Steven Wilson - "Hand. Cannot. Erase."

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Jul 13, 2015
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I'm surprised as all get-out I haven't seen this on here yet, but I submit Steven Wilson's 4th studio album, "Hand. Cannot. Erase." as a worthy listen on some quality speakers...5.1 if at all possible.

Released this year (2015) on Kscope, it's a progressive rock masterpiece and an audiophile's heaven-on-earth. If you have the ability to do so, it's available in a BluRay 5.1 mix (96/24 LPCM & DTS-HD Master Audio) along with the stereo mix. Most audiophile and surround nuts will have heard of Steven's name from his past releases (Raven that Refused to Sing is another shining example of audio perfection) and from his work on remastering and rereleasing other prog rock classics from yesteryear.

I'd never claim to be an expert at reviewing an album, but I do know it's meant to be reviewed as an album. It tells a story based on the life/death of a woman named Joyce Vincent. With only the title track having much of an ability to stand on its own, the full record is really where its strength lays - the variety of both musical styles, incredible musicianship, mood/emotion and multiple genres are its entertaining highlights, while engineering quality and the attention to detail in the 5.1 mix are the things that I feel most members of this forum would appreciate - whether they're fans of the prog rock genre or not. It's best listened if you have an idea of what Wilson is shooting for - a complete sonic story. If you tried to solo out each part of each song you might be able to knit-pick but I'd urge you to listen to it first as a whole piece. Steven would never try to convince you he's anything other than a songwriter or storyteller and I think once that's understood it becomes a truly enjoyable and breathtaking experience.

1.) First Regret / 3 Years Older: Musical overture and introduction. Almost feels as a well-oiled warm-up session, giving each member of the band a chance to flex and say, "here's what we're capable of and here's where we're going with this". Vocals don't come in until almost the 5 minute mark. This track highlights the dynamic range and ability to change between styles quickly that makes Steven and his band a real treat to listen to on quality audio gear.

2.) Hand Cannot Erase: Each album Steven's worked on in the last few years seems to have a track or two that could feasibly be used a single and the title track would be this album's offering. It's easily the friendliest way to sell this disc to a naysayer of prog rock, but if you're heading through the album in its entirety it's probably going to be the least interesting.

3.) Perfect Life: Using samples and a female voiceover, the story this album is telling becomes a bit more fleshed out and you hit your turning point. Like many of Wilson's songs it takes a very melancholy and tragic story and turns it into the most beautiful thing you've heard in a while. If you're not moved by this point, although you'd miss the album's highlights and may still appreciate the sonic value further on, I'd question whether or not prog is your thing.

4.) Routine: During the album's tour, SW refers to this as the saddest song he's ever written. It's hard for me not to get a little teary eyed during this one. The visuals that accompanied this song on their tour just drove the point home a little further and I wish it was included on the BluRay. A duet, the first I think I've heard him do, it contains several almost independent parts that eventually build into a crescendo, but not before guitarist Guthrie Govan offers a spot-on taste of his craft that's oh-so-tasteful and not overplayed. Don't worry, shredding will happen later ;)

5.) Home Invasion / Regret #9: Odd time signatures, mega riffage, minimal vocal work, changing tempos, synth and organs galore and to wrap up the quintessential and perfectly stereotypical prog song on the album - keyboard and guitar solos that will most definitely make some top 10 lists. They're good...real good.

6.) Transience: A quieter break in the action (you'll need and appreciate it by this point). It's also a great way to hear and feel your subs get a decent workout - the pad really reaches down and gives you a nice warm hello.

7.) Ancestral: The least radio-friendly track is fortunately one of the the most long as you're not taking it out of it's chronological context in the album. Jazz flute is employed - hang on for the ride!

8.) Happy Returns / Ascendant Here On... : It's the ending track. Every great album has one.

Anyway...there it is. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Like I said - get the surround mix if at all possible, a cold beverage, and get it up nice n loud! If you love it - you'll also appreciate his other material - I'd suggest working backwards through his catalog. Porcupine Tree, his primary band before going solo, is also great and the 5.1 surround mix of "Deadwing" has some highlights on it as well.

I'm a huge fan of Steven Wilson's solo work as well as his work in Porcupine Tree. I've not heard the surround mix of this album yet, but I'm sure it's phenomenal...
I'm surprised as all get-out I haven't seen this on here yet, but I submit Steven Wilson's 4th studio album, "Hand. Cannot. Erase." as a worthy listen on some quality speakers...5.1 if at all possible.
We did, briefly, back in March, though not nearly so eloquently.

Welcome to the forum.:music:
Me likey Porky Tree very much.

Me no likey this at all. I think it is just plain wet. I have in on Blu Ray and try as I might I just can't stand it.

So I think this is a love it or hate it album.