Steven Wilson, Hand.Cannot.Erase Tour, Helsinki, The Circus, April 19, 2015

I have made a shocking discovery – writing about music is hard. Back in the days of my book blogging, I struggled a lot because I have problem re-reading my texts and in general I always feel like what I write is not “good enough”. Who would have thought writing about music is more difficult, because really, it’s so much more intuitive/subjective & since English is not my native language, I struggle mainly in the areas that require specific vocabulary – namely, I feel there are not enough English adjectives in my life to keep things varied :p

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Jan snapped a few quick shots in the very beginning, but nothing from later because frantically snapping away at concerts is a tad rude (is what I think).

Now that this is off my shoulder, let me try to count the ways in which I love Steven Wilson (edit from later: there are many :p). It is a sad bittersweet truth that he dominates my own personal Best Gigs in Smaller Venues I’ve Ever Been To with two of his shows right now (I don’t really feel you can even compare shows in smaller venues and shows on stadiums). I asked Jan to describe the 2015 Hand.Cannot.Erase concert (which we saw last Sunday, on 19th of April) in three words & after a little prodding from yours truly he came up with EPIC, SAD and BEAUTIFUL.

Epic – definitely. I can’t think of much more epic things than prog rock played well & with passion. The concert was epic in the way that everything worked together – all the musicians in SW’s band are (obviously!) highly skilled & professional (or “the world’s best” as he always describes them, & which always makes me wonder what Porcupine Tree guys would say to that :p), the set was arranged with care & consideration, the sound was great, and the crowd was wonderful & responsive (considering they are Finns, aka human rocks – jk). I think the setlist was built cleverly in the way how the main portion of the concert consisted of the whole Hand.Cannot.Erase (which is a concept album), + a few songs that match with the themes, & the first encore had very different energy with the epically solo-ridden The Watchmaker & the best performance of the gig for me personally, Porcupine Tree song Sleep Together – it was an a-mah-zing performance. I’ll just say it included a curtain and lots of black-and-white lighting effects.

Beautiful – well, duh. Wilson has written some of my favourite melodies in the whole world. I would say Lazarus is one of the classically beautiful songs, which is not my personal favourite, but you can’t blame an artist for tossing in a crowd pleaser. There was a reason why I took special care to add a whole pack of napkins into my cross-body bag, and that reason is called The Raven That Refused to Sing. I love a good cry now & then, but I loathe crying in the public. During the Raven-tour in 2013 (I hope that went correct now), Wilson did it as, I think, also the last song, and I was weeping away in the middle of all those black-clad people like a babe newborn (well, not that loudly…). This had never happened before! So I packed the napkins, and indeed, they came in handy, because the song was even more beautiful & sad than last time. I challenge anyone with a pulse to not be moved by it (& its accompanying animation) – The Raven That Refused to Sing. It seems to me Wilson is one of those artists who sounds much, much better live than on any recording – I think it’s combination of channeling the inner passion & the fact that what ends up on the records is the result of him not being able to keep fingers away from all the shiny music machinery lying about 😀 (Joking – but who knows, right…)

Sad – well yes, there’s a funny thing – seeing & listening to Wilson’s music is a bit of a masochistic activity, ain’t it? From the top of my head I can’t really think of a happy, shiny song. Usually we are dealing with serial killers & kidnappers & mentally disturbed, & topics like death, loss, obsession & melancholy. Index is a good example here – also a song he sang during the Raven tour (where the video is from). However, this time it sounded and looked completely different. He also talked about how the song Harmony Korine was born – love the song, but that video… is spooky. (& I love that too.)

Steven Wilson Setlist The Circus, Helsinki, Finland 2015, 2015 Hand. Cannot. Erase. Tour

Crowd – it was one of the best crowds I have experienced recently, I was really quite proud. If the venue was not sold out, it was definitely very close to it. There was no “random element” in the audience, as much as I saw – everyone knew why they were there & what they wanted to get (except those people who always start leaving before the end of the encore to get their coats first – but there are always those people…) We were standing quite close to the bar, & in the bar was a man, who in the middle of the songs kept yelling (in his raspy, quite drunken voice) three things – “Stevie!” (makes sense), “Mellotron!” (also makes sense though he didn’t get the Mellotron-song) & “Paranoid!” (Black Sabbath? You’d think he was at the wrong show if it wasn’t for them two other words). It was quite amusing actually (“mellotron” is just such a cute word).

Visuals – you know that if you go to a Steven Wilson show, you are in for a visual treat as well as the audio one. Each Hand.Cannot.Erase song came with a special moving video image, as well as all the other songs. It’s really not that hard to relate to artist who confesses his undying love for books, films and music in general – & incorporates it all in his own art to create something more than “just another gig”.

TL;DR – if you ever get the chance to see Steven Wilson (or Porcupine Tree – though I personally have lost hope for that one…), go see them perform – whether you like prog, or you like music, or you like Wilson, or you don’t even know what I’m talking about – you will be demonstrated how a great live show is done – with good balance of professionalism, passion & shitloads of talent.

*several proofreads later* Well, apparently I am a fanboigirl. Let’s all deal with it now.

A little extra – I could not NOT add this photo below – I nicked it shamelessly from the Von Hertzen Brothers Facebook page. Mikko von Hertzen looks like he’s just been to the cookie jar & there was some fat loot 😀 He looks so happy! & why wouldn’t he – he got to give his new record to one of his all time idols. Oh, & David Bowie is okay too :p

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Mikko von Hertzen * Steven Wilson
Steven Wilson, Hand.Cannot.Erase Tour, Helsinki, The Circus, April 19, 2015

You’re simply the best: TOP 5 best albums of all time

Peeps, it’s The Record Store Day today. Streaming & digital downloads are all nice n’ convenient, but nothing can beat this feeling of holding a brand new record in your hands, ripping off that annoying plastic, opening the box, taking a look at the album art (unless you have acquired music by Danish band Mew, notoriously known for Very Bad Album Covers :p – a Mew album made it to my TOP 10 but unfortunately not to TOP 5). Let’s support our favourite artists 🙂

It seemed appropriate to publish this post today – my list of (Current) Top 5 Best Albums of All Time. It’s not that easy to find the Perfect Album – usually one or two songs are a bit off, or even if the tracks are good, there is a lack of cohesion, or there are problems with the production quality, or some genres you just outgrow (despite the long periods I’ve been listening to power/doom/goth metal in the past [& sometimes still do], those albums don’t make it to the list because I cannot imagine wanting to listen to them right now, all day, every day).

These are in the order based on the release date.

Air-Moon_Safari_grande Moon Safari, Air (Jan. 16, 1998) – what a classic. I must have been around 19-20, & my boyfriend at the time introduced me to this album (which he learned about from a girl he liked earlier – not sure this whole affair with Air sounds very relationship healthy but whatevs…) Life was generally shit, & the psychedelic paths of this French duo felt soothing to my emo-ridden soul. Very strong nostalgia factor.

Fav tracks:



mezzanine_massive-attack

Mezzanine, Massive Attack (Apr. 20, 1998) – I have no recollection as to how I found this album, somehow it feels like it always existed. Lots of dark, slow bass beats, weird moods, trippy atmosphere. I don’t do trip-hop that much, but Mezzanine is special.

Fav tracks:



in+absentia

In Absentia, Porcupine Tree (Sept. 24, 2002) – My 1st PT album and thus more special than others. And it is so good – a concept album of a serial killer – what else could you want from your music?? I don’t recall how I discovered Porcupine Tree, but I suspect the chain went something like that: Katatonia -> Opeth -> (Anathema?) -> Porcupine Tree (yay Kscope :p). Blackest Eyes was my cell ring tone for about a year, until I changed it to The Destitute by Von Hertzen Brothers about a week ago.

Fav tracks:



katatonia

The Great Cold Distance, Katatonia (March 13, 2006) – it took me a looooong time to get into moody music of these dark Swedes (& I’m talking about years here), but once I got there, it was to be forever – likely. Katatonia stands as the most listened to band on my Last.fm page. The Great Cold Distance is, I think, Katatonia at their best – some complain that songs on this album are too similar & melt into each other, I call it cohesion (also if you feel songs are too similar you have obviously listened to this album one too few times :p). I do like their newer stuff, as well as older, but nothing hits me with this cold, shiny, sharp knife of bleakness like this album does. Brilliant stuff.

Fav tracks:



VHB

Love Remains the Same, Von Hertzen Brothers (May 14, 2008) – there were other contenders by VHB here (like Approach, or Stars Aligned), but no, I decided this is The Perfect Album. The song crafting, the change/growth of tonality between the first and the last track (1 – Bring Out the Sun (So Alive); 9 – The Willing Victim – it does go from sunrise to sunset, metaphorically speaking), the skill those guys have with their instruments is insane, the solos are insane, the intricacy of the songs, the balance between the long, epic pieces & short, poignant ones… Basically, this album represents the essence of progressive rock for me, no matter how cheesy this sounds. Also, VHB must be one of the most underrated bands I know so I will write more about them in future.

Fav tracks:



You’re simply the best: TOP 5 best albums of all time

Current Obsession #2: The Road of Bones by IQ (UK)

These brief moments when I have managed to set Riverside aside (Riverside aside – say that fast ten times), I’ve been listening to The Road of Bones by British neo-prog giants IQ.

Following snippets were recorded in Gchat conversations between myself & the Fiance (henceforth known as Jan):

Me: “Listen to that song *links Ten Million Demons*”

Me: This album is insanely good.

Me: The production values of this album are INSANE.

Me: Jesus Christ the bass in Ten Million Demons is IN SANE.

Jan: *links performance video from 1985* Check out the hair hehehehehe.*

***

So yes, it’s safe to say IQ’s release from last year, The Road of Bones, is INSANEly good. & those guys have been around a while. The band was formed in 1981 – before I was even born – & their music is called neo-prog, which I was not familiar with before. Neo-prog was born in UK in 1980ties & the most widely known artist of the genre is probably Marillion (of which I have heard but haven’t listened). Characteristic to the style are emotional content & dramatic/theatrical performance. It’s not the most widely known sub-genre, but has had its loyal fanbase since the beginning.

iq_band
Peter Nicholls – vocals * Michael Holmes – guitars * Tim Esau – bass * Neil Durant – keyboards * Paul Cook – drums * image credit

 

The Road of Bones is dark, very very dark – that should be kept in mind before you decide it is a good idea to put it play in the background for that cocktail party. IQ demonstrate how to do “emo” so that you do not feel embarrassed listening it – when Peter Nicholls sings “I almost hate myself”, I believe him, & there’s nothing funny about it. The album consists of two discs, first of which is a concept piece & second disc (“bonus” doesn’t apply because it’s as good as the first disc, if not better…) seems to contain pieces that didn’t match the theme of the bone-road.

On my first listen of The Road, I committed a melomaniacal (yes, I checked – it’s actually a legit word!) sin: I put it to play from my laptop speakers (*facepalm*) while being away & doing something else. About half way into the first disc I felt some sort of knot forming in my stomach, & started paying more attention. After I had listened it to the end proper for the first time, I was slightly sobbing & swaying back & forth. Apparently, this is what happens when an emo person listens to emo music :p

I don’t know how IQ do it but the music is at the same time heavy (I mean at times like metal-heavy) & soft. It’s definitely theatrical – there is something musical-like about it, esp. in longer tracks (one is 20 minutes… I’d be back from shop before this one ends!) – I hate musical, but I love this stuff. Nicholls’ voice is of the type that you either love it or hate it, most likely – some call him “whiny”, personally (& on this album) I find it very unique, very fitting. He can be aggressive & he can be very tender (the end of song number 5, Until the End, is simply heart-breaking).

This is high quality music made by professionals, regardless of the genre. My ears haven’t been that happy in a long time – the production is INSANEly well balanced – nothing is over- or underdone.

listen to them / children of the night / what music they make!

Indeed. Let’s listen.



* Let it be known to all that he loved the song & hair comment was not the only thing he said.

Current Obsession #2: The Road of Bones by IQ (UK)

Current Obsession #1: Riverside (POL)

You know when you binge watch a show on Netflix (*cough* Broadchurch), or can’t put a book down until wee hours of the night (& have to adopt zombie-mode for the next day)? I’m having the same thing with Riverside right now – they haven’t left my earphones for about a week.

Image credit.
keyboards – Michał Łapaj * guitars – Piotr Grudziński * drums – Piotr Kozieradzki * bass, vocals – Mariusz Duda Image credit.

This progressive rock group from Warsaw, Poland was formed in 2001 & by now they have released 5 albums, 6th currently on its way. I’ve listened & loved the first four (Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome, Rapid Eye Movement (REM), Anno Domini High Definition [ADHD]), but am hesitant to check out their latest, Shrine of New Generation Slaves 8 (SoNGS), as the single (or one of them) sounded a tad disappointing & it seems the band are taking that dreaded step* that sends shivers of horror down every prog fan’s spine – “attempting to appeal to wider audiences”.

Riverside may not be the most progressive band out there in the sense of innovation & use of instruments, but they are a very charming one – excellent tunes & skillful song crafting, they are masters of creating atmosphere and emotion. They are definitely very melody focused group. Piotr Grudziński is a guitar wizard, & he is the carrying force in most of the songs.

Mariusz
Mariusz Duda. Image credit.

What makes Riverside special though, I dare say, is the voice of Mariusz Duda. It sounds deceptively “regular” at first, but before you know it, Duda has woven some sort of spell around your mind & you just. can’t. let. go. Not that I mind, though – Mr Duda is more than welcome to whisper about those voices in his head** into my ear any time of the day. Or night. In many songs, his voice is used as an extra instrument (sort of “wordless singing” – as you can see/hear in Reality Dream III track below – all three Reality Dream tracks are fantastic). & it’s not just me – I’ve seen his voice being praised as one of the greatest in the prog scene right now. Jonas Renkse from Katatonia has been the voice for me for the past n+1 years, but I have to say that in those past days, Mariusz Duda has been giving the Swede a run for his money. However, I am not going to hurry to crown Duda just yet, as the relationship has been strong between me & Jonas for years, & I’ve only been having a full-blown affair flirted with those Polish prog princes for a number of days.

Riverside were in Helsinki 2009(ish) so it’s about time they visit again, I’ll definitely keep my eye out for that. From what I have seen, they are a technically flawless group, which is great because I am a sucker for clean performances, but also means they are not likely to break into an impro jamming session in the middle of a song – I guess you can’t have it all.

Reality Dream III, from Second Life Syndrome (2005)

Second Life Syndrome, from Second Life Syndrome (2005) – some groovy bass-playing in this one, + dat ending.

* dreaded by hard-core fans, humanly & ambition-wise understandable

** Out of Myself, from Out of Myself (2004)

Current Obsession #1: Riverside (POL)

Music Is My Aeroplane

… and here’s me struggling with the dreaded First Post.

So let’s keep this one short and sweet – I’m a Citizen of the World but currently located in Helsinki, Finland (a pretty cool country known for sauna, liquorice & producing the most metal bands per citizen). I have a healthy range of interests, music being one of them. I love going to gigs, and I feel it would be good to write down how they go, because even though I’m not yet a very old person, I seem to have trouble remembering all the fantastic artists I’ve gone to see over time (time, which started back in 1999 with a Metallica stadium gig – there was no looking back).

I’ve gone through phases of different genres over the years (as you do – never a boyband phase though *pat self on the back*), but currently I’m mostly listening progressive (I’d say 80% of the time… if not more) + some electronic, pop, occasional doom/goth metal track… Ok seriously, putting these things into categories/boxes makes me feel a bit of an idiot, but how else you give a little snippet of what you like.

My most played artists of the recent years are Porcupine Tree (UK), Steven Wilson with his dudes (UK), Finnish prog treasure Von Hertzen Brothers, former doomsters Anathema (UK), the genre-defying Katatonia (SWE), White Lies (UK), no-longer-active-but-left-great-legacy-of-mushroom-music Kingston Wall (FIN), Röyksopp (NOR), the legendary Rush (CAN), a very moody gothic-doom-metal-ish Draconian (SWE), Massive Attack (UK), Air (FRA), MUSE (UK), etc. etc.

I know, other continents do exist outside Europe. I just like stuff from near home, apparently.

Basically I have two conditions to music:

1. It cannot be boring

2. It cannot be annoying

Stuff I want to write about:

favourite albums/artists/gigs, past music experiences/journeys, why I love prog, new discoveries, an occasional attempt on an album review (maybe), why I love prog so much, favourite male vocalists, why I love bass guitar, interviews or anything from media I find interesting, & probably some more about prog (can you tell I really, REALLY love progressive music? :p)

I am not “professional” in any sense of the word (except being a bit of a grammar nazi, maybe), so what I write will be highly subjective & possibly piss someone, somewhere off. It’s okay! Let’s embrace our differences. I have no particular music education, except 10 years of violin lessons & 4 years of piano lessons, plus accompanying solfège lessons – basically what it means is that I can read sheet music, I recognise when someone sings and/or plays out of tune, and I know what instrument does what & sounds how in a band (and that if there are three guitars, they do not all play the same tune :p)

Blog name – courtesy of this Porcupine Tree song:

Music Is My Aeroplane