Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

As the title suggests, ‘4 1/2’ bridges the gap between Steven Wilson’s highly acclaimed 4th studio album – 2015’s ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase.’ and his as yet unrecorded follow up, work on which is scheduled toward the end of 2016.  CD, Blu-Ray and Vinyl out now on K-scope.

Review by Tim Darbyshire.

Clocking in at 37 minutes, ‘4 1/2‘ contains 6 tracks comprising cuts that were recorded during both the 2013 ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing‘ sessions (‘Year Of The Plague‘) and the 2014/15 ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase.’ sessions (‘My Book Of Regrets‘, ‘Happiness III‘, ‘Sunday Rain Sets In‘ and ‘Vermillioncore‘) as well as a new version of the 1999 Porcupine Tree song ‘Don’t Hate Me‘ based on a 2015 live performance.

4 1/2‘ also sees the debut of touring band members Craig Blundell and Dave Kilminster on a Steven Wilson record. These two debutants are joined by long time Steven Wilson collaborators: Nick Beggs, Adam Holzman, Theo Travis, Marco Minneman, Guthrie Govan and Chad Wackerman. Ninet Tayeb makes a welcome return on ‘Don’t Hate Me

Stylistically, ‘4 1/2‘ is very varied. Initial listening suggests ‘My Book Of Regrets‘ to be the cornerstone of the cd, at nearly ten minutes in length, it’s easy to imagine this track sitting comfortably on ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase‘.  According to Steven Wilson, ‘My Book Of Regrets‘ and ‘Don’t Hate Me‘ are hybrid live/studio recordings. He records every live show in full resolution multitrack audio, and tweaks, adds, and re-records as he sees fit in the studio later.

I have been looking forward to hearing this again since I was fortunate enough to hear it performed live in Montreal last Summer – and it doesn’t disappoint on any level. Staccato guitars, a hooky chorus and a lengthy instrumental workout for the whole band should be more than enough evidence to prove to any doubters that this interim release is up to Steven Wilson’s usual high standards.

Year Of The Plague‘ is a gorgeous duet between Steven Wilson and Adam Holzman. It dates back to ‘The Raven’ album and is an atmospheric piece that contrasts nicely with the all-action preceding track.

Happiness III‘ is a more straight forward song with a catchy chorus, and dates back to 2003, though wasn’t recorded until the ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase.’ sessions. Originally written for the as yet unfinished ‘Deadwing’ movie, the highlight for me is Steven’s guitar solo.

Sunday Rain Sets In‘ is an atmospheric instrumental and the shortest piece on the cd. ‘Vermillioncore‘ – another instrumental – is a tour de force, slowly building up to an intense workout between Nick Beggs and Craig Blundell.

The cd is rounded off by the familiar ‘Don’t Hate Me‘. Ninet Tayeb’s vocals really lift the piece (as they do on the ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase.’ song ‘Routine‘).  Recorded live in September 2015 (at The Royal Albert Hall in London), Theo Travis’ sax is excellent, and overall the pace is slower, more languid than the original – and better for it to my ears.

Interestingly Steven Wilson has been re-introducing Porcupine Tree songs into his live sets more since the ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase‘ touring cycle began last year with  ‘Lazarus‘ and  ‘Sleep Together‘ featuring prominently. I was probably among many fans who wanted more from Porcupine Tree after ‘The Incident‘ in 2009, but now I’m happy to say I’d prefer a new Steven Wilson ‘solo’ record.

The 2016 ‘Hand Cannot.Erase.‘ tour continues as I write this and I for one am really looking forward to the Canadian shows in Quebec – 29th February, Toronto – 1st March and Montreal – 2nd March.

For more details on Steven Wilson’s tour, click here

Steven Wilson – “4 ½” (Kscope347)
1. My Book of Regrets (9.23)
2. Year of the Plague (4.15)
3. Happiness III (4.31)
4. Sunday Rain Sets In (3.50)
5. Vermillioncore (5.09)
6. Don’t Hate Me (9.34)

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