“Blackfield II” by Blackfield

Artist: Blackfield
Title: “Blackfield II”
Label: Atlantic Records
Release Date: 3/6/2007
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 4/5

This second collaboration between Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Israeli alternative singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen is a solid follow up to their exceptional 2004, eponymously titled, debut album. In addition to Wilson and Geffen, the new recordings feature the talents of Tomer Z on drums, Seffy Efrati on Bass, and Daniel Salomon, a star in his own right in Israel, on piano.

Whereas collaborative efforts by established artists have the potential to turn into disjointed arm-wrestling tournaments, Blackfield II has the feel of a united band effort. Aviv and Steven’s musical sensibilities, as well as their voices, meld together like two brothers who have shared a record collection, albeit from worlds away. In fact, to view this as a “side project” for either would be unfairly dismissive of how powerful and beautiful these songs/recordings are.

The 10-song album opens with the tribal drums and aggressive guitars of first single “Once”, but soon settles into a more melancholy mode. Like its predecessor, Blackfield II’s musical vistas are comprised of Beatle-esque and Floydian progressive/psych pastorals. This down-tempo countryside will be familiar to fans of Wilson’s mellower PT tunes and these songs are on a par with the best of that material. In particular, “The End of the World”, “Some Day”, “Where Is My Love” and “Miss U” conjure the same musical landscapes where one might hail a “newspaper taxi”, glimpse Arnold Layne rifling the local clotheslines, or pay a last visit to Sebastian Sorrow as he fades from life.

Dream-Pop and Bliss-Core fans will feel a very comfy swath in the album’s cinematic keyboards, eerie piano figures, liquefied guitars and lush vocals. These production techniques perfectly compliment the album’s introspective, often dour, lyrics that deal with alienation, longing, and missed opportunities. “Epidemic” finds Geffen bereft with “an epidemic in my heart, takes hope and slowly poisons me”, while Wilson inquires of a lost love “If I compiled all my crimes and my lies into amnesty, would you come back to me?” in “My Gift of Silence”.

The nature of celebrity is also explored in two of the songs. “1,000 People” ruminates on the value of fame versus authentic personal relationship, (“A thousand people yell, they’re shouting my name, but I want to die in this moment…” “…And then I watch her close her eyes, it’s only me that needs to cry.”), while “Christenings” tells the story of a chance meeting with a star of the past, now down on his/her luck and reduced to shoplifting essentials and gate crashing “christenings and funerals…and weddings too”. In what might be the most insightful lyrical passage in recent memory Steven Wilson acutely and ironically depicts the tenuous nature of the celebrity/fan dynamic.

“I used to see you all the time on MTV,
Read your life story in a magazine,
I guess you thought that is the way it would always be.

But I believe in you,
‘Cause I think that you’d want me to,
Though I never really liked your songs, it’s true.”

The album closes with the aptly titled “End of the World”. It’s a place where we, the “accidents called human beings”, are “dead but pretend we’re alive, full of ignorance, fools in disguise” believing even in this “prison for hopes and for dreams” there is God. During the bridge Geffen gets to do a reversal of the classic “just a little pin prick” of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” by offering,

“Take this pill; it will make you feel dizzy
And then give you wings
Soon, boy, you’ll fall into sleep
Without nightmares, without any fears

If you wake up in hell or in heaven
Tell the angels we’re here
Waiting below for a dream
Here in the garden of sin.”

Blackfield II is an effective and effecting record that is well worth your attention and will bear many repeat spins. My sole gripe is that, clocking in at just shy of 43 minutes, the album feels a bit scant, especially since “Where is My Love?” (though a different mix) has appeared previously as a bonus track. Of course, the 21st Century remedy for that is to throw both albums into a play-list on your iPod and hit shuffle.

Track Listing:
1. Once
2. 1,000 People
3. Miss U
4. Christenings
5. This Killer
6. Epidemic
7. My Gift of Silence
8. Some Day
9. Where Is My Love?
10. End of the World

Official Website: www.blackfield.org

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