We recently reviewed the Discarded Memories EP (here) by emerging young progressive music talent Dominic Sanderson. Most impressed by the way he’s styled himself on some of the legendary Progressive musicians who regularly fill our pages, we made contact and twisted his arm to tell us about why he shares with us the love of another progressive pioneer, Steven Wilson.
There is nobody quite like Steven Wilson!
At first glance, he strikes you as a geeky looking eccentric who insists on playing gigs barefoot and once made it his mission in the 90s to bring the unpopular prog rock genre ‘kicking and screaming’ into the 21st century. But once you get to know the man and the music he is responsible for, you realise that you have stumbled upon one of the most important artists of our generation. He has not only succeeded in his mission to unite prog rock with the 21st century but through his development from humble beginnings with Porcupine Tree right through to where he is now as a solo artist, he has shown himself to be a true artist in every sense of the word.
I am a huge fan of prog rock both old and new and so I have come to know Steven Wilson best for his progressive offerings; he is, after all, considered to be one of the leading prog rock acts in the modern age of music. However, I have recently figured out that Wilson is more than just a prog artist: he is simply an artist and an artist that does not need compartmentalising.
On the contrary, Wilson’s Porcupine Tree project was formed out of a love of prog rock, with early albums displaying a heavy psychedelic, Pink Floyd influence that are collectively known as ‘The Delirium Years’. But the sound of Porcupine Tree developed each time a new album came along; whether it be ambient music, krautrock or even metal, Porcupine Tree kept the progressive rock sound but fused it with other genres to keep the music varied. You only have to dip into his other, less prog-orientated projects such as Blackfield, Bass Communion and No-man to realise that Wilson is not simply a one-trick pony.
Here’s the brilliant but disturbing Index from Grace For Drowning:
His refusal to repeat himself becomes even starker when looking at his solo output. Insurgentes is influenced by post-punk and noise, Grace For Drowning is influenced by jazz orientated prog rock and The Raven that Refused to Sing is Wilson’s definitive prog rock album that is influenced by the 70s prog greats. But it is Hand.Cannot.Erase that for me is his finest work, a concept album that succeeded where Porcupine Tree’s final album did not, encompassing electronic music, some pop-orientated songs and of course a sprinkling of prog rock for good measure. From start to finish, it is an emotional rollercoaster ride that is beautiful in places but also has its fair share of dissonant turns and ambiguous moments – a true delight from start to finish. The accessible and pop-orientated To The Bone is where Wilson started challenging his audience, the progressive element being more absent than ever before.
His upcoming release of The Future Bites poses an even bigger challenge for the fans and I must admit that I was at first unsure of the electro-pop direction that he is taking with this – it is such a huge contrast from the prog rock sound he is well known for. But this is the point I am trying to make; Wilson does not allow himself to be dictated by his audience but instead takes every opportunity to challenge them and sift out the true fans from the closed-minded fans.
With this in mind, I make no hesitation in comparing Wilson to the likes of Bowie who similarly refused to play it safe and constantly evolved throughout his career. And so, I am sticking with The Future Bites and looking forward to receiving my pre-order because it is his versatility and determination to explore every artistic avenue that draws me towards his amazing music.
There is nobody quite like Steven Wilson!
Thanks to Dominic for taking the time to share his thoughts on a groundbreaking musician who never opts for the easy option to stand still and in case you missed it, you can check out our review of the latest Wilson album, The Future Bites, here.
And here’s Dominic’s Smashed Beyond All Recognition from his Discarded Memories EP:
Check our Why I Love archive here