V by Blackfield

Release date: February 10, 2017
Label: Kscope

Now on their fifth album, the collaboration between Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson seems to have come full circle as their Blackfield project marks a return to its original state. Having spent time away concentrating on his own solo career, the almost inhuman work rate of Wilson sees him step back into the fold after leaving Geffen to carry on the torch himself.

Not that Geffen had any problems and through Welcome To My DNA and Blackfield IV he proved more than capable of running the machine himself. Maybe it is this that makes Blackfield V feel like the work of two equal souls with Wilson’s shadow becoming more of a colourful presence rather than one stamped indelibly all over the music. It allows the album to live on its own merits, and for that it works to its advantage.

As you would expect, it’s the little nuances that make Blackfield V work so well. Once, more in tune with the heavier aspects of Porcupine Tree, the original remit of working towards more finely tuned songs is much in evidence here. Tracks such as ‘Lately’ or ‘Family Man’ breathe a persistent energy that keeps the music driving on. Not a note is wasted as they push the loose concept based around the ocean and life on its path. There’s an energy and yearning throughout as the music gets ever so emotional.

If Wilson’s stamp is anywhere on this album it is in those emotional sequences. ‘October’ may push it to schmaltzy levels (and weirdly sounds like Marc Almond) but on ‘From 44 to 48’ you feel as if your heart is being ripped out, such is the gracious power. Of course, Geffen is no slouch and it his vocal performance that brings those emotions to life.

‘The Jackal’ forms the centrepiece of the album, all major chords and minor interludes, a song both intimate and epic, it’s something which Wilson has become a master at. That the song then drifts into the beautiful ‘Salt Water’, an evocative instrumental complete with lush orchestration just shows the confidence that Blackfield have. In most cases it would feel self-indulgent, here it just sounds natural.

Blackfield V is an album to sink into. Much of it tends to creep up on you when you are least expecting it. On the surface, many of the songs sound thin but once they start to settle you start to realise the many layers that are here. The orchestrated parts are subtle enough so as not to be over-bearing, Geffen may not be the best vocalist in the world but he understands the emotion that is needed to bring the songs to life, and Wilson does what he does best and plays those parts which simply break your heart.

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