Steven Wilson – ‘4 1/2’ [Review]
Hand. Cannot. Erase. – Steven Wilson’s fourth solo album – was deservingly listed as one of TMMP’s Top Albums Of 2015. 4 1/2, intended as an interim release pending the unveiling of Wilson’s fifth proper studio album, is already a shoe-in for next year’s list, despite the fact that 2016 hasn’t even started yet.
4 1/2 comprises four tracks cut during the sessions for Hand. Cannot. Erase.; one from the sessions for Wilson’s third album The Raven That Refused To Sing; and one overdubbed live version of Porcupine Tree’s obsessive unrequited love song, Don’t Hate Me. The whole thing is bookended by a pair of nine-and-a-half-minute epics (opener My Book Of Regrets, which includes many a tasty and immaculately musical solo, and the aforementioned Don’t Hate Me, on which Wilson duets with Israeli pop-rock star Ninet Tayeb) and contains three stunning instrumentals in the bittersweet Year Of The Plague; Sunday Rain Sets In (contrasting classy Bond movie chords with flattening, angular heaviness); and Vermilioncore, which showcases Wilson’s mastery of the entire dynamic spectrum, not to mention polyrhythmic mindfuckery.
Deep in the middle of it all can be found mournful pop-rocker Happiness III, which (along with Sunday Rain Sets In) has to be my personal highlight. Lyrically, it’s gut-wrenchingly emotional, the moderately downbeat beating heart of 4 1/2. But overall, despite the fact that at first glance this album might be considered something for fans only, tossed off casually as a reward for their patience, 4 1/2 showcases all the care, love, and attention to detail that have made Steven Wilson’s name so revered within the prog-rock world.
This album’s title might mark it as half of a whole, but it feels pretty complete to me.
TMMP RATING: 92% (Essential Listening!)
4 1/2 drops January 22. For more info, head to Steven Wilson’s official website.