4 1/2 review by Steven Wilson

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  • Released: Jan 22, 2016
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.9 (27 votes)
Steven Wilson: 4 1/2

Sound — 9
Steven Wilson has historically been the musician version of that car that your weird uncle has been driving since 1984; a bit kooky at times, long in the (musical) tooth, but 100% reliable in delivering you where you want to go. With Porcupine Tree still on a frustrating hiatus, Stevey-prog has been busy at work short off the release of "Hand. Cannot. Erase." just under a year ago. Much of the material here originated as extra stuff that didn't quite make it onto his last two records. With "4 1/2" he brings us a 37-minute album which for poor-as-dirt grad students with no time is a useful object for which to provide a review. In fact, it's short enough that I am completely unashamed of a track-by-track rundown of Stevey-prog's Damnation- and Riverside-invoked work.

Lyrics — 8
"My Book of Regrets" - I want to hate that the low-E string sounds so out of tune at times due to tonal oscillation but, as the unintending master of that anomaly, I shall refrain from comment. Stevey-prog frequently plans his albums almost like a baseball line-up with the first track being an all around solid player deficient in no areas of skill. "My Book of Regrets" contains a solid amount of variety but isn't so catchy as to steal the show from the get-go.

"Year of the Plague" - Wow. Few challengers for the title of "best summer sadness song" would field a better showing than "Year of the Plague." Beautiful orchestral/acoustic piece with advanced chordal arrangements. Really brings out the memories of that relationship you screwed up back when you were and idiot who knew everything.

"Happiness III" - Definitely going to get radio play on my show at University. Certainly the most accessible song on the album, which of course for Stevey-prog means 27 borrowed chords, 43 modal shifts, and, actually, zero bars of 13/16 time. But the title lies not, super upbeat and a well-placed (and somewhat rare) happy song.

"Sunday Rain Sets In" - Kind of a bizarre instrumental track here. Begins kind of in the manner in which "Year of the Plague" left off and finishes with a quixotic arrangement of imbroglioic sounds resulting in what comes across as a long segue into "Vermillioncore." I would be curious to know what other stuff he loft off the album, but this song kept "4 1/2" from simply being released as an EP.

"Vermillioncore" - While the transition from the oddly-ended "Sunday Rain Sets In" to this piece is about as smooth as driving from one rocky road onto another, "Vermillioncore" will undoubtedly please long-time Porcupine Tree fans as the upbeat passages invoke memories of Fear of a Blank Planet while the riffs themselves hearken to "In Absentia" and "Deadwing." Definitely going to create a tab for this one.

"Don't Hate Me" - Speaking of Porcupine Tree, the first album of theirs I ever purchased contains the original version of this song. However, this rendering of "Don't Hate Me" features Ninet Tayeb on chorus vocals! Famous for her highly built-up profile in Israel, Tayeb's contribution to the recording is highly evocative of how Lee Douglas performs with Anathema.

Overall Impression — 9
If Stevey-prog is beginning to get into the perennial habit of intermittent releases like this, bring 'em on. Although, dropping $15 on what is essentially a long EP and in between album clearly now labels Kscope as the financially hipster record company of the century, seeing as the digital is only $7. All the same, in spite of its ridiculously short length, "4 1/2" is an indication that Stevey-prog isn't running out of ideas yet, and we should look ahead with subdued fan-girl anticipation for the next release. Assuming you are a real music collector, "4 1/2" certainly deserves a spot on your shelf.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Honestly I'm digging this even more than Hand Cannot Erase. Vermillioncore makes me lose my shit!
    Bedside Shred
    Just picked this up and Sunday Rain Sets in is my favorite. Brilliant playing all over this album.
    It's amazing, but I actually fell asleep for exactly 4 1/2 hours after listening to about 30 seconds of the first song on here. Freaky.
    aaliyafarhat · Feb 13, 2016 02:21 AM