Steven Wilson intimidates me. Not in the physical sense – I’ve never met the guy – but in the intellectual. I’m aware of his music but whether it’s Porcupine Tree or his solo material I always feel like it’s too smart for me; like the musical canvases he creates can’t possibly compute with my tiny brain. It’s a weird inferiority to have, but there you go.
It also makes sitting down to write about a piece of music which he has collaborated on slightly terrifying. What the hell can I have to say about it? However, I’m nothing if not a warrior, so I’m sure together we can get through it.
It helps that Blackfield is born from a world that I at least have a passing familiarity with. 70’s prog rock is rarely my genre of choice but growing up in a household where Pink Floyd continuously blared through the speakers is certainly useful. It’s enough to know that it’s that world which gave birth to this album.
A lot of which comes from the production. This album sounds rich and full. The warmth of the songs wraps you up and at least makes me feel safe. This may come from a place of nostalgia, but there is something comforting about Blackfield V, no matter how sophisticated and stunning the musical landscape it is creating.
For that nostalgia does not take away from this being a complex piece of work. Wilson and Aviv Geffen’s music swirls around you layering melody on top of melody. Tracks like ‘Family Man’ are on the surface, simple guitar-led rock songs, but there is always something else there. Something to be worried away at and discovered with every listen.
Despite that, they are equally adept at stripping it back. ‘Sorrys’ and ‘We’ll Never Be Apart’ sees Geffen’s vocals take centre stage, the music complimenting rather than competing with his fragile voice. It’s at times almost too perfect, but it’s not a fault which takes away from songs that are driven by emotion.
Elsewhere, ‘Lately’ would sound at home in a musical and you can almost picture large groups of people dancing in time to its uplifting sound. ‘October’ would slot nicely into the same production as the hero’s moment of reflection. This is big, over the top music that takes no shame in being exactly that and sits happily next to the bluesy guitars of ‘The Jackal’.
Blackfield wasn’t what I was expecting. I went in prepared for vast musical landscapes full of ideas and sounds I couldn’t understand. What I got was a melodic journey with more than enough for the musically inept to enjoy. It submerges you in its prog bubble and takes you on an adventure, sure, you could wrestle its secrets from it, but sometimes it’s better just to relax.