If you’re a regular reader of Progarchy, you’re probably familiar with Steven Wilson, whether it’s as the leader of Porcupine Tree, a solo artist, or the go-to remixer of classic progressive albums. And you’ve probably raved about his work to uncomprehending friends and relatives.
Well, Mr. Wilson has just released a compilation that speaks more effectively to his artistry than any words. Transience consists of fourteen songs, clocking in at more than an hour. There’s not really anything new, unless you want to count a couple of edits, but they were hand-picked by Wilson, and as such make for an interesting listen.
All of the songs highlight Wilson’s “pretty” side – in other words, his extraordinary gift for composing a beautiful melody. The flow of the album is flawless, moving from one entrancing moment to the next. One thing that struck me was just how good his first solo album, Insurgentes, was. “Harmony Korine”, “Significant Other”, and “Insurgentes” are all included, and they really stand out.
Grace For Drowning is represented by “Postcard”, “Deform To Form A Star”, and “Index”; “Pin Drop” and “Drive Home” come from The Raven That Refused To Sing, while “Transience”, “Happy Returns”, and “Hand Cannot Erase” are pulled from Hand.Cannot.Erase. Wilson’s cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Thank You”, a re-recording of Porcupine Tree’s “Lazarus”, and 4 1/2‘s “Happiness III” round things out. I guarantee if you play this at the next gathering of friends and family, people will deluge you wanting to know, “Whose music is this?”
While I prefer (so far) Wilson’s work from the final years of Porcupine Tree – I recently rewatched their concert film, Arriving Somewhere, and it’s clear Gavin Harrison, Colin Edwin, and Richard Barbieri spurred Steven to reach incredible heights as a writer and performer – there is no denying the sheer beauty of these songs from his solo releases. It’s our good fortune that he is so prolific.
In the early 2000s, two artists rekindled my love of prog: Neal Morse, through his work with Spock’s Beard, and Steven Wilson through Porcupine Tree. Just as Yes and King Crimson in the 1970s reflected different sides of the prog coin, one could say the same of the Beard and the Tree: Spock’s Beard sang of light, while Porcupine Tree explored the dark. Each needs the other for us to truly appreciate both, I suppose.