Porcupine Tree are a British progressive band who originated in 1987 as a Steven Wilson solo project, but soon became a full band effort, releasing their tenth album in 2009. Since then, the band have gone on an indefinite hiatus with all the band members currently tied up with side projects to at least 2015. For this reason, in this two-part blog, I aim to review most of the Porcupine Tree side projects, starting with the seemingly ever-growing list of Steven Wilson acts.
Steven Wilson’s Solo Project
Wilson released his first solo album Insurgentes in 2008, which predominantly featured drone and ambient music styles. Only the tracks Harmony Korine and Insurgentes resembled anything from his Porcupine Tree background, resulting in a highly eclectic and experimental record. For his second and third albums Grace For Drowning and The Raven That Refused To Sing, Wilson changed direction to a 70s-inspired progressive sound, composing his songs for his new backing band comprising of Marco Minnemann, Nick Beggs, Guthrie Govan, Theo Travis and Adam Holzman and receiving widespread critical acclaim in the process.
Steven Wilson formed No-Man in 1987 with vocalist Tim Bowness, with Porcupine Tree as a side project. No-Man began with an ambient pop sound, but soon diversified to include acoustic, progressive and post-rock influences, but managed to maintain their minimalistic style. In recent years they have slowed down due to Wilson’s many other projects taking his time away from the duo.
Storm Corrosion was (for the time being) a one-off collaboration between Mikael Akerfeldt and Wilson, featuring a very dark and avant-garde sound that relied heavily on ambient soundscapes. The release was the culmination of over a decade of working together on Akerfeldt’s main project Opeth. Rather than release a record reminding of a progressive metal super group, the pair opted to explore styles which their other outfits didn’t suit, including sparse orchestral pieces as well as intense, often jarring moments.
Yet another duo, Blackfield are a pop-rock project formed between Wilson and Israeli rock icon Aviv Geffen, who released albums Blackfield and Blackfield II in 2004 and 2007 respectively. For their third effort, Welcome to my DNA, Wilson took a back seat to focus on his second solo album, resulting in an record that was written almost solely by Geffen himself. Unfortunately, this new era of the band couldn’t quite replicate the superb first two releases as Wilson’s absence left a massive hole that couldn’t be filled. Wilson has now announced that he has left the band for good, leaving the future of Blackfield in doubt, now that their European tour has ended.
Perhaps Wilson’s most obscure side project are the electronic and drone-based Bass Communion. Wilson’s compositions are often lengthy, comprising of field recordings, noise and electronics, which are textured to form eerie and sometimes beautiful arrangements. His output has been very frequent, amassing ten albums since I was released in 1998, including the superb (and at times simply terrifying) Ghosts On Magnetic Tape.
Other projects include his Krautrock inspired I.E.M. (Incredible Expanding Mindf*ck), his extensive work collaborating with Swedish progressive metal band Opeth, as well as producing and remixing roles with Anathema, King Crimson and Jethro Tull to name a few.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this week’s blog, please like, comment and subscribe to email updates. Look out for the second part appearing soon!