Melan­cholic masters Wil­son and Gef­fen get re­flec­tive on first ret­ro­spec­tive.

Prog - - Intro -

Steven Wil­son was hon­ing his skills in pop mu­sic writ­ing long be­fore his peppy solo ef­fort To The Bone last year, which slogged it out with Ed Sheeran and Elvis at the top of the UK al­bum chart and saw the prog icon briefly in­dulge in his love of ABBA.

Black­field, Wil­son’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Is­raeli singer­song­writer Aviv Gef­fen, never quite reached those heady heights of break­fast TV so­fas or chart sum­mits, but it did give Wil­son the op­por­tu­nity to purge him­self of three-minute verse/ cho­rus songs while his main band Por­cu­pine Tree roughed it out with me­an­der­ing for­ays and bol­shy chunk.

Cu­rated by Wil­son and Gef­fen them­selves, Open Mind is a look back at Black­field’s five al­bums, span­ning 2004 to 2017. Opener Black­field is an apt barom­e­ter of what’s in store over the 15 tracks, with the acous­tic in­stru­men­ta­tion sparse yet warm, melan­cholic yet rous­ing. Wil­son’s vo­cals slide over the cho­rus’ strains in a master­class of song­writ­ing, hook­ing you in with­out feel­ing overblown.

The duo de­cided against tak­ing things chrono­log­i­cally, with 2017’s Fam­ily Man fol­low­ing, a Por­cu­pine Tree-lite rocker. Else­where there’s the folk-speck­led Open

Mind and Once, which piv­ots on indie gui­tar at­tack. 1,000 Peo­ple, mean­while, fea­tures Wil­son’s stark vo­cals bit­ing into your con­science. ‘A thou­sand peo­ple yell, shout­ing my name, but I wanna die in this mo­ment, I wanna die,’ he rues.

It’s easy to fo­cus on Wil­son, but Black­field is just as much Gef­fen’s, if not more, es­pe­cially af­ter a shift in power in the late 2000s. His track Oc­to­ber is one of the com­pi­la­tion’s gems, with lav­ish or­ches­tra­tion cat­a­pult­ing it into film sound­track realms.

When con­trasted with Wil­son’s more kalei­do­scopic work, Black­field can feel a lit­tle plod­ding, with Fak­ing sound­ing like an indie rock throw­away. But that’s part of the deal. Melan­cholic at their very heart, Black­field still man­age to make light from the deep­est, dark­est pits of hu­man na­ture, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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