Similar to his main band Porcupine Tree, and possibly even more so, Steven Wilson's solo works take a while to get your head around. Once again, his new solo album Grace For Drowning is far from instant gratification music, and like most musical geniuses, the man has his quirks (understatement intended). It also takes things several steps further than his last solo release, 2008's Insurgentes.
As I sit here typing this, I must have listened to the album at least a dozen times, and I feel as though I'm still ingesting it and trying to get inside it. It's a double album, which doesn't help to this end, but ultimately it's value for money and a true musical journey. Apart from the odd grandiose moment, it's mostly acoustic guitar and piano driven mellow progressive 'rock'. There are melodies, harmonies and arrangements that have you saying 'man that sounds like Steven Wilson', and yet it's far removed from the Porcupine Tree sound and style. He obviously uses his solo efforts as an outlet for his outpourings of musical ideas that he feels don't suit his main project. So if you're looking for the expansive, bombastic prog of PT you may be disappointed. But give it a spin anyway. In fact give it many spins.
If deadlines had allowed for it, I would have given this album at least another dozen listens, and I would probably be raving about it a lot more. There are moments of truly wonderful melody, such as the outro of Deform to Form a Star and of moodiness that sends shivers down your spine (No Part of Me). Index builds slowly to and extravagant and atmospheric climax, while at over 23 minutes, Raider II is a strange, mindbending epic, that reveals his strong Pink Floydian influences.
Wilson is undoubtedly one of the true visionaries out there plying his musical trade. Every entry into his discography is a unique and fascinating work, every new album breaks new ground and has something unique to say, musically, lyrically, theatrically and thematically. Grace For Drowning is another piece of this man's immense musical puzzle, and is well worth the time and patience it requires to fully appreciate.
This album is very well named, for it a graceful and immersing experience.