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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 150 - 12/12/08

Steven Wilson
Insurgentes
Headphone Dust/Tonefloat/KScope

This is supposed to be the first solo album by multi-instrumentalist and singer Steven Wilson. In fact there have been several earlier on. He started his musical output as the one-man-band Porcupine Tree in the late 1980s and recorded a couple of cassettes, LPs and EPs on his own. Porcupine Tree had evolved into a live quartet by the fall of 1993 and later the three others also joined Steven in the recording studio. In the present millennium, Steven has released several two track CD-Rs with one cover version and one self-penned song on each disc. He has been or still is involved in several other musical projects like No-Man, I.E.M., Bass Communion and Blackfield and also works as a producer for other artists. A musical busybody if ever there was one.

Insurgentes was originally launched in two limited edition deluxe formats a couple of weeks ago. Both versions are housed in a 11x11 inch hardback cloth covered book containing 120 pages of beautiful, dramatic, ominous and/or mystic photographs mostly by Lasse Hoile, from the film of the same name. The photographs work both as illustrations of the music and of Steven Wilson on and off tour. They are well worth checking out on their own terms. The CD edition of the album with two audio discs and a DVDA containing a surround sound mix of the album, 18 minutes from the Lasse Hoile film and album/film trailers was released by Steven's own company Headphone Dust, limited to 3 000 copies. The other version includes 4 x 10 inch vinyl platters and was released by plastic specialists Tonefloat limited to 1 000 copies. Both versions were instantly sold out and by now gain ridiculous prices on eBay. (The DVD-A version also contains a high quality stereo version, making it an interesting alternative to the 4 x 10 inch vinyl package for those of us not into multi-channel sound reproduction ... - editor's note)

So, then, what's the point of teasing those potentially interested in the album when it's already almost unavailable. Well, KScope will release an ordinary disc version for sale in February containing a 36 page booklet, one ordinary CD and the DVDA disc. If you order that version, you'll receive a link to download the songs in mp3 format to listen to until the album arrives. However, four ordinary and one untitled bonus track are only available to those bastards around (yours truly included) lucky enough to grab one of the luxurious first editions of the album.

The music spans from the quiet and careful poetic of "Abandoner" and the first half of "Get All You Deserve" via ambient on "Venemo Para Las Hadas" and "Twilight Coda", guitar trance (sort of) on "Salvaging", pop (well, not exactly, some drops here & there), heavier stints to the sheer guitar mayhem of the last part of "Get All You Deserve". The bonus tracks include more of the same mix as the ordinary ones, even more contrasts and some mellotron drama. Steven demonstrates what a great and diversified guitar player and musician in general he is, without being on an ego trip. On the contrary, the songs includes a well balanced blend of instruments and guest musicians, including current Porcupine Tree and King Crimson drummer Gavin Harrison, bass player Tony Levin (also King Crimson now and then), flute, sax and clarinet player Theo Travis (Gong, Soft Machine Legacy etc.), singer Clodagh Simonds (once member of the wonderful folk-rock combo Mellow Candle, now a solo artist). And the koto playing by Michiyo Yagi on the title track is among the most beautiful music I've heard in a long time...

Compared to the strict progressive metal of the Porcupine Tree of later years, Insurgentes is a relief. It sounds a lot more spontaneous and brings to some extent back the feel of them old Porcupine Tree days of the 1990s that I miss so much with the 2000s version of the band. The album is recorded in several countries all over the world. Despite this fact, the different guest players and different styles of songs the album sounds surprisingly cohesive. I particularly enjoy songs like "Harmony Korine", "Significant Other" and the untitled bonus track. The kind of hypnotic songs that make you want to run around with arms stretched out, pretending to fly... Insurgentes is well worth checking out, especially if you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get hold of it.

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