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Reviews: Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase

Reviews: 2

Review by Discspinner March 15, 2015 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is a review of the multi-channel LPCM only. This is a masterpiece of surround supporting some very good material by Steven Wilson. I will start with the strengths, followed by the nits.

Strengths: There's a good chance that everything that got 5 stars to this point will need to be downgraded half a notch to make room for the 5 star sonics on this disc. Your speakers disappear, creating a seamless soundscape which promotes the music perfectly. The music itself is epic in intent and execution. There are simply beautiful guitar solos, choruses, rhythms, drum work. Looking at the performance, which to me includes strength of the song craft, then I have to give this performance 4 stars. The multi-channel sonics, as I said are a 5. A real 5.

For the sake of pithiness, this is probably a good segue way to the nits. The nits are very much of the "too many notes" variety, but here they are. This is very much in the prog rock vein in that it is long and the great moments are separated by stretches of musical noodling and texturing which strain my patience at times. Unless one treats this as a continuing education course, it requires work to engage in the theme. Personally, I don't have time to read all the materials in the deluxe edition (which is one of the reasons I didn't buy it) and I haven't read lyrics since my teens so the lyrics have to connect while the song is being sung. Given the stretches between sung parts, the mind can wander. This is a "me" problem, not a Steve Wilson problem or a genre problem. To the extent you share my problem, hope this helps! Rumor has it, the work was inspired by a modern day mummy where a woman was found in her apartment or home after she died 3 years before. I don't know how this can be true but if so then the theme is a little gloomy in any case.

Overall, this is a highly recommended disc. The sound quality is reference in this genre. Pick a word: epic, majestic, haunting, soaring, moving. They all apply. The quality of the music itself is well above average for the genre as well, to the point that even if you are not a prog fan, you should consider picking this up.

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Review by Arell August 29, 2015 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
(This is an edited version of a comment I wrote for the new HR site a couple of week ago.)

Porcupine Tree has been my rock discovery of the last decade (I'm 60+). As far as I know that band have never released anything on SACD och BR-A, but I've bought as many of their DVD-A recordings as I have found; my favourite is Stupid Dream from 2006.
In later years, front man and general musical genius Steven Wilson have concentrated on producing surround mixes of his old favourites, including Yes and King Crimson. He has also released four albums in his own name.

I don't hesitate to call Hand Cannot Erase his masterpiece (so far). It's definitively the most coherent of his albums with hardly a weak spot. Well, there are a few outlandish moments I could do without, especially some keyboard excursions into the wildness, but then that is the tradition that Steven Wilson works in, in the tradition of those 70's bands I mentioned above. (When it comes to old prog bands, early Genesis is my no 1.)

Most tracks are just beautiful, blending great pop tunes with hard rock influences, atmospheric soundscapes and a bit of Pink Floydish inspiration.
I have been listening to this record a lot since its release this spring (2015). A few weeks ago I also read the lyrics while listening; I don't think I have done that with any rock record for a couple of decades. Lyrics are sad, telling stories in first person about people (I think they are all women) who have had different kind of losses. The lover who can't release his/her feeling; the kid who lost an older step-sister in a divorce; the trapped house wife, the addicted/depressed sibling's perhaps last letter to her/his brother et cetera. Not a party record.

Surround sound is, as with EVERY one of SW's productions, just glorious. I have listened to it on BR Audio 5.1; in stereo only from my ancient 160 GB Ipod on the bus to and from work with a lot of noise around me, so I can't really rate the stereo production.

I can't recommend this record enough. Musical taste is one thing you cannot argue about *). Soundwise, this is one of my two candidates for record of the year so far (late August 2015); the other being the recent Pentatone/Pletnev recording of Scriabin's 1st & 4th symphonies.


*) Someone said or wrote that there are only two kinds of music. The one you like and the one you doesn't. You could maybe add that there is a third kind as well, the one you haven't heard yet.

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