Someday this world will burn to a crisp, freeze over, flood or be wiped out by a great plague, and in a few millennia after the vestiges of humanity that survived has rebuilt the species, anthropologists will study the music and artists of their ancestors. They’ll scratch their heads at Gangnam Style and Black Veil Brides and think what an inferior race we were. Then, by chance they’ll find evidence of the work of Steven Wilson buried somewhere and a whole new area of study will open up. Or something like that.
But such is the vast work of one man and you would be forgiven for falling behind on the work of Steven Wilson. When one man is involved in an average of three records or so a year, it’s quite easy. He’s never shown any signs of slowing down either, even with Porcupine Tree officially on hiatus. There was Storm Corrosion last year, second solo album Grace For Drowning in 2011, which saw an ambitious touring schedule in its wake and now we have solo record number three – The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories). It’s album that could lay claim to being Wilson’s finest non-Porcupine Tree album.
Assembling one of the most enviable line-ups in recent history, The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories) stands as testament to Wilson’s reputation and the esteem held for him, joined by drumming luminary Marco Minnemann and revered guitar sage Guthrie Govan. Not to mention, this album is engineered by Alan Parsons, a man with credits as engineer on Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Roadno less, being his first album to engineer in over 20 years.
Where Grace For Drowning was an expansive double album that took in many different sonic vistas that Steven Wilson has explored over the years, it still became a little bloated at times. The Raven… meanwhile perfectly meshes the splendour of Grace…with the judicial precision of first solo album, Insurgentes.
Furthermore, the album continues the act of exploration. It’s no secret that Wilson is a connoisseur of prog’s golden age of the ‘70s, and in various projects he’s brought this influence into his own music quite clearly while keeping it relevant and as far away from nostalgia or tribute as possible. Opening track ‘Luminol’ is a controlled explosion of effervescence and erraticism that you would expect from Yes in the early ‘70s, complemented by meandering passages inspired by Camel’s Moonmadness
It’s contrasted by the closer, the title track. Getting here brought us through the hills and valleys of ‘The Holy Drinker’ and the entrancing vibes of ‘The Pin Drop’. However, this title track ends with Wilson at his most soothing with gorgeous piano lines and a serene closing that’s complemented by guitars oddly reminiscent of Alcest.
Steven Wilson exists in his own sphere at this point, with only a handful of worthy contemporaries and no one that really compares from a song writing or creativity perspective. Long may it last.