Music

Blackfield: Blackfield II

Elizabeth Newton
BLACKFIELD [Photo: Lasse Hoile]

Blackfield's melodies are gorgeous and enchanting as Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen collaborate once more to carefully manipulate time and space to their advantage.


Blackfield

Blackfield II

Label: Snapper Music
US Release Date: 2007-03-06
UK Release Date: 2007-02-12
Amazon
iTunes

Blackfield is the collaboration of Israel's Aviv Geffen with Steven Wilson of English prog-rock group Porcupine Tree. In February they brought us their second self-titled album, Blackfield II, an effort that draws from many of the same influences as the first Blackfield release. These touches seep into all of the disc's tracks, whether it be from the experimentalism of Pink Floyd, the progression of Dream Theater, or the haunting beauty of Radiohead.

The album is an expansive one, with each track gradually unfolding into broad and luscious textures. Piano, drums, guitar, and strings combine to create rich, gorgeous melodies which flow naturally into each other. The songs are lovely because they are restrained; where a band like Dream Theater's music is powerful in its boldness, Blackfield's harmonies are instead subtle and nuanced as Wilson and Geffen carefully manipulate time and space to their advantage.

The influences here are apparent without being overpowering: bits and pieces of instrumental breaks on every track seem to contain elements of Radiohead, while lyrics on "Someday" like, "No one cares about that fucking pretty face", over mellow, mournful backgrounds echo the tone and feel of Pink Floyd, as does harmonic motion scattered all throughout the disc. Blackfield's work is similar to these bands foremost in its progressive, anti-formulaic structures and sprawling phrases, but also in the tension and release these bands all share. The end of "Epidemic" is a powerful blend of instruments and lyrical lines like, "An epidemic in my heart / Takes hold and slowly poisons me". Where tracks like "Once" and "Miss U" are sweeping, tracks like "This Killer" and "Some Day" are somewhat more withdrawn, but all share a common sense of intimacy and closeness that unifies the disc.

As a whole, Blackfield's music calls forth in my ear a somewhat abstract comparison: American author F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing. In its poignancy and acute accuracy with regard to human emotion, the disc makes me think of The Great Gatsby. In the way that Fitzgerald's writing is both simplistic and lovely, he is also surprisingly accomplished at crafting moments of unexpected power, similar to the end of songs here like the opener "Once", and "Where Is My Love?", which grows into a blooming, glorious finale. However, in the way that Fitzgerald's prose often becomes overly sentimental, so does Blackfield II. Fitzgerald's writing, so consistently sweet and poetic, can at times become meaningless in its sentimentality. The trouble with this disc is that there is no moment of contrast or place to rest our ears. Every line is heart-wrenching, and so many moments are coated with thick, tragic strings that the emotional impact of the music eventually becomes ineffective, like a rich chocolate dessert we wish we'd only had one taste of.

"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet," wrote Emily Dickinson. Similarly, the real, raw power of music comes in that fleeting climax which lasts only for a moment. Throughout Blackfield II, the built-up beauty we long for in a song seems to be almost too pervasive and readily available. In the beginning, the swelling orchestrations and dramatic build-ups are moving and touching. But by the end of the album, we are verging on weary. Each cut taken individually proves to be breathtaking, but by the end, the album leaves us tired. However, criticizing an album for being beautiful too often is like complaining when the sun shines brightly for too long, and ultimately Blackfield's second album, like its first, is both gorgeous and enchanting.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

In their captivating new single, Bodies Be Rivers blur the lines between cutting-edge indie rock and shimmery dream pop.

Bodies Be Rivers began as a project between Lauren Smith and Thomas Stephanos, melding her songwriting chops with his exemplary guitar. Three years following their inception and the duo is now a full-fledged quintet that also features Summer Stephanos, Jason Lawrence, and Matt Moon. They've expanded sonically, too, with a healing sound accentuated by an ethereal blend of dreamy instrumentation and seraphic vocals.

Keep reading... Show less

Forty years after its initial release, one of the defining albums of US punk rock finally gets the legacy treatment it deserves.

If you ever want to start a fistfight in a group of rock history know-it-alls, just pop this little question: "Was it the US or the UK who created punk rock?" Within five minutes, I guarantee there'll be chairs flying and dozens of bloodstained Guided By Voices T-shirts. One thing they'll all agree on is who gave punk rock its look. That person, ladies, and gentlemen is Richard Hell.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image