Album review of Steven Wilson’s “4½”

Reviewed by: Elliot Klimowski
Rating: 8/10
Steven Wilson has historically been the musician version of that car that your weird uncle has been driving since 1984; he’s a bit kooky at times, long in the (musical) tooth, but 100% reliable in delivering you where you want to go. Recent falling out with Porcupine Tree aside, Steven has been busy at work short off the release of Hand. Cannot. Erase. just under a year ago. With 4 1/2 he brings us a 37-minute album which for poor-as-dirt grad students with no time is a useful object for which to provide a review. Short enough even that I am completely unashamed of a track-by-track rundown of Stevey-prog’s Damnation- and Riverside-invoked work.

My Book of Regrets – I want to hate that the low-E string sounds so out of tune at times due to tonal oscillation but, as the unintending master of that anomaly, I shall refrain from comment. Stevey-prog frequently plans his albums almost like a baseball line-up with the first track being an all around solid player deficient in no areas of skill. My Book of Regrets contains a solid amount of variety but isn’t so catchy as to steal the show from the get-go.

Year of the Plague – Wow. Few challengers for the title of “best summer sadness song” would field a better showing than Year of the Plague. Beautiful orchestral/acoustic piece with advanced chordal arrangements. Really brings out the memories of that relationship you screwed up back when you were and idiot who knew everything.

Happiness III – Definitely going to get radio play on my show at University. Certainly the most accessible song on the album, which of course for Stevey-prog means 27 borrowed chords, 43 modal shifts, and, actually, zero bars of 13/16 time. But the title lies not, super upbeat and a well-placed (and somewhat rare) happy song.

Sunday Rain Sets In – Kind of a bizarre instrumental track here. Begins kind of in the manner in which Year of the Plague left off and finishes with a quixotic arrangement of imbroglioic sounds resulting in what comes across as a long segue into Vermillioncore. I would be curious to know what other stuff he loft off the album, but this song kept 4 1/2 from simply being released as an EP.

Vermillioncore – While the transition from the oddly-ended Sunday Rain Sets In to this piece is about as smooth as driving from one rocky road onto another, Vermillioncore will undoubtedly please long-time Porcupine Tree fans as the upbeat passages invoke memories of Fear of a Blank Planet while the riffs themselves hearken to In Absentia and Deadwing. Definitely going to create a tab for this one.

Don’t Hate Me – Speaking of Porcupine Tree, the first album of theirs I ever purchased contains the original version of this song. However, this rendering of Don’t Hate Me features Ninet Tayeb on chorus vocals! Famous for her highly built-up profile in Israel, Tayeb’s contribution to the recording is highly evocative of how Lee Douglas performs with Anathema.

If Stevey-prog is beginning to get into the perennial habit of intermittent releases like this, bring ’em on. Although, dropping $15 on what is essentially a long EP clearly now labels K-Scope as the financially hipster record company of the century, seeing as the digital is only $7. All the same, in spite of its ridiculously short length, 4 1/2 is an indication that Stevey-prog isn’t running out of ideas yet, and we should look ahead with subdued fan-girl anticipation for the next release.

FCC Violations: None
RIYL: Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Riverside, Spock’s Beard
Favorite Tracks: 3, 2, 5

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