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.
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
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