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Steven Wilson - Transience CD (album) cover

TRANSIENCE

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

3.39 | 69 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Transience' - Steven Wilson (55/100)

The following has been written based on a promo copy on behalf of Prog Sphere Magazine.

Transience is one of the most baffling albums I've ever come across. I'm trying to think now, actually, and I can't think of another that possibly trumps this in terms of the sheer mixed signals it's trying to send.

Now, it's important (and hopefully obvious) to note that whatever confusion I have towards Transience has scarce little to do with the music itself. Like quite a few of you reading this, the work of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree has been a major part of my listening digest for years, and albums on both sides of his career have wormed their way as some of my top favourites. I've listened to some of his albums hundreds of times, and not once have I ever thought Porcupine Tree (much less Wilson's solo career) ever needed some kind of 'Greatest Hits' compilation to sway potential newcomers. Best-of compilations are swiftly becoming a thing of the past as it is, and while certain stalwarts like The Beatles or Queen might invite some release to compile their catchiest tunes on a single disc, I don't think the medium works for progressive rock artists. Prospective fans of Wilson's music aren't going to be looking for the chart-topping hits and club-friendly banger; they're probably going to jump headfirst into the masterpieces and appreciate the work as it was intended. In any case, I would never have thought to see a best-of comp from the man himself.

However, that's still not the reason I am baffled by Transience. That's not the reason it's one of the strangest things to be released this year.

The bottom line is that Steven Wilson has released what's essentially an accessible best-of comp with every exclusive bell and whistle I'd normally associate from a diehard fan item. Steven describes Transience as "the ideal way to introduce a friend or partner to SW music without the more "difficult" stuff getting in the way." Surely, many of us have already had times where we've tried to get friends, girlfriends and wives into the music, but buying them a limited vinyl-exclusive 2LP probably isn't the first place I'd start. Probably. I mean, it'd probably be a safer bet to start with a few non-chalant YouTube links here and there, then slowly working up to full albums. Even then, if I wanted to sway someone who really needed an easygoing introduction to Wilson's music, I'd start with Porcupine Tree and advance from there.

For what it's supposedly trying to do, I think Transience actually does a fairly lovely. Part of an album's central character is the way in which the songs are sequenced; the way they compliment and contextualize one another. In that regard, Transience manages to paint some of these pieces in a fresh light, and for that, I am duly surprised. Who'd have thought "Transience" would make a perfect opener, or "Drive Home" an epic finale? For whatever cash-grab this album seems to be, Steven Wilson's obviously given it more thought and care than the average best-of compilation. The most enticing part of this album's press release is the part where Transience is described as "personally curated"-- indeed, the album does feel that way, and the songs have been made to feel like they fit together.

Fans hungry for any sort of fresh material will be a quarter-impressed; a re-recorded version of "Lazarus" offers some novelty, but feels pretty dead compared to the original. Barring that, this is the Steven Wilson you all know, and mostly love. For those who are really looking to get into Wilson's music to start, I'd personally recommend checking out Lightbulb Sun or Deadwing from the Porcupine Tree days. The only people I can imagine delving into Transience will be people who are already major Steven Wilson fans, and it probably won't be for the listening so much as the having.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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