Steven Wilson: Get All You Deserve (Limited Deluxe Edition)

John Kelman By

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Steven Wilson
Get All You Deserve (Limited Deluxe Edition)

When Steven Wilson decided to go solo after fronting the popular progressive/psychedelic group Porcupine Tree for 20 years, it was an opportunity to stretch beyond the confines that he'd ultimately created for himself in a group that also began as a solo project, albeit not under his own name. PT may have ultimately been his band but, as he said in a 2012 All About Jazz interview:

"When you have a group of musicians, you're inherently a democracy; the area you all meet on is, by definition, relatively small. By that I mean the area upon which we can all agree—this is the kind of music that we want to play—becomes relatively small. And that, in a way, is what gives the band its identity. And I'm not knocking it. I'm not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing."

Still, unshackled by the inherent confines of a band and, perhaps more importantly, a brand, Insurgentes (Kscope, 2009) gave Wilson the freedom to expand and integrate his "love of noise music, industrial music, electronic music and drone music" within a more complex progressive music that Porcupine Tree would simply have been incapable of executing. An even greater step forward, the double-disc Grace for Drowning (Kscope, 2011) was clearly informed by the singer/guitarist/keyboardist's work remixing, amongst others, the majority of the King Crimson catalog for surround sound, in particular Lizard (DGM Live, 1971), the progressive rock group's "problem child... an album that stereo could not contain."

Wilson's reach has continued to grow as both a writer/performer and as the "go to guy" for surround (and, in many cases, new and equally revelatory stereo) mixes for other legacy groups including Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Caravan—in addition to providing the same service to new releases from contemporary groups like Opeth and Anethema. But more than the sum of its parts, what's elevated Wilson's own music to a level even he could not have predicted has been the serendipitous formation of a band so exceptional that, as of this writing, he's back in the studio recording his third solo album—the first to feature new material written specifically for and performed exclusively by this band—and gearing up for a tour that will take up most of 2013.

The band's 2011 tour, in support of Grace for Drowning, hit Montreal late in the fall, and was exhilarating evidence of a collective that—with many of its players coming from backgrounds in jazz and improvised music, and despite playing largely structured and choreographed music—lent Wilson's music even greater depth and breadth; the consequence of an improvisational spirit and a deeper, more sophisticated language. It was one of the year's best shows, and Get All You Deserve—recorded five months later in Mexico City—is the perfect document of a band at its relative inception. Unlike the Montreal show, It also provides a sneak peek into the new record, with a live version of the 12-minute, episodic "Luminol" being road tested with stellar results.

Get All You Deserve comes as either a DVD, a Blu-Ray or a Limited Deluxe Edition, which includes both video formats as well as the entire two-hour concert—minus the intro and outro, taken from Wilson's ambient/drone project, Bass Communion—on two CDs, in a slip-cased, hardback DVD-size book with 40 pages of tour photos, information and a brief liner from Wilson. It's further evidence of his commitment to more than just the music; not unlike Germany's ECM label, of which he's a fan, Wilson sees a bigger picture, one where the music is released in packages that are also aesthetically beautiful—things to have and to hold, as much as to hear and see. Directed and edited by Lasse Hoile—whose distinctive style has created a visual branding of sorts for Wilson and Porcupine Tree since first teaming up for the cover of In Absentia (Lava, 2002)—his approach may rankle those who take issue with fast cuts, but in the context of music where there's a lot happening across the stage all the time, it ultimately works to engender the same kind of exhilaration as actually being there.

For those who own Wilson's limited-run (3,000 copy) live CD, Catalog | Preserve| Amass (Self Produced, 2011)—sold at shows during the 2011/12 tour and, briefly, at his website; a single, 70-minute disc that features half of Get All You Deserve's fourteen tracks, recorded at earlier shows—it's an opportunity to compare and contrast, and to really appreciate exactly what woodwind multi-instrumentalist Theo Travis, keyboardist Adam Holzman, bassist/stick player Nick Beggs and drummer Marco Minnemann bring to this music. Here, Niko Tsonev replaces Catalog's Aziz Ibrahim—both fine enough guitarists capable of delivering the parts and textures required, but simply not as exceptional as the rest of the band. This was, however, only Tsonev's fourth date with the band, making such criticism a tad premature, perhaps. Still, Tsonev's recent replacement by Guthrie Govan will hopefully bolster the band's one as-yet-impermanent position.

Simply comparing the two versions of the irregularly metered opener, "No Twilight Within the Court of the Sun"—with Minnemann the first one to enter and bolstering Wilson's assertion that "Marco is incapable of playing the same thing the same way twice"—makes clear just how essential this band is in making each night a thoroughly different experience. Beyond their entrances onstage (clearly not at the same point each night) there are moments, like when Holzman shifts from Rhodes to acoustic piano (sample) and Minnemann and Beggs kick into double time—something they don't do on Catalog—that make it particularly revealing to hear multiple versions of the music. Perhaps even more significant, however, is that the song is taken at an overall faster clip on Get All You Deserve, meaning that Wilson and his band are not playing to a predefined click track, which has become commonplace with so many of today's live rock performers.
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