Review Summary: B-sides that more than measure up to the A-sides.
Steven Wilson never lets up with releasing music, every few years punctuated by a new Porcupine Tree album, or these days a solo record or something from any number of his side projects. Last year’s Hand. Cannot. Erase.
proved to be one of his stronger releases in the past decade, showcasing an impressive modern edge and increased electronic influence alongside his established progressive rock sound. Aside from the streamlined compositions and gorgeous production, it also displayed a warm, beautifully nostalgic tone. These refreshing qualities continue within 4 ½
, with the first few songs originating from those sessions and ending with a few enjoyable experimentations from older Wilson material.
“My Book of Regrets” opens the record with warm guitar chords and climbing bass lines galore, a powerful and adventurous epic measuring up to the best of H.C.E.
. Wilson croons of life in England lining in suite with the previous album’s concept. This reveals the mini-LP to be a companion album of sorts (the title is meant to signify a bridge between H.C.E.
and the next studio album). The middle portion of 4 ½
is comprised of moody, nostalgic musings that musically hearken strongly to H.C.E.
. "Year of the Plague" and "Sunday" are chock full of wistful string arrangements and contemplative guitar arpeggios. Mellotrons and keys swirl into the mix frequently, culminating the album’s first half into a warmly engaging experience wholly worthwhile to those who connected to the haunting and tragic themes of H.C.E.
The most questionable song found here is the closer “Don’t Hate Me.” An alternate version from the original Porcupine Tree track, it features added vocals by Ninet Tayeb, the singer who appeared on "Routine" from H.C.E.
. While an interesting listen, it begs the question as to if it really was called for to alter one of Porcupine Tree’s strongest epics. While the female vocals are spirited in their own right, they don't feel completely necessary alongside the minimally changed arrangements. All in all though, 4 ½
continues what made H.C.E.
such a worthwhile and emotional listening experience in the best of ways. Anyone curious to hear more meditations in the vein of H.C.E.
, as well as experience a couple new experimentations, will find much of value in this brief, miniature LP. So soon after the release of his strongest solo outing, Wilson proves once again that he continues to consistently have plenty to offer those who are willing to immerse themselves into his melancholic, psychedelic musical world.