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).
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.
You want more of this BLACKFIELD doohickey? Go HERE.
PROGRESSIVE/ART/PSYCHEDELIC rubbish HERE.