Saturday, February 08, 2014

Blackfield: "Pain" and "Jupiter"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Blackfield, which last year released its fourth album, Blackfield IV, is a collaboration between Steven Wilson and Israeli pop star Aviv Geffen.

Actually, it's now pretty much just Geffen. Wilson was heavily involved with the first two albums, Blackfield (2004) and Blackfield II (2007) as songwriter, singer, and guitarist, but with the third, Welcome to My DNA (2011) Geffen took over, as Wilson focused on his solo work, and the fourth is basically a Geffen solo album featuring Wilson and others as guests. Blackfield, including Wilson, is currently on a short tour in Europe this month, but Wilson announced that these would be his last shows as a member of the band.

Blackfield will go on, and I'm eager to see where Geffen takes it, but it's disappointing, if certainly understandable, that Wilson won't be part of it anymore. While there's a lot to like on the second two albums, the Geffen albums, the first two, to me, are much better, and it's the combination of Wilson and Geffen that made them so great. (For just how great, check out not just the studio albums but also Live in New York City (2007).)

Also, for a huge Wilson fan like me, it was great for him to be part of a project that allowed him to express his pop sensibilities, a songwriting side that he doesn't express through his solo work or through his most famous project, Porcupine Tree. In both of those cases, he goes mostly for longer, complex, hugely challenging compositions that fuse diverse musical elements into post-prog mastery. But he's always had other outlets as well for his other interests, like the ambient electronica of Bass Communion or the folky psychedelia of Storm Corrosion. Blackfield was one of those outlets, featuring accessible but still intelligent and provocative pop rock. Maybe he's just putting everything into his solo work now, with hopefully a return of Porcupine Tree soon, but one wonders where that pure pop impulse will go next. (Although, that second Blackfield album is from seven years ago, and some of his pop sounds has gone into his solo work, like the song "Drive Home" on his last album, The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories), from last year.)

In any event, it's been a wonderful four-album run with Wilson, and hopefully it will continue with much more from the very talented Geffen.

Here are the videos for "Pain" (from Blackfield) and "Jupiter" (from Blackfield IV, featuring Wilson), with some incredible sand art by Ilana Yahav in the latter. Enjoy!

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