighteen minute Insurgentes film!
All in all, this deluxe version of Insurgentes appears to be a one of a kind deal. It costs about eighty bucks (or rather, it did while it was available), most of which is due to the shipping costs, as the package it’s housed in apparently weighs about ten pounds. There will be a commercial release of Insurgentes early next year.
Much as I want to hear this CD right now, I could wait for that – except, that the commercial release will not be the same. I won’t be able to hear the extra tracks. I wont be able to see the film, and I’m particularly excited about the part where Wilson takes a gun and starts shooting a bunch of MP3 players (I knew there was something I loved about this guy!).
This is my urgent plea as a fan to Mr. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man, Bass Commnunion, Incredible Expanding Mindfuck, and now apparently the first of what I imagine will be countless solo albums.
Please, Steven. Please consider a second run on the deluxe version of Insurgentes.
I don’t want to steal it by going to one of those torrent or peer-to-peer sites. I really don’t. I want to pay for it – or better yet, get a review copy from you if you are so inclined to send one. But if you don’t make another run available, you will leave me with no other choice. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself if this happens Steven. You see, I am a desperate man; I simply must have this music.
Please don’t make me steal your new solo album.
I’ll be checking your website and my e-mail for your answer. Thanks Steven.