One of the big surprises (for me) in 2004, was the cooperation of music genius Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, No-man, Opeth and several other fine productions) and unknown (to me) Israeli musician Aviv Geffen, which spawned this fabulous
album called Blackfield. And I tell you right now, this album is mesmerizing, both in lyrics and music. Any friend of Porcupine Tree should own and cherish this excellent excursion into the realm of beautiful words and music. Actually anyone into great music and fine lyrics should seek this one out, as I promise you, after 3- 4 spins you will get caught by the maelstrom of these finely executed and crafted prog/pop tunes.
What you get here are: acoustic guitars, electric power chords, mellotron, fantastic vocals, e-bow, piano, drums, bass, slide guitar, real strings (courtesy of the Illusion quartet) and add to that, out of this world songwriting and arrangements.
Listen to “Lullaby” with the beautiful piano intro, then lean back and let the lyrics sink into your mind...whoa! Or try out the wonderful soothing theme (and singing) of “Cloudy now.” Wow, what a song! I dare you not to sing along on this one, after a few listenings!
This is without any doubt a masterpiece. It belongs in every prog fans collection and may I add, anyone who is just the slightest into music which bares resemblance to quality and real music, should go buy this gem!
On a final note, the cover notes say 10 tracks, however my copy has 3 “hidden” tracks. Yes, that’s right, they’re great as well! So 13 tracks in all, what a treat, what an album, what a chance for you to own some of the most beautiful music written in 2004 (and beyond)...thanks to my mate Leo for giving me this gem!
(All Album Reviews by Mister Buns)
Masterful! Beautiful! Genius! And er... a bit depressing actually, but I guess you can't always have it all.
This is an exceptional collection of superbly crafted pop-rock songs that deserves mainstream recognition for Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen. One of the best new albums of any type of music I have heard for some time, it will be listened to for many years to come.
Musically, every song is strong and there are a range of styles covered. Echoes of emotionally troubled artists from the seventies and eighties (Pink Floyd, Tears For Fears) can be heard, but this is a very strong and original album with its own identity. The opening "Open Mind" features some heavy guitar work. "Lullaby" is mainly a solo piano and vocal with classical string quartet accompaniment. The final track "Hello" is an absolute classic and has apparently been very successful as a single in some countries. Great stuff.
The overall musical feel is quite mellow and romantic, kind of soft rock, sort of a more commercial version of Steven Wilson's other main project Porcupine Tree. The production is full and immaculate, with superb singing and harmonies and prominent warm keyboards on most tracks. If you can cope with the downer lyrics this really is a FANTASTIC album.
(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again anyway, Steven Wilson must be the busiest man in Prog. When he’s not working with his main band Porcupine Tree or collaborating with Tim Bowness on no-man albums, he’s doing solo projects like IEM and Bass Communication, producing/mixing other people’s albums (e.g. Paatos, Opeth, Marillion, and Anja Garbarek), or working on assorted other collaborations, like 2003’s supergroup OSI.
Blackfield is one such collaboration, this time with Aviv Geffen, a highly successful Israeli solo artist with a string of gold albums in his own country. Aviv discovered the music of Porcupine Tree in the mid 90’s, invited the band to perform some concerts in Israel in 2000, and by 2001 Aviv and Steven had become close friends and were working on songs together under the project name of Blackfield. Originally, the intention had been to record a one-off EP but after the original writing and recording sessions turned out to be such a success the EP was cancelled in favour of a full length LP. With both members of the partnership busy with their assorted other commitments it took a while to complete enough material for the album but in 2004 we eventually got to hear the end result.
The final album contains collaborative songs, along with some tracks written by the two men separately. So what’s the album like? Well, perhaps not surprisingly, it’s very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, but as PT have released many studio albums, each with slightly different sounds to them, that’s not a particularly helpful description. Blackfield comes closest to the sound of the more song-based Porcupine Tree from a few years back, rather than the more spacey, psychedelic, lengthy instrumentals of earlier albums or the heavier almost metallic sounds of Deadwing or Fear of a Blank Planet. If I had to pick a single PT album that these Blackfield songs would most comfortably sit alongside I’d go for the excellent Stupid Dream from 1999, though occasionally the songs do draw on the psychedelic sounds of the earlier stuff and the heavier recent material.
The PT sound comes through strongly not just because of Steven Wilson’s writing contributions; he also sings lead vocals on eight out of ten of the tracks and you can frequently hear his distinctive guitar playing, plus most of the drums on the album were provided by either Gavin Harrison or Chris Maitland (the current and former Porcupine Tree drummers, respectively).
There are a few distinctly new touches that I don’t think you’ll have heard on any previous PT tracks and these may have come via Aviv. The most obvious example is on the track “Scars”, which includes some trip-hop beats and a Middle Eastern woodwind instrument that I can’t name. The latter, and the fact that the music on this track is performed by Aviv’s band Ha’tauyot (or the Mistakes, for those of you whose Hebrew is a little rusty) suggests that Aviv may indeed have made his presence felt on the writing of this particular track. Surprisingly, though, there isn’t much evidence in the music of the ‘unique meeting of cultures’ which was proclaimed on the Blackfield website when the album was first released. If I hadn’t been told that Aviv was Israeli I probably wouldn’t have guessed!
The shortness of all the songs (they’re all under five minutes) is also interesting, particularly if you recall Steven Wilson’s comments about short songs being much harder to write than lengthy prog epics. Mr. Wilson has gone on record as saying that he particularly admires Aviv’s ability to write great short songs and it may be that this is a particularly important part of the Blackfield project, in direct contrast with the lengthy tracks he’s been associated with for so long.
But what about the quality of the material? Well, the first five tracks on the album are about as good as any of the best songs I’ve heard by Porcupine Tree, and I mean that as a very high of compliment. The second half of the album isn’t quite as good, but that’s only in comparison with the amazing quality of the first half, and perhaps because Aviv provides lead vocals on a couple of tracks here and I don’t like his vocals as much as Steven’s.
Other complaints? Well, the album is rather short, clocking in at under 40 minutes, though I think it’s still possible to get a 2-CD version of the album (which wasn’t available when I bought it…Grrrrr!), with the second CD containing two new tracks and a live version of one of the tracks off the main album.
My final gripe, if you can call it that, is that I miss the extended instrumental workouts of Porcupine Tree – many Blackfield tracks finish at a point where most PT tracks would just be warming up – but if this album did have more instrumental jams then it wouldn’t be a Blackfield album, it would just be another PT album, defeating the object of it being a separate project.
With that in mind, taking it for what it is, this is a sophisticated and mature rock album, full of both dark moods and lyrics and strikingly catchy melodies. I’d heartily recommend it to fans of PT, particularly if you like their shorter stuff, but I think it will equally please anyone who likes, for example, Radiohead or No Man.
Best tracks: “Open Mind”, “Blackfield”, “Glow”, “Scars”, “Lullaby”, “Summer”.