Steven Wilson: Emotion Amid Perfection

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Harmony Korine"
  • Artist: Steven Wilson
  • CD: Insurgentes
  • Genre: Rock
Steven Wilson 300

hide captionSteven Wilson plays technically proficient modern prog-rock, but he finds room for warmth in "Harmony Korine."

Diana Nitschke

Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson plays modern prog-rock, a genre not always known for its warmth. But he pulls off a skilled balancing act, managing sophisticated songwriting and studio perfection while finding room for unguarded emotion and unfettered noise.

Wilson name-checks experimental filmmaker Harmony Korine in the title of the first song on his new Insurgentes. But "Harmony Korine" isn't so much a tribute to Korine's bizarre work, or even a potential soundtrack. Instead, it feels as if he's composing a letter of comfort to the damaged characters in films like Gummo or Julien Donkey-Boy, scrawling it in perfect calligraphy on a gray, dirty bit of wet newspaper.

Over a drizzle of guitars and percussion, Wilson's soured-choirboy vocals underline the soggy mood: "Rain come down and fall forever / Drain the dust into the wasteland," he sings, while carefully placed backup vocals hang behind him like mist. A magical Wilsonian chorus rises up from the bog, bolstered by track after track of power-chording guitars swathed in an airy haze of distortion: "Feel no shame too brave / Feel afraid to wait forever."

The second verse wafts into the second chorus, at which point that earlier guitar riff restates itself. An echoed "forever" busts the song right open, followed by a ferocious mountain of guitars whose trajectory toward the sun is halted only by a keyboard bleep or two. The chorus hangs on an echoed "forever" for a few beats, before the whole thing comes to a dead stop.

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  • Album: Insurgentes
  • Artist: Steven Wilson
  • Released: 2009
 

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