Album in Focus: 4 1/2 – Steven Wilson (2016)

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As y’all probably know, Steven Wilson, the beloved of modern prog, has released an EP on 22 Jan 2016, after his 4th album (and total masterpiece) Hand. Cannot. Erase., which I would consider the best release of the previous year. Last year, out of nowhere, Steven Wilson announced that he would be releasing an EP the next year. I was stoked. Really stoked. It’s 23 Jan and, needless to say, I’ve given the EP several listens. So, does the aptly titled 4 1/2 live up to its hype?

Kinda. These were ideas from his previous two albums that didn’t make it on final versions, and well I can see why. But with time, Steven Wilson must have really worked on these tracks to make them what they are now. First thing first, it’s important to remember that each song isn’t part of a concept like how Hand. Cannot. Erase. was. Each song is meant to be its own sweet little dessert. With that in mind, the listening experience does change to favor the EP.

My Book of Regrets is an excellent start, with a strangely surreal chorus and ending. The same emotional pull of Hand. Cannot. Erase. is present, and the 9:35 track length seems to be much shorter. Year of the Plague is instrumental, and it’s a soft, melodic track, appropriate as a filler for a larger full-length release. Happiness III shows many of the strengths of Steven Wilson. The songwriting is undeniably of his style, and the tone is upbeat yet strangely melancholic, a certain beauty of rhythm that few artists can pull off. This is one track I especially recommend. Short, emotional, upbeat, dense, layered, and with a great solo. A personal favorite from this EP.

Sunday Rain Sets In shows the sadder, grayer part of Steven Wilson, being a 4 minute-ish long instrumental with more than one uncomfortable-in-a-good-way moment. Vermillioncore is, in a way, reminiscent of Ancestral on his previous release, due to it’s dark yet groovy tone. The starting bass and the subsequent guitars brings into mind the crazy moments of Luminol from The Raven That Refused to Sing as well. From around the midway point onwards, the song starts to sound like Ancestral again. On the whole, this is a crazy, and crazy good, instrumental. Don’t Hate Me is the final, and longest track (along with My Book of Regrets). This song is jazzier than the rest, with a long saxophone solo dominating the middle section. While the song is slow and emotional, I can’t really seem to appreciate it as much as My Book of Regrets.

Commenting on production is quite unnecessary, some might feel. It’s Steven Wilson, the guy who makes good music sound like it’s supposed to.

The main flaw with the album, if you can even call it a flaw, would be how it all seems to sounds like scraps from his previous two works. And well, that’s actually what it is. But is that really a bad thing? The Raven That Refused to Sing and Hand. Cannot. Erase. were two excellent releases that saw the rise of Steven Wilson beyond his work in Porcupine Tree, and indeed, beyond what many others have achieved. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to call Steven Wilson the beacon of a new age of Prog. His style is simply fantastic, and 4 1/2, despite being an EP, shows how his progression as an artist has succeeded. This EP captures his style perfectly, and even though they are his scraps, his scraps are some of the best scraps you can get.


Rating: [album title] / 5
Revised Rating (Sept 2017): 3.5/5

I have no regrets.

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2 thoughts on “Album in Focus: 4 1/2 – Steven Wilson (2016)

  1. I think “-.5” would have been a more appropriate title for this one as it seems to be a regression from “Hand Cannot Erase”. I really had hope that he was starting to move beyond that jazzy King Crimson-type prog rock after he released “HCE”. Guess not. I do like the re-recording of “Don’t Hate Me” but I just can’t get into the rest of it. I know his solo stuff has sold more than Porcupine Tree but I loved PT because they always seemed to avoid all of those progressive rock cliches of which Steven’s solo albums (barring “Insurgentes”) are so chock-full. Still crossing my fingers for a new Porcupine Tree album and tour thought I don’t imagine it will happen.

    1. Well, for me Don’t Hate Me is the least enjoyable track of the album. I guess that shows how subjective music is! I do agree that it does feel like a regression from HCE, but I kinda expected that considering the nature of the songs. I feel more anticipation for his fifth album, whatever he decides to do next.

      And yes, another In Absentia would be awesome. But yeah, they are really likely to move away from their previous style even if they were to come back. :/

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