Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase.
Release Date – March 2, 2015
Let me get straight to the point: Steven Wilson’s new solo album Hand.Cannot.Erase. is every bit as gorgeous sounding as the tantalizing bits of music which paved way to dominant atmospheres of darkness. In an age where music has become so pathetically disposable in the mind of an average listener, Hand.Cannot.Erase. serves as 2015’s ideal musical litmus test for the initiated and uninitiated alike. The people who get it will be in for a treat beyond treats, and the rest will simply shake their heads in bemusement. I doubt I can equate with words, what Steven Wilson creates with sound. When it comes to how he approaches his art, Wilson is something of a renaissance man. Dabbling in various musical disciplines and sub-genres that stretch across an ever-growing multitude of projects, bands and artists, Wilson has also quietly earned himself a name as the “go-to” guy for producing and remixing albums by classic progressive rock and metal acts ranging from Opeth to King Crimson.
With Guthrie Govan on lead guitar, Nick Beggs on bass, Adam Holzman on keyboards, and Marco Minnemann on drums, there just aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to express the breathtaking beauty contained within this record. There is a clear reason why Wilson is regarded as one of the most gifted and respected composers. There is clear heart and emotion behind every note they play and that is exactly what separates this album from the multitude of mindless albums out there. Right from the first track “First Regret” till the final encounter “Ascendant Here On…”, the conventional vocabulary between them just treats you with 66 minutes of dark, beautiful, cinematic, dreamy and dreary music. One cannot help but appreciate the heart-stopping melodies by Govan on guitar, beautiful passages on piano by Holzman and brilliantly executed drum lines by Minnemann.
According to Wilson, the album is written from a female perspective, and the concept and story are inspired by the case of Joyce Carol Vincent: A woman living in a large city dies in her apartment and no one misses her for three years, despite her having family and friends. This album takes you through the journey of a little old bag lady that no one notices–no one cares about. With every track you tend to relate things and analyze this complex puzzle. To be honest there really isn’t much point in analyzing each song and picking them apart since that would be a gross injustice to something that should be absorbed heart and soul. Each and every track from the album leaves the listener with a wholly unique sound. It’s like a beautiful dream where the listener enters into the mystifying world of Joyce Carol Vincent and explores her life into various segments. Tracks like “Perfect Life”, “Routine” specify how popular, attractive she was. And then we have other tracks like “Regret #9”, “Home Invasion” and “Happy Returns” where Steven Wilson has put a strong point about her journey from the beginning. She was young, she had many friends, she had family, but for whatever reason, nobody missed her for three years.
Steven Wilson‘s creativity has always drawn from the golden period for music, around late sixties and early seventies. Back when releasing an album became the primary means of artistic expression, when musicians liberated themselves from the three-minute pop song format, and started to draw on jazz and classical music especially, combining it with the spirit of psychedelia to create “journeys in sound.” One cannot deny the fact that this modern-day encapsulation of 70’s off-kilter acoustics, rich with lingering atmosphere and ethereal woodwinds, certainly serves as a vessel for their artistic indulgence. Interestingly Steven risks all his artistic integrity with an album that takes more than a singular listen to understand, comprehend and ultimately appreciate. And the reward for perseverance is indeed astonishing.
This album may not grab you in the same way that The Raven That Refused To Sing…, but these well-crafted, captivating sounds that emerge here are a brilliant evolution of Wilson’s repertoire. With gorgeous harmonies, captivating melodies and a stubborn, lingering sense of melancholy, this album will still have you feeling excited over Wilson regardless of what path he choose to follow.
Bottom Line – Don’t expect Steven Wilson to dive deep into Porcupine Tree. This is a different world altogether, and if this doesn’t gain him praise from even the most hardened of critics then it is a travesty.