Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Steven Wilson ft. Sophie Hunger – Song of I

Song of A, Song of E, Song of O and Song of U to be released later this fall…


Maxwell Cavaseno: Eons ago, one of my friends was a kid in high school who was also a guitar virtuoso, and we bonded over a mutual love of Deftones and Morbid Angel. I gave him the gifts of Quicksand and Faith No More and Japan, and he ended up giving me a lot of prog-ish, nerdy stuff like Pain of Salvation, Opeth and Porcupine Tree. The latter’s mastermind, producer/multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson has, for a good few decades, worked with a particular melange of late-period Talk Talk, Tool, Pink Floyd and other disparate influences to… Well, I liked In Absentia when I was 16, but it didn’t stick. It’s interesting to see he’s succeeding and curious to see how little has changed. The orchestrations here actually recall mid-period Björk toward the end once he gets away from his Mark Hollis citations, and some of the melodies are Nine Inch Nails-esque. It’s a nice, broody, electronic tinged prog song that doesn’t feel like it’s made by a dude who’s got some really pretentious material in the cut (and boy does he ever, because I was rolling my eyes at “Dark Matter” in high-school). For me, it’s the equivalent of watching someone I’ve admired and thought nice, but never got to build a real relationship with go forward and do well by themselves, rather than fall apart with modernity. That’s not the case with that kid, but life happens.

Tim de Reuse: Well, this certainly sounds like an attempt at something shiny and aerodynamic and immediate from someone who usually doesn’t often work with any of those adjectives! The genre-hopping intent is laudable, but this takes so many pains to be somber and serious that it approaches self-parody, from the whispery vocals to the horror-movie-sting sound effects to the line “I gave up being polite.” The angular chord changes in the central, string-heavy instrumental section are the only real connection to Wilson’s prog-rock background; they’re also the most interesting thing here, and serve as a strange bit of punctuation that separates the rest of the song into two atmospheric, meandering halves, which feel like extended introductions to a particularly melancholy Nine Inch Nails tune.

Katherine St Asaph: The exact sumptuous autumnal drama Susanne Sundfør excised from her new record, that Sophie Hunger and Evelinn Trouble and that Swiss-Berlin cohort display in flashes every now and then. If this means I have to start liking Porcupine Tree I’m just going to start the process of hating myself now.

Claire Biddles: It’s possible to do nerdy and sexy at the same time — recent Wild Beasts is a good example — but so many male musicians try and fail. There’s just something off about “Song of I” — it’s too constrained, too wary, too closely following a formula: Even the traded “yeah”s between Wilson and guest vocalist Sophie Hunger seem scripted rather than ad-libbed expressions of desire. Steven Wilson has attempted to conjure an atmosphere of sinister sexuality, but this comes off like an icky second-rate Bond theme.

Nortey Dowuona: Blah synth bass and scrambled, crumbling drums and percussion sliding underneath blah voices and poor songwriting.

Joshua Copperman: The first half of this song is great, reminiscent of “Soldier of Love” in its sparse yet dense percussion and vocal layering. Steven and Sophie’s voices blend like an older Romy and Oliver as they trade their respective addictions (gambling, drinking) for another (obsessive, co-dependent love). When the strings enter in, it initially heightens the intensity, but also starts feeling indulgent after the first four bars. The ending rides the groove out, but there’s less of a reason to follow than there was before. “Song of I” is intended as a “smart pop” song, but from my experience, one important thing about pop music for any level of intelligence is the communal aspect — can you play this for a group of people without them either getting bored or slowly backing away? It’s still a beautiful, haunting headphone listen, but so close to being a perfect pop song I just wish Wilson let it be that. You can still be smart at under five minutes!

Alfred Soto: When I went to bring the clothes in from the dryer, “Song of I” was still thumping on. I replayed it to make sure I wasn’t listening to recherché crypto-Massive Attack in search of a Jennifer Lynch movie.

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