Porcupine Tree, No-Man & Steven Wilson


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Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape, 6/10
On The Sunday Of Life, 7/10
Up The Downstairs (1993), 6/10
The Sky Moves Sideways (1994), 7/10
No-Man: Lovesighs , 5/10
No-Man: Loveblows And Lovecries (1993), 4/10
No-Man: Flowermouth (1994), 6.5/10
No-Man: Wild Opera (1996), 7/10
No-Man: Dry Cleaning Ray (1997) , 5/10
No-Man: ((Speak)) (1999), 6/10
Signify (1996), 6.5/10
Stupid Dream (1999), 5.5/10
Incredible Expanding Mindfuck: IEM (1996), 6/10
Incredible Expanding Mindfuck: IEM Have Come For Your Children (2001), 5/10
Incredible Expanding Mindfuck: Arcadia Son (2001), 5.5/10
Lightbulb Sun (2000), 6/10
No-Man: Returning Jesus (2001), 6/10
In Absentia (2002), 6.5/10
No-Man: Together We're Stranger (2003), 7.5/10
Deadwing (2005), 5/10
Fear of a Blank Planet (2007), 5/10
No-Man: Schoolyard Ghosts (2008), 5/10
Steven Wilson: Insurgentes (2008), 5/10
The Incident (2009), 4.5/10
Steven Wilson: Grace for Drowning (2011), 6/10
Storm Corrosion: Storm Corrosion (2012), 7/10
Steven Wilson: The Raven That Refused to Sing (2013) , 6.5/10
Steven Wilson: Hand Cannot Erase (2015) , 6/10
Steven Wilson: To the Bone (2017), 5/10
Steven Wilson: The Last Day of June (2017), 4/10
No-Man: Love You to Bits (2019), 4/10
Steven Wilson: The Future Bites (2021), 4/10
Closure/ Continuation (2022), 4.5/10
Links:

Summary:
Porcupine Tree, the project of guitarist Steven Wilson, went through three stages. Initially, On The Sunday Of Life (1992), sounded like a compendium of Pink Floyd-ian sounds, from Syd Barrett's oblique ballads to Ummagumma's symphonic pieces. Then Japan's keyboardist Richard Barbieri helped fine-tune th languid, fluid, transcendental mini-concertos of The Sky Moves Sideways (1994). And, finally, a cohesive combo crafted Signify (1996) and Stupid Dream (1999) in a fashion reminiscent of early King Crimson's majestic ambience, an idea that eventually led to the slick production of In Absentia (2002).
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Steven Wilson (in arte Porcupine Tree) e` negli anni '90 uno dei massimi massimi discepoli della psichedelia dei primi Pink Floyd.

Dopo due cassette autoprodotte, composte fra il 1988 e il 1991, che verrano raccolte nel 1994 su Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape (Magic Gnome), Wilson scodello` il doppio On The Sunday Of Life (Delerium, 1992), un eclettico summa di musica psichedelica d'avanguardia che spazia dalle bizzarrie armoniche del primo Syd Barrett alle piece sinfoniche di Ummagumma. Wilson passa quasi tutto il tempo a celebrare i suoi idoli: la filastrocca di Jupiter Island sa di Piper At The Gates Of Dawn; il pop atmosferico di Radioactive Toy rende omaggio a Dark Side Of The Moon; la melodia cadenzata di Nine Cats avrebbe ben figurato su More; e cosi` via. La canzone piu` avvincente, invece, e` quell'incalzante novelty di Linton Samuel Dawson, che non c'entra nulla.
Wilson dimostra anche un talento per il progressive-rock in composizioni di largo respiro. La jam strumentale Third Eye Surfer ricorda i Soft Machine, per via degli sfarfallii quasi "dervish" delle tastiere e della batteria freneticamente free-jazz. The Nostalgia Factory fa leva su progressioni d'organo e glissando di chitarra alla Yes. It Will Rain For A Million Years e` un ibrido di colonna sonora western e Carlos Santana.
Gran parte del disco e` composto di materiale di seconda mano, che Wilson poteva benissimo potare via, ma i brani che contano testimoniano di un orecchio raffinato, che forse si esprimerebbe meglio nel campo della musica strumentale elettronica (ascoltare l'ouverture strumentale, Music For The Head, che e` musica new age per flauto ed elettronica, o il lamento del flauto, degno di un adagio barocco, in On The Sunday Of Life). Il punto debole, infatti, sono le parti cantate, quasi sempre superflue, quasi sempre amatoriali, quasi sempre insignificanti.

Up The Downstairs (1993), largely a solo effort on which Wilson played all instruments including a drum-machine (future members Colin Edwin and Richard Barbieri guest on bass and keyboards respectively), is the first album that was conceived organically and is therefore a lot less eclectic. It includes a few simple songs, notably the Peter Gabriel-esque ethno-funk ballad Synesthesia and the closing Pink Floyd-ian elegy Fadeaway, as well as ambitious instrumentals: the seven-minute blues-psychedelic lullaby Always Never, the pulsating, Ozric Tentacles-influenced ten-minute cosmic journey Up The Downstair, and the eleven-minute Burning Sky, with whining guitar solos that evoke Muslim spiritual music and even spaghetti-western soundtracks. The album was reissued and partially re-recorded in 2005 as a double album, replacing the drum-machine with drummer Gavin Harrison.

The two "phases" of Voyage 34 (originally intended as part of a double album but instead released as two singles in 1992 and 1993) constitute an almost clinical case of obsession towards Pink Floyd's sound. The first phase sounds like a remix of Wish you Were Here. The second is wildly inferior. The album Voyage 34 (Full Album - 2000) collects the original singles Phase I (12:54) and Phase II (17:24) plus a remix by Astralasia titled Phase III (19:24) and a remix by Wilson himself titled Phase IV (13:42).

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I mini-concerti di The Sky Moves Sideways (Delerium, 1994), con Richard Barbieri (ex Japan) alle tastiere e il nuovo batterista Chris Maitland, decretano la conquista di uno stile del tutto personale, che si riallaccia soltanto di sfuggita ai Pink Floyd pastorali e sereni del secondo periodo, ma che in realta` appartiene in tutto e per tutto all'era ambientale. Rispetto ai suoi contemporanei elettronici, pero`, Wilson ha il merito di cercare la trance e il continuum con strumenti dal vivo, senza ricorrere a trucchi digitali e campionamenti.
Il fronte stilistico e` ampio, dalla quiete leziosa dell'ouverture strumentale The Colour Of Air all'ibrido di techno e raga di Wire The Drum (forse l'intuizione piu` importante del disco). Apice della prassi di dilatare i brani a dismisura, di amplificarne ogni minimo aspetto, e` forse il surreale, liquido, stratosferico Moonloop, in cui si accavallano al rallentatore suoni dolcissimi di chitarre, organi e percussioni prima che il tutto prenda corpo e ritmo e si trasformi in una jam infuocata di bluesrock. Cosi` la lunga Is Not alterna fasi di musica cosmica estremamente disgregata a fasi di rock incalzante. I brani cantati sono anemici fino alla sonnolenza. Il salmo lento e solenne di I Find The I'm Not There, la nenia persiana di Dislocated Day e il tenue vagito di The Moon Touches Your Shoulder poggiano su melodie bisbigliate senza forza, lasciate vorticare nell'aria, circondate da accordi languidi ed estatici.
Nella musica di Wilson chitarra e organo imbastiscono duetti metafisici, spesso improvvisati come nel jazz, su un tappeto sensuale di percussioni. L'effetto non potrebbe essere piu` trascendente.

A partire dall'EP Waiting (Delerium, 1996), i Porcupine Tree diventano davvero un complesso: Wilson non e` piu` il deus ex machina, accompagnato da un tastierista d'eccezione e da sua moglie, ma semplicemente il cantante e principale compositore di un quartetto di chitarra, tastiere, basso e batteria. E l'effetto e` di virare verso i primi King Crimson, verso atmosfere fiabesche e magiche, come dimostrano le due lunghe ballate e colonne portanti di Signify (Delerium, 1996): Dark Matter e Sleep Of No Dreaming, Indubbiamente dotate di melodie appassionate e di arrangiamenti eroici, sfiorano i climi di Moonchild e quelli dei melodrammi dei primi Genesis. Ma Waiting, che ne e` l'esagerazione, veleggia verso il piu` bieco pop-jazz orchestrale. Le sincopi funky, i riff azzannanti, le tastiere spaziali, gli assoli epici, dello strumentale Signify rimandano persino al techno-rock dei Rush. I sintetizzatori di Barbieri e il mellotron di Wilson dilagano senza freni, coloratissimi, incastonando gli accordi atmosferici delle chitarre.
Gli stacchetti strumentali che separano le ballate confermano lo stato di grazia della formazione, capace di cesellare la piece Waiting Phase 2, una variazione strumentale sulla canzone omonima, e soprattutto l'indiavolata danza pan-araba di Idiot Prayer.

Wilson was also active in No-Man and in the Incredible Expanding Mindfuck.

No-Man, originally a trio featuring singer Tim Bowness (who sounds like Jim Kerr of Simple Minds) and violinist Ben Coleman (a disciple of Stephane Grappelli and Jean Luc Ponty), started out with the single Colours (1990), a languid psychedelic ballad, the mini-album Lovesighs (One Little Indian, 1992), which includes the early singles, and the album Loveblows And Lovecries (One Little Indian, 1993), which contains dance-pop ballads like Sweetheart Raw and notably the "Madchester"-inspired jam Painting Paradise. No-Man found a more original footing on Flowermouth (One Little Indian, 1994), whose sophisticated and atmospheric elegies are enhanced by collaborators such as guitarist Robert Fripp and saxophonist Mel Collins of King Crimson, trumpet player Ian Carr of Nucleus, and drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri (both founding members of Japan). The highlight is the melancholy ambient pop of the ten-minute Angel Gets Caught In The Beauty Trap, the best amalgam of piano, saxophone, trumpet, guitar and violin. Emblematic of their mellow and romantic prog-dance-rock are the eight-minute Shell Of A Fighter and the seven-minute Things Change with mournful organ melody and a fiery closing violin solo, discreet "frippertronics" and a screaming closing guitar solo. The oddball track here is the electronic seven-minute Simple, with ghostly backup vocals by Lisa Gerard of Dead Can Dance, which has the beat of disco-music and echoes of Sisters Of Mercy's Temple of Love.

Ben Coleman quit after this album. The album was followed by a remix album, Flowermix (1995).

No-Man's schizophrenic Wild Opera (3rd Stone, 1996) contains another concession to mainstream dance-pop, Housewife Hooked In Heroin (1995), and another concession to lounge-soul, Taste My Dream, but also the percussive funk-rock of Radiant City and Infant Phenomenon, the psych-rocker My Rival Trevor and the organ-driven, catchy and bluesy Dry Cleaning Ray. And maybe the best manifestation of their art can be found in the melancholy and jazzy bedroom elegies: Sheeploop and especially the warped and spaced-out Sinister Jazz. The album is both eclectic and elegant, often sounding like emanating from dusty archives of the 1960s, but also marks the transition towards an increasing existential sadness. The mini-album Dry Cleaning Ray (3rd Stone, 1997) collects outtakes of the Wild Opera sessions.

Abandoning altogether the rock element, No-Man's ((Speak)) (1999), mostly recorded in 1988-89 but then rearranged, pursued instead the course of mellow, haunting and mostly "orchestral" ballads, like Heaven's Break and especially Riverrun (and even a cover of Nick Drake's Pink Moon). The most intriguing intuitions surface in the brief instrumental vignette French Tree Terror Suspect and in the funereal eleven-minute The Hidden Art Of Man Ray, both dominated by Ben Coleman's violin.

Returning Jesus (2001) further narrowed the range of their inspiration. Their music of pure atmosphere reaches the anemic nadir of the almost static seven-minute Only Rain. The somnolent piano elegy Carolina Skeletons is a lounge version of Nick Drake's style. The eight-minute Pink Floyd-ian Lighthouse is not much more dynamic, and the facile eight-minute world-jazz jam Close Your Eyes falls flat. Returning Jesus is the one moment of eccentric insanity, a U2-esque hymn caressed by gongs, violin and harpsichord. The instrumental Slow it all Down would be another moment of madness if it didn't feel incomplete, unfinished.

The mellow, anemic, melacholic style of this post-Coleman No-Man evolved into Talk Talk-esque post-rock trance on Together We're Strangers (2003): the whispered somnolence of the lengthy prog-rock suite Photographs in Black and White with Ben Castle's flute and clarinet stealing the show; the sparkling chromatic pond of the nine-minute Things I Want to Tell You, a sort of disjointed slow-motion raga; the lethargic, cosmic, eight-minute hymn Together We're Stranger, with drones spreading in all directions. The album closes with the languid (and relatively straight-forward) pop ballads Back When You Were Beautiful and The Break-Up for Real. The pounding eight-minute All the Blue Changes feels out of context, and a bit awkward in its Pink Floyd-ian crescendo. By now, there was little in common between this version of No-Man and the No-Man of Wild Opera.

After a five-year hiatus, No-Man returned with Schoolyard Ghosts (2008) and tried but failed to recapture the magic of Together We're Strangers. The elegy for piano and strings All Sweet Things is predictable, but the bombastic and noisy Pigeon Drummer comes as a shock (not a positive one). The melodic drift Song of the Surf is charming but certainly not groundbreaking. The longest pieces fare better but are mixed bags. The 13-minute Truenorth is stately and dreamy, but is orchestrated in a manner that sound routine and even redundant. And so the standout ends up being the eight-minute Mixtaped, a remixed version of Tim Bowness's solo piece Schoolyard Ghosts, a song steeped in nostalgia and melancholia with haunting saxophone work by Theo Travis. Later, Tim Bowness formed the duo Memories Of Machines with Giancarlo Erra that released Warm Winter (2011), containing a new version of Schoolyard Ghosts.

Wilson's other side project, Incredible Expanding Mindfuck, a solo project, was far more "progressive" and free-form in four lengthy compositions of IEM (Delerium, 1996) than the Porcupine Tree albums. The 13-minute The Gospel According to the IEM Neu's "motorik" rhythm with logorrheic Helios Creed-esque psychedelic guitar solos, ending in a miasma of ghostly voices. The Last Will And Testament Of Emma Peel delves into that abstract, rhythm-less chaos. Fie Kesh intones a sort of raga for tabla, tambura and guitar. The nine-minute Deafman sounds like a tribute to Amon Duul II's demonic jams except for the excessive guitar noise that eventually buries everything else.

Incredible Expanding Mindfuck later recorded the EP An Escalator To Christmas (Tonefloat, 1999) and the albums Arcadia Son (Gates Of Dawn, 2001) and IEM Have Come For Your Children (Headphone Dust, 2001), all devoted to wildly indulgent lengthy space-rock jams. Arcadia Son contains the eight-minute flute-driven jam Arcadia Son (interrupted by the usual guitar solo) and the 20-minute Shadow Of A Twisted Hand Across My House, a confused piece that morphs from a high-energy saxophone-fueled psychedelic rave-up to an abstract electronic noisescape to a pulsating robotic ballet. IEM Have Come For Your Children is an odd remixing and re-recording of Arcadia Son. The opening piece is a 35-minute version of the song Arcadia Son. The surprise is the brief closer, aka Piece For Hammered Dulcimer And Mellotron Choir.

Porcupine Tree also released the mini-album Staircase Infinite (1994), which contains outtakes from the Up The Downstair sessions, and the live album Coma Divine (Delerium, 1997).

Porcupine Tree's album Stupid Dream (K-Scope, 1999) adopted a shimmering professional sound to craft the poppy ditty Piano Lessons and the seven-minute power-ballad Even Less. Stranger by the Minute is the archetype of how to merge Pink Floyd-ian languor with Yes-ian prog-pop and southern-rock jamming. There are echoes of early Genesis in naive prog-lullabies like A Smart Kid. The album gets bogged too often into mediocre material. Emblematic is the eight-minute Don't Hate Me (despite the vibrant saxophone solo and the drumming that accompanies it). The best intuitions come at the end, but not fully developed: the fiery instrumental Tinto Brass and the moody and dreamy Stop Swimming.

Lightbulb Sun (K-Scope, 2000) is another mixed bag, albeit sleekly produced and lushly arranged with a profusion of instruments (guitars, piano, hammered dulcimer, mellotron, banjo, harp, percussions, synths, organ, bass, drums, strings). The commercial material is of superior quality, whether the Indian-tinged "Madchester"-style psych-pop of Four Chords That Made A Million, the eight-minute funk-metal power-ballad Hatesong or the grunge-pop of Lightbulb Sun, although the mellow mellotron-drenched ballad Feel So Low and the facile Alan Parsons-esque arias of Shesmovedon and The Rest Will Follow test the patience of even the most devoted fans. Obscuring an intent that is clearly commercial, the 13-minute Russia On Ice is another fusion of King Crimson's and Genesis' early prog-rock with latter-day Pink Floyd-ian ecstasy, further embellished by a five-minute instrumental hard-rocking coda.

In Absentia (Lava, 2002) is one of their most accomplished albums. Enhanced by a superb performance of veteran keyboardist Richard Barbieri and by the solid work of new drummer Gavin Harrison, Porcupine Tree can play just about everything and turn it into a formidable concentrate of sonic power. Opener Blackest Eyes attacks with a prog-metal concentrate of guitar and drums only to settle for an evocative melody over acoustic guitar and atmospheric keyboards. The production is loud, thick and sleek, more reminiscent of Church than of British prog-rock, with guitars both helping set the majestic pace and weaving the elaborate texture for the soaring refrains, as the relatively subdued Trains masterly displays, despite echoes of Cat Stevens and Jethro Tull in the melody. The guitars are revved up even in the mellower songs, and reach an apex of fury with the explosive The Creator Has A Mastertape. Thus there is almost no gap between the lighter, simpler material (The Sound Of Muzak, boasting the most deceptive melody and an atmospheric guitar solo, the piano-based elegy Collapse the Light Into Earth, the mostly instrumental 3, the soft, soothing harmonies of Prodigal) and the pieces that retain the turbulent undercurrents of brainy and muscular prog-metal (the eight-minute Gravity Eyelids, structured in three parts, first a texture of nebulae-like keyboards and syncopated beats, then a romantic lament, and finally a guitar-dominated coda, Strip The Soul, the best folk-blues-jazz-rock jam on the album, Wedding Nails, mostly instrumental and the most metal-like of the batch). The impeccable execution, the catchy themes and the glossy arrangements blur the line between the two camps.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gianluca Mantovan)

In Absentia (Lava, 2002) e' fra i loro album piu' riusciti. Arricchiti da una superba performance del veterano delle tastiere Richard Barbieri e dal solido lavoro del nuovo batterista Gavin Harrison, i Porcupine Tree possono ora suonare quasi tutto con eccellente concentrazione di potenza sonora. Blackest Eyes inizia con un concentrato prog-metal di chitarra e batteria per raggiungere poi una melodia evocativa di chitarra acustica e tastiere atmosferiche. La produzione e' forte, densa e strisciante, piu' vicina ai Church che al prog-rock britannico, con chitarre in grado sia di dettare il passo che di intessere elaborati e sublimi refrain, come avviene egregiamente pure nella in parte sottomessa Trains, malgrado echi di Cat Stevens e Jethro Tull nella melodia. Le chitarre sono su di giri perfino nei pezzi piu' melliflui, e arrivano al culmine della furia con l'esplosiva The Creator Has A Mastertape. In questo modo e' pressoche' annullata la differenza tra il materiale leggero e semplice (The Sound Of Muzak, con melodia deludente, l'elegia pianistica Collapse the Light Into Earth, la quasi interamente strumentale 3, le armonie soft e rilassanti di Prodigal) e il materiale che verte sulle turbolenti sottocorrenti del cervellotico e muscolare prog-metal (Gravity Eyelids: otto minuti strutturati in tre parti, dapprima un tessuto di tastiere nebulose e battiti sincopati, poi un romantico lamento, e infine una coda chitarristica; Strip The Soul, la miglior jam folk-blues-jazz-rock dell'album; Wedding Nails, perlopiu' strumentale e la piu' metal del lotto). Esecuzione impeccabile, temi attraenti e arrangiamenti speciosi avvicinano i due opposti.

If one doesn't count On the Sunday of Life, Steven Wilson's first solo album was Unreleased Electronic Music Vol 1 (2004). And it sounded like a joke but it wasn't: it collected electronic compositions recorded between 1990 and 2003. Later he will also release Tape Experiments 1985-86 (2010).

Wilson joined Israeli musician Aviv Geffen to play soft pop with the project Blackfield, whose songs sound mostly like a shallow version of R.E.M.. They started out with Blackfield (2004), containing Pain, and Blackfield II (2007), containing My Gift of Silence, Wilson quit the project after Welcome to My DNA (2011). These three albums are the nadir of his discography.

The quartet of Steven Wilson (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Richard Barbieri (keyboards), Colin Edwin (bass) and Gavin Harrison (percussion), augmented with guitarists Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) and Adrian Belew, was in splendid form on Deadwing (2005), but the music was fundamentally a version of early Genesis' progressive ballads adapted to Soundgarden's grunge with King Crimson-ian mellotron spread all over the album. The ten-minute Deadwing couples metal chops with a dejavu melody and some gothic recitation. The 12-minute Arriving Somewhere But Not Here tries really hard to sound majestic but the usual languid poppy vocals and the usual metal guitar solo detract from the idea. Shallow is an amateurish tribute to Seattle's grunge. Glass Arm Shattering is a concentrate of Pink Floyd-ian languor. The melodic peak is perhaps Mellotron Scratch, due to its multi-part harmonies. Generally speaking: poor material and poor inspiration, no matter how professional the execution.

Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet (2007), possibly a pun to Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet (1990) but more likely inspired by Pink Floyd's numerous alienation-based concepts, is structured in six long songs that explore the depressed mood of the turn of the century. They do so in a rather odd manner, as they rely on operatic melodies and lush orchestrations that would better suit a war epic. Past the driving and catchy Fear of a Blank Planet and the mellow ballad My Ashes, the album's centerpiece is the melodramatic 17-minute suite Anesthetize, which partially redeems the album. There is certainly much to appreciate in the way these musicians articulate such complex fluctuating musical architectures, but most of the album is filler. More material from the same period surfaced on the four-song EP Nil Recurring (2007).

Meanwhile, Steven Wilson launched yet another project, Bass Communion, this time to compose ambient music for manipulated instruments (mainly guitar) and field recordings. The project released: Bass Communion (1998), Atmospherics (1999), II (1999), perhaps the most varied, that featured horns, strings and rhythms, III (2001), an awful collection of rarities, Ghosts On Magnetic Tape (2003), inspired by parapsychological phenomena, Indicates Void (2005), Loss (2006), Pacific Codex (Equation, 2008), devoted to the lowest possible bass sounds, Molotov and Haze (Important, 2008), the most aggressive (quasi-metal) album yet, and Cenotaph (2011). Chiaroscuro (Headphone Dust, 2009) and other albums document live performances.

Continuum's Volume 1 (Soleilmoon, 2006) and Volume 2 (2007) were collaborations between Dirk Serries of Vidna Obmana and Bass Communion.

We Lost The Skyline (2008) documents a live performance by Porcupine Tree.

The double-disc The Incident (Roadrunner, 2009), still recorded by the classic Porcupine Tree lineup of Wilson, Barbieri, Edwin and Harrison, contains the 55-minute 14-movement suite The Incident and a four-song EP. There are moments of genius but also many moments of tired routine, and virtually nothing that one didn't already expect from Porcupine Tree. The Incident is not a real suite: the songs are completely independent of each other, and many of them feel half-baked, unfinished. Calling them a "suite" seems just an excuse to publicize the album. The two meaty pieces (the 12-minute Time Flies and the seven-minute Remember Me Lover) are both de-facto tributes to Pink Floyd, and not particularly creative ones. The melodic songs are rarely captivating. Best are perhaps the sparse piano elegy Kneel and Disconnect and the mellow introverted ballad I Drive the Hearse, with only Drawing the Line continuing Wilson's venture into power-pop. The sinister industrial dirge The Incident could have been a standout but wasn't fleshed out enough. The classic quartet of Wilson, Barbieri, Edwin and Harrison dissolved after this mediocre album.

Wilson's solo career took off in earnest with the wildly eclectic Insurgentes (2008), whose music borders on post-rock in the complex scores of No Twilight Within The Courts of the Sun and Salvaging, but otherwise sounds like outtakes of Porcupine Tree.

Between 2009 and 2011, Wilson helped Robert Fripp remix the King Crimson classics of 1969-74. Coincidence or not, Wilson then restarted his solo career with three brainy prog-rock albums full of references to the pioneers of the 1970s, albums that also magnified his talent as a producer.

The first one, Grace for Drowning (2011), was his "jazz" album, steeped into the sound of mellotron and reeds, recorded with veterans like pianist Jordan Rudess, bassist Tony Levin and guitarist Trey Gunn. The highlights are the haunting atmosphere of the instrumental Sectarian (7:41), the instrumental jam that occupies most of Remainder the Black Dog (9:27) and the 24-minute epic Raider II, which leans on the symphonic and bombastic side of things but has also room for several idyllic instrumental passages (in fact, as it is often the case with Wilson's music, it would probably fare better without the vocals). Wilson never misses an opportunity to throw in also a mellow and lengthy lullaby (the bucolic Deform to Form a Star) and the inevitable stately Pink Floyd-ian piece, in this case Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye (8:01). One wishes he had invested more in the eccentric instrumental intermezzos, for example Track One.

The second one, The Raven That Refused to Sing (2013), benefits from the phenomenal backing of keyboardist Adam Holzman, drummer Marco Minnemmann, guitarist Guthrie Govan, saxophonist and flutist Theo Travis and bassist Nick Beggs. Insistent instrumental passages, intricate counterpoint and tempo shifts populate compositions that are nonetheless organic and cohesive: the 12-minute Luminol (which, again, would look better without the mellow singing), the 12-minute The Watchmaker, which transitions from a folk-ish beginning to an operating ending, and especially the ten-minute The Holy Drinker, which manages to be both explosive and catchy. These lengthy compositions evoke the jazzy, "Canterbury" side of classic prog-rock. The Raven That Refused to Sing (7:57) is the romantic elegy du jour, a sweet melody that is swallowed by soaring strings.

The third one, the concept album Hand Cannot Erase (2015), about the creepy real case of a young woman who lay dead for three years in an apartment without anybody noticing, recorded with the same stellar lineup (Govan, Holzmann, Beggs, Minnemann and Travis), opted for the melodic side of classic prog-rock. 3 Years Older combines guitar riffs a` la Mike Oldfield and vocal harmonies and keyboards a` la Yes. The nine-minute Routine evokes a neoclassical version of early Genesis. The 13-minute Ancestral, the melodic zenith of the album, thanks to a grandiose melodic crescendo, features Theo Travis' flute and baritone saxophone, a string orchestra, Ninet Tayeb's backing vocals, besides the instruments played by Wilson in person, and boasts moments of virulent pathos a` la Rush. Alas, the album also contains some of his most tedious pop songs ever (e.g. the singles Hand Cannot Erase and Perfect Life), and those were a prelude to the future. The Donovan-esque Happy Returns fares better in that field.

In fact, Wilson turned to mainstream pop with To the Bone (2017), on which he played almost all the instruments himself, a collection of bland ballads with echoes of Peter Gabriel (the magniloquent torch ballad Pariah, a duet with Ninet Tayeb, sounds like a variation on Gabriel's Don't Give Up, the duet with Kate Bush, and also the electronic soul ballad Song of I, a duet with Sophie Hunger), Electric Light Orchestra (The Same Asylum as Before), latter-day Genesis, Abba (Permanating, his biggest hit, that almost copies the beat and melody of Mama Mia) and of course latter-day Pink Floyd (the soaring guitar and strings of Refuge). In the end the Afro-gospel-rock of To The Bone, while mediocre in itself, sounds like the peak of originality here. The careful construction of the songs, that rarely follow simple traditional schemes, cannot in itself redeem the lack of inspiration. It amounts to a global remix of the pop tradition, but not a particularly innovative one. The nine-minute Detonation, whose initial bombast somehow turns into a Santana-esque jam, shows that lengthy compositions have become not his forte (as they used to be) but his foible.

Wilson also composed the soundtrack for a videogame, The Last Day of June (2017). He tried to repeat the commercial success of To the Bone but The Future Bites (2021) is a collection of generic and even clumsy synth-pop.

Meanwile, Wilson had also recorded Storm Corrosion (2012) with guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. This is perhaps Wilson's apex as a composer and arranger, although the partner deserves part of the credit. Here Wilson found the right balance of elements, minimizing the vocal parts (never his forte) or turning them into dizzying vortexes, minimizing the soaring choruses, minimizing the guitar bombast, minimizing the drumming. The dominant instrument is actually the acoustic guitar. In a sense, it is Wilson's most minimal work as a producer/arranger. The result is a unique brand of esoteric ambient folk music and set in immaculate soundscapes. Drag Ropes is a blend of intricate vocal harmonies, esoteric chamber music and syncopated guitar patterns. Storm Corrosion, the album's most complex composition, is freak-folk that decays in droning gothic suspense and ends with a crystalline Renaissance-style aria, and along the way the strings indulge in Giacinto Scelsi-style microtones (the strings were arranged by Canterbury rock's legend Dave Stewart of Hatfield & The North). The lyrical Ljudet Innan settles instead for celestial lulling new-age trance. In terms of cryptic meaning, nothing beats the creepy instrumental Lock Howl and the funereal piano dirge Hag, like a meeting of Scott Walker and Angelo Badalamenti. Scandinavian doom and gloom is tempered by English bucolic quiet, a rare meeting of civilizations that hatches a completely new vocabulary and horizon.

No-Man returned after eleven years with the two flaccid disco suites of Love You to Bits (2019).

And No Birds Sing (2021) is credited to Bass Communion but it is simply the soundtrack to a film that Wilson was preparing.

Wilson, Barbieri and Harrison reformed Porcupine Tree without Edwin to record Closure/ Continuation (Music For Nations, 2022), their first album in more than a decade. The eight-minute Dignity is the Pink Floyd-ian crescendo du jour, the nine-minute Chimera's Wreck is built around a folkish motif, the eight-minute single Harridan is a confused prog-rock workput, and the seven-minute Herd Culling has the crunchiest grunge riffs.  

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