Album Review by Mark Bayross
Blackfield is the duo of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and controversial Israeli singer Aviv Geffen, nephew of Moshe Dayan and the man who has the unfortunate legacy of being the last person to embrace Yitzak Rabin before he was assassinated, making him something of a peace symbol in his homeland.
Sharing a love of classic rock of the late 60s and 70s, the pair met in Tel Aviv in 2001 with the intention of writing an EP together, but their collaboration was such a success that it was upgraded to this self-titled album. Although their sound draws heavily from the prog tendencies of Porcupine Tree, Wilson and Geffen have crafted an album that is varied, intriguing and often powerful.
As first track OPEN MIND kicks of proceeding with a verse drenched in clichéd 60s psychedelia, the omens aren’t good, but then a burst of guitar punches its way through the chorus and suddenly we’re in business. This is dramatic, tense and can’t fail to grab the attention, evoking a sound not far from the dynamism of VAST or Martin Grech.
The title track continues with a strummed guitar and keyboard-driven sound, albeit in a more conventional fashion, while the ghostly strings of GLOW give way to a cathartic finale that only suffers from being over too quickly. Other stand-outs include CLOUDY NOW, by turns haunting and angry, and the impossibly fragile LULLABY, an exercise in contrast if ever there was one – gorgeous strings and piano underpinning a brutal tale of child abuse sung in falsetto.
The production throughout is immaculate (listen to the mellifluous guitar outro on PAIN for example), while the only real mis-step is possibly the dubious use of drum & bass rhythms on SCARS, a move that was no doubt aiming for inspired incongruity, but only succeeds in sounding dated.
The album was originally released in January this year, but it has been re-released on Snapper Music with a second CD containing two more tracks (plus a live version of CLOUDY NOW and the video for BLACKFIELD). This is just as well, as, at 36 minutes, the album as it stood was too short: the abrupt ending of HELLO does make you want to hear more.
In all, BLACKFIELD has been something of discovery. Admittedly, there are plenty of prog rock moments and flashes of AOR harmonics, so it could hardly be called fashionable. Nonetheless, this is haunting and huge-sounding, with moments of real drama. Fans of Pink Floyd, Talk Talk, Sophia or VAST would do well to investigate.