I was reading the other day that for the first time in decades, the sale of vinyl records exceeded the sale of CDs last year. And it’s not just older stuff that comes out on vinyl today.
One of the greatest new artists you’ve probably never heard of is Steven Wilson. I wanted to buy his new album, which came out on August 18th of this year, and like a fool, I didn’t pre-order it on vinyl. When I went to buy it a few days late, everyone was sold out, including amazon.com. Yeah, I could have gotten it on CD, but I wanted it on vinyl. Fortunately, the last call I made to a record store a little further out-of-town had one copy left, and the owner knew me. So he held it until I could get there after work.
When I first heard Steven Wilson say that his fifth solo album was going to be a more pop album than any of his previous ones, I have to admit, I was worried. But then I thought, to this guy, pop music is Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, XTC, Tears for Fears, and Simple Minds. What I think he really meant was that, unlike his previous albums, there would be no concept. There would be no common tie between the songs. It would be just a collection of good songs. And what a great selection of songs it is. Yes, the songs are not as complex as some of his previous albums. That doesn’t mean they’re not just as good. These are songs that are crafted and structured with such integrity that they grab you from the inside and make sure you listen. Sure, they can be played as just background music, but their strength lies in their composition. This is an album that demands to be paid attention to – that demands to be listened to.
It’s funny how some things come full circle. When CDs were introduced, many albums originally released on vinyl were rereleased on the then new digital format. Today, many recordings previously released only on CD are being pressed to vinyl.
Coma Divine was recorded live in Rome in 1997 and released later that same year as a single CD. Years later, it was expanded to two CDs and reissued. Eventually, with the resurgence in the popularity of vinyl records, the band finally rereleased it as a three album set in 2012.
Porcupine Tree’s music, and more especially this album, seem perfectly tailored for an analog medium, even though their music gained popularity, and this recording first came out, in a strictly digital age. melancholy songs that merge unnoticed into an extended guitar solo lathered in slides, bends, and an occasional drenching of wah pedal. Vintage synthesizers resonating obscure ebbs and flows alongside sequenced electronics. One can’t help but think of Pink Floyd in their finest hour. Then again, this is nothing like Floyd. This is truly original music. This is music that contradicts itself on the surface but languishes in unification at its core. This is modern vintage music. Coma Divine.
You would think that in today’s “connected” world it would be impossible for someone to disappear without a trace, without anyone noticing for years. That’s what happened with Joyce Carol Vincent, who died of natural causes, in her London apartment, in 2003. She wasn’t discovered until 2006.
Her story became the inspiration for the songs on Steven Wilson’s 2015 Grammy nominated album, “Hand.Cannot.Erase.”
Beautifully powerful, yet in the same realm, hauntingly sad.
A modern masterpiece.