Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning review
|Album:||Grace For Drowning|
|Release date:||September 2011|
Disc I [Deform To Form A Star]
01. Grace For Drowning
03. Deform To Form A Star
04. No Part Of Me
06. Raider Prelude
07. Remainder The Black Dog
Disc II [Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye]
01. Belle De Jour
03. Track One
04. Raider II
05. Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye
Disc III [The Map] [deluxe edition bonus]
01. Home In Negative
02. Fluid Tap
03. The Map
04. Raider Acceleration
05. Black Dog Throwbacks
06. Raider II [demo]
I do not consider myself qualified enough to review an album by now a living legend, Steven Wilson. Neither do I know his works with Porcupine Tree well nor his side projects and not even his debut as a solo artist Insurgentes very well; however, I simply can't help writing about this opus that Steven has created. Dedicated to his late father, Grace for Drowning is a very capacious record: there is place for both serenity and aggression, stretched out pieces of ambience and straight-forward heavy riffs or even convoluted sax and key solos. This, more or less, summarizes the first two tracks, but there is a lot more thought-provoking material on this double album.
Grace for Drowning is built on the interchange between light and dark atmospheres, soulful piano passages, somewhat spacey acoustic guitars, and mellow vocal lines. But then there are moments when all hell breaks loose, and the listener is immersed into a whirlwind of wild instrumentation (sax, flute, clarinet, dirty key solos etc.), dense menacing background, and intense build-ups… and then there is peace again. One outstanding example would be "Sectarian," which first takes the listener on a little one-minute journey through meandering lead guitars, then brings forth the slightly distorted triton riff that the song is based upon, builds up the tension with ascending keyboard passage, and releases it by delving into a shrieking sax solo. The rest of the song is the interplay between heavy and mellow sections, with some interesting ideas for connecting parts. Other highlights in this direction are "No Part of me," "Remainder the Black Dog," and the monstrous 22-minute "Raider II".
There is also a number of short and long calm pieces like "Deform to Form a Star," "Postcard," and "Like Dust I Have Cleared from my Eyes," which all demonstrate talented songwriting and relatively simple rhythmic patterns and song structures but are of no less value, because, in a way, there is still a lot going on: it is not just acoustic guitars and piano but also backing atmospheric keyboards, and on many songs, the London session orchestra playing strings as well the second guitar for example; so, the arrangements are quite nice indeed.
As a result Grace for Drowning is a lot of fun to explore. There is just enough depth to make 83 minutes of material worth going through, even if not all of it is that exciting or catchy. On the other hand, Steven mentioned that the album is broken down into two parts because he thinks the average listener's attention span is around 40 minutes, so he would not even want his listeners to go through the album in one sit. What, however, makes the task easier is the most organic, natural, and well-rounded sound I have heard on any record. So… dive in!
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