Why did nobody tell me?
My "Album A Week" project has always been a rather poorly disguised machine that enables me to tap the reservoir of my friend's music tastes to find interesting, exciting and unexpected things to incorporate into my own life. Luckily as I've been on the journey listening to things I may have otherwise missed there haven't been any things that I haven't enjoyed.
Through this little experiment there are a couple of albums that I have genuinely fallen in love with, Guilty by Barbra Streisand & SIR by Fischerspooner are two that spring to mind. More than just being a distraction from my everyday for the week they were allocated they have become part of my musical landscape, adding to the reservoir of music that I dip into on an ongoing basis. It might just be that this week I've found another, and that pisses me off. Why did nobody tell me about Steven Wilson? Why have I been missing out?
I've always been attracted to escapism, not just in music but in most things. Be it video games or movies I'm always happiest when something is extraordinary, there might be a lone adventurer scaling mountains, communing with ancient Sages to combat an old evil or a woman who "may be the land and may be a person and may be a trail of blood" telling the story of her journey. Couple storytelling like this with soundscapes that are all encompassing and my sweet spot is hit. With Hand. Cannot. Erase. it seems like Steven Wilson does just that.
It seems apt that I've come to this album through a suggestion by a friend I met through my musical heroine, Tori Amos. It seems unlikely that I'll ever write about her specifically in this blog, but if you'd like to read some of my thoughts on Tori and her incredible body of work follow this link to PRECIOUS THINGS 2005-2017. It seems to be my lot in life to discover something just a little too late, and with Steven it seems like that tradition continues as I've come to his music just a few weeks after he played a run of shows in the Royal Albert Hall...maybe next time?
It's hard for me to really describe Hand. Cannot. Erase. as I found it to be quite a full on musical experience. There's piano, there are quiet moments but there are also minutes of jamming prog rock instrumentals, there's reverb and vocals and layers upon layers of noise that all add up to what I love, an enveloping record. You can get (happily) lost in this music, that's what I did and trust me that's not always easy when you're sat on a bus on your morning commute to work. There's a concept here, and an overarching story but I won't go into that. If I have to mention one track in particular I would callout Ancestral as being in my eyes emblematic of what the whole record means to me. Long, detailed, artistic but also experimental, off the rails and messy in all the best ways.
Strings, piano, guiltar, organ, flute, saxophone, bass guitar, synths, flute....there's a mixed bag of instruments and that's not even a comprehensive list. The blending of vocals, multilayered instrumentation, a bit of spoken word, choirs, it could all be too much and incoherent but it isn't. Everything blends together in such a planned chaos that it feels natural and organic.
I've never been a great writer and that's never more obvious than when I'm writing about something that I've found interesting. When talking about this album I know that it's pretty much impossible for me to describe just how atmospheric it is. Do yourself a favor, put on headphones and get lost in it for an hour then come find me, I'd love to hear what you think. Don't miss out on this, don't leave it any longer than you have to. Don't leave yourself asking yourself "why did nobody tell me?"