Legendary musician, Steven Wilson, has just released his latest EP, 4 1/2. It is a a collection of B-Sides that were not ready or just did not make the mark for Wilson's latest album, 2015's Hand. Cannot. Erase. and even in the writing sessions of 2013's The Raven That Refused To Sing. As it is evident by the title. This serves as a companion piece to Hand. Cannot. Erase. and is definitely implying that album 5 will be released in the future. Would any of the song's have fit in those albums? ABSOLUTELY! But this serves a great reminder that Wilson wants to release any music that he thinks is worth checking out. Let's see what 6 songs are deserving to be heard in 2016.
The EP starts with My Book Of Regrets. Easily the best song on the EP. I had the pleasure of hearing this song (When it was originally untitled) back in early June 2015 in Minneapolis. A few days later, I also had the pleasure of doing an interview with Steven 2 days later over the phone where he first let me in that an EP was in the works that would include this and other songs that didn't make the cut for the new album. I was so excited when i heard this song would be included because it is one of the best things he has ever written, especially now that is a complete song. The song was recorded in late June 2015. The song starts off in the Porcupine Tree realm. It reminds you of Time Flies off PT's last album, The Incident, but poppier and proggier at times(if that even makes sense) and not as musically dark. The middle instrumental solo sections are really something to behold before entering a mellow atmospheric section that makes you feel like floating away. Towards the end of the song, it gets back to the original section of the song and leaves on a floating note. Year Of The Plague is an instrumental piece that oddly enough, sounds like the mellow sections off of Ne Obliviscaris' latest album, Citadel. Synth string sections mixed with acoustic guitar, bass and piano. Happiness III starts off with acoustic guitar before kicking into another pop-driven proggy song. The song is very much in the vibe of PT's In Absentia, which makes since because it was originally written in 2003. Take out the heavy parts of the song Trains and replace it with more twang, and you got it! Sunday Rain Sets In is another, moody, instrumental track. Very depressing sounding and give an eerie vibe. Towards the end of the song it picks up for just a few seconds with distortion, bass drums, etc but then settles back down closing out the track. Vermillioncore is oddly enough not a Metalcore, Deathcore, hardcore, or Djent song, but rather a a midtempo song in the vein of Halo off of 2005's Deadwing by Porcupine Tree. Just heavier, moodier, and instrumental. The EP concludes with a cover of Porcupine Tree's Don't Hate Me off the 1999's Lightbulb Sun. The song, recorded live, also features a very strong appearance on the chorus from Israeli vocalist, Ninet Tayeb (who is also featured on Hand. Cannot. Erase.). The song is structurally the same, but with the addition of the female vocals, it gives a very different vibe that is definitely a love it or hate it situation. I am of the love it side. The middle, instrumental section is a bit more spread out than the original version. it features much more organ than the original and give more of a Pink Floyd vibe than done previously. Overall a fantastic rendition.
4 1/2 has left some fans polarized and some wanting more. The ones polarized don't appreciate that the EP coasts about the same as a full album and also, more notably, the cover of Don't Hate Me. While others believe that the EP is sheer brilliance and the only disappointment is that they have to hit the play button again to start it all over. I am closer to the latter. The beginning and end of the EP are worth the price of admission alone. I'm not entirely sold on most of the middle of the EP but they serve as great instrumental segue ways through the EP. Overall, I highly recommend checking this EP out. Steven Wilson is at the top of his game and I can't imagine him slowing down any time soon. And if he has this kind of material left over, there's is no reason to ever stop until the tank is empty.
Steven Wilson- 4 1/2 available NOW via Kscope Records!