Originally published in the Hindu Sunday Magazine on February 10th
Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories)
If you get drawn to this album by the fact that it’s made by progressive rock band Porcupine Tree’s frontman Steven Wilson, that’s where the influence of this album should stop. Wilson, who has been writing and producing music for exactly 20 years now, sticks his hands into umpteen number of projects. More recently, he’s been giving more focus to his own solo material, and with this third album, The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories), Wilson proves himself to be among the top rank of musicians.
If his work with Porcupine Tree draws you in, then as soon as the first song, ‘Luminol’, kicks in, you know that he’s got something else in mind for listeners. There’s an unmistakable mark of his band’s prog rock style in the 12-minute opener itself, but with much more instrumentation and painstaking regard for composition. Wilson paints the most surreal, dreamy psychedelic soundscapes with just piano, guitar, bass and drums. It’s on the bit shorter (seven and a half minutes) ‘Drive Home’ that it’s really packed in, to the extent that Wilson sneakily changes the tempo, adds an off-time signature for just a few seconds.
There’s more of a jazz vibe on songs such as ‘The Holy Drinker’, one among the six tracks which you could just walk into the room and immediately listen in with undivided attention. ‘The Watchmaker’ is held together by acoustic guitars, but turns into a haunting, 11-minute epic that makes you feel more like you’re in a concert arena than in your own home. A headphones experience or home theatre listening is the best way to hear The Raven That Refused To Sing. Songs such as ‘The Pin Drop’ and the title track ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ stick out for being too diverse compared to the prevalent sound on the album, with saxophone solos and Wilson’s R&B-esque vocals over dreamy synth notes.
The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories) packs in a few surprises, but it is essentially for any fan of Porcupine Tree, or Wilson’s previous work, all of which contain the psychedelic, progressive, fusion rock sound prevalent on this album.