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Blackfield V [Digipak]


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Performer Notes
  • In 2014, Steven Wilson announced he was leaving the Blackfield project he co-founded with singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen because his solo career claimed the majority of his time. He'd already scaled back his participation on 2009's Welcome to My DNA and 2013's IV to the degree that he was a featured collaborator rather than a full participant. Nonetheless, Wilson announced in August 2016 that he and Geffen had re-formed a full recording partnership. Blackfield V was cut over 18 months in Tel Aviv and London. The pair re-enlisted drummer Tomer Z and recruited Eran Mitelman on keyboards, as well as the London Session Orchestra to handle string charts; they even coaxed Alan Parsons to produce three tracks.
  • The set's 13 songs are loosely centered around an ocean theme. First single "Family Man" is a rocker with Wilson on lead vocals. Its offers fine guitar work and a dynamic hook that recalls the musical gold this pair mined on their first two albums. His vocal on "How Was Your Ride?" offers lush orchestration against a David Gilmour-esque slide solo and stacks of acoustic guitars, a swirling B-3, and dreamy backing vocals. "Sorrys" is one of Geffen's vocals, with wafting organ, fingerpicked acoustic guitars, and ambient effects; it offers a grittier lead vocal that suits its dark lyric. "Life Is an Ocean" is a drifting, dreamy number with lovely acoustic piano, a near processional pace, and fat guitars. Geffen's "Lately" is one of the hardest-rocking tunes here (even if its riff could have come from U2 circa 1982); the hook is ferocious, with thrumming basslines and cracking snares buoying the electric guitars and an anthemic chorus. The lone stinker is "October." It sounds like Geffen wrote it for a musical theater production, not Blackfield. He gets back on track with "The Jackal," which melds post-psychedelic blues-rock with dreamy pop. Another instrumental, "Salt Water," blends fingerpicked guitars, another lyrical Gilmour-styled lead, synths, strings, and a shuffling snare beat. The female lead vocals on the lithe, Euro-pop-cum-R&B tune "Lonely Soul" are offered by Alex Moshe adding a nice diversion. (She also sings backup on the polished rocker "Lately," and the even slicker, highly stylized indie pop tune "Undercover Soul.") Closer "From 44 to 48" carries an unmistakable early ELO flavor in its production -- and yes, that's a good thing. Wilson's vocal is framed by a wash of analog synths, strings, strummed acoustic guitars, and a stereo electric six-string. The melancholy lyric is fortified by a multidimensional instrumental attack with an arresting hook -- even if its pace is leisurely. While Blackfield V is not as exciting as their first two studio recordings, it is measurably better than the last pair. Perhaps it's because Geffen has far more confidence and authority as a vocalist. His songs are, mostly exceptional and matched overall by fine arrangements and excellent playing and singing from Wilson. The album's tempo could have been more varied, but that's a small complaint; there's plenty to enjoy here. ~ Thom Jurek
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