Category Archives: Blackfield

Blackfield II – BLACKFIELD – 2007

Right. My second Blackfield album in two days rounds off their discography. This one is substantially different from the first album, in that it doesn’t sound as much like a bunch of Porcupine Tree outtakes. This is primarily because Aviv Geffen finally woke up and decided it was time to contribute.

More tea, Vicar?

One thing I’ve noticed about Blackfield is that they take garden variety chord-changes and keep them fresh, constantly fiddling about with arrangements, instruments etc. That’s just as well, because this second album is more ‘commercial’ sounding that Blackfield I. Think Third Eye Blind-ish guitars and Radiohead-like arrangements. Don’t take this as a criticism, just as an aesthetic chosen by the artists. There is notably lesser use of acoustic guitars (particularly the scratching sound made on the strings when strumming), and more electric guitars.
It was not until ‘Miss U’ that I first noticed that the song was being sung with an accent. I realized that this was the first time I was able to distinguish between the Wilson and Geffen!! The voices of Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen (yes, he has the same name as Guns’ n’ Roses’ label) are VERY similar. Too similar, according to me. But the accent is welcome, as is Geffen’s greater role in this release, with ‘Miss U’ and ‘Where is my Love’ being standouts.
Compared to the music in the first album, this one is notably less ‘dramatic’ sounding, lacking the motifs that regularly punctuated the first album. This one focuses on smoother and less choppy arrangement. Again, this isn’t a criticism of either album, just an aesthetic. Its evidence of Blackfield wanting to move away from the heavy stylings of Porcupine Tree during its Fear of a Blank Planet era. In fact the distortion guitars are all but absent. Me? I much prefer the first album already.
What I have by way of a general criticism of Blackfield in general and Steven Wilson’s music in general: Its all wonderfully produced and all, but I miss music that is more ‘raw’ and less produced. And less gloomy. By means of further criticism, there are too many mid-tempo songs here.
It’s a good album, but the strings and pianos become hackneyed halfway through, and are not terribly innovative. Yes, that’s it. This album lacks innovation. Compared to the first Blackfield album, I find a curious dearth of attention grabbing innovation here. This is supposed to have proper ‘songs’ and not drone/ambient music. So some motifs are needed. On the other hand, while the first album had the necessary pluck, it had too much of Porcupine Tree in it. A frankenstien of these two albums, I think, would be great. That’s not happening, sadly, so I’ll have to say I prefer the first album. Though quite uninspiring, this generally sounds right.

- El Bajista

You want more of this BLACKFIELD doohickey? Go HERE.


Blackfield – BLACKFIELD – 2004

I had very high expectations of this. Quite enamored with Steven Wilson’s genius in Fear of a Blank Planet and In Absentia, I couldn’t wait to try some of his other side projects like No Man, Bass Communion, Blackfield and of course, the very mysterious Incredible Expanding Mindfuck (that’s right- Mindfuck).

The guy on the left is in only for Tax purposes.

Broadly, I’d say that the vibe here is very similar to Porcupine Tree except in a few places. Lots of acoustic guitars, a few well chosen keyboard notes and Steven Wilson’s unique voice. In fact, I was worried it sounded a little TOO much like PT. I realized that the way to look at this project is how is this NOT like Porcupine Tree? In many ways, a beginner wouldn’t be able to tell the difference at all.

The key difference lies in the absence of individual personalities of the PT band members rather than presence of the talents on this album. The unique drum sound of Gavin Harrison, for instance, is lacking. Even so, the similarity of Blackfield is so startlingly similar to Porcupine Tree, that one is tempted to conclude that there is no difference. Indeed, it ends up being a testament to how big Steven Wilson’s influence is on PT. The chord changes are classic Steven Wilson, as is the singing and as is the overall thickly produced sound.

The tracks that are clearly different from PT are the break-beat laden ‘Scars’   (complete with the ‘Amen break’- ruthlessly sampled to within an inch of its life) and ‘Pain’, which- no offence- sounds somewhat like a Def Leppard ballad in places. No bad thing that, for it mercifully shows a non-PT dominated side to Blackfield. Then there is the wonderfully upbeat-sounding-with-depressing-lyrics ‘The Hole in Me’.

As you can see, I’m quite concerned with the issue of how separate this project is from the Porcupine Tree. It’s an important distinction, I think, especially because most people will say, “just listen to the music”. Sure, it’s great. But frankly, I don’t see a Steven Wilson any different from the Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. It robs Blackfield of a healthy chunk of originality.

Still not convinced? Ok. You will understand my point when you listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium followed by guitarist John Frusciante’s The Empyrean. The music in the latter is particularly refreshing because you hear a different side to John Frusciante with the flashes of Mr. Sock-on-Cock intact. Though the music itself is great, I’m afraid there is simply too much Porcupine Tree here.

This album has many good moments and some great ones. But the truly awesome moments on this album come when the music stops sounding like Porcupine Tree redux and is allowed to have a musical personality of its own. In those moments, it sounds very right.

-El Bajista

You want more of this BLACKFIELD doohickey? Go HERE.



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