Release DetailsLABEL Helicon
RELEASED ON 2/6/2004
posted on 3/2004 By:
With as high a bar as that set by Porcupine Tree (not to mention no-man, Steven Wilson’s other main project), it was hard to expect anything but pure genius from Blackfield, the collaboration between Wilson and Israeli singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen. Prior to hearing this record, I hadn’t heard anything from Geffen so I had no way of knowing how he and Wilson might work together. To be honest, the results are entirely mixed. Some of the songs are great, even occasionally to similar degrees as most Porcupine Tree songs are, but the ones that miss, well, they really miss. And after originally hearing that it was to be released in early 2003, the frequently pushed back release date that built up anticipation really makes the weaker songs even more unpleasant.
To start with the good aspects of this album, I will say that the production is expert, as can certainly be expected from Steven Wilson and the musicianship practically without flaw as well. Every instrument is appropriately placed in the mix and there’s tremendous attention to subtleties. It’s these little touches that make otherwise good songs great and slightly boring songs bearable. While none of the songs require dazzling musicianship, they’re all executed perfectly. Unfortunately, these facts don’t lend well to there being lackluster songs on the album. Since it’s so blatantly obvious that it sounds exactly as they intended, there’s no forgiving the occasionally humdrum results.
It’s probably the fact that the music on Blackfield’s self-titled album is so similar to Porcupine Tree, but so far less epic in scope that makes it such an underwhelming listen. Where in Porcupine Tree Steven Wilson has great ideas that are fully developed into wonderful songs, with Blackfield it’s as though the ideas are watered down and cut short. Some of the ideas don’t even qualify as good enough to deserve further development. In the song “Summer”, the ending stretches on far too long and enters a realm of tediousness that I’ve never heard before from a Wilson project. The first three minutes of the song are great, but the end features an annoying and repetitive chorus without which the song would be far better. Many of the songs don’t really offer enough of a reward to merit repeat listens, which is the most distinguishable difference between Blackfield and the far more timeless Porcupine Tree.
Of course, to say it’s a bad album would be a lie, as would be saying that there aren’t a few true gems. The song “Glow” is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s a mellow, mellotron soaked mood piece that does feature a payoff, unlike many other Blackfield songs. It transitions from its calm beginning to a slightly heavier and equally atmospheric end and is nothing short of greatness. “Scars” is also wonderful; it’s by a long shot the most adventurous song on the album, featuring a very interesting foray into electronic beats with some elements of ethnic music in the middle of the song and is otherwise well developed and nothing short of a pleasing listen.
This album is quite the opposite of most albums that are slight letdowns. Where most letdowns will only be enjoyable for the biggest of fans, this record will probably prove much more enjoyable either for casual listeners of Porcupine Tree or for those who’ve never heard anything Steven Wilson has done before. It’s certainly an accessible record, but it’s not as rewarding a listen as Wilson’s big fans have come to expect.
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