Steven Wilson follows up last year’s masterpiece “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” with an EP called appropriately enough “4 1/2.” This is anything but a “stopgap” release. Sure it is meant to tide everyone over until the next full length album but it accomplishes much more than that.
First off, it ties up any loose ends there might have been from the last album by finishing the music that was not ready for “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” The opener “My Book of Regrets” is one such track and it could have easily fit on the album had it been ready to go. A bass solo, a key solo, a guitar solo or two plus the same theme of “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” all make this mini-epic one of the better songs from SW’s solo career.
“Year of the Plague” is a beautiful instrumental with lush strings and keyboards. It has a cinematic, atmospheric feel to it versus being like some previous instrumentals that SW has written, like the riffing “Wedding Nails” or jammy “Tinto Brass.” He can write an instrumental obviously. “Happiness III” is another missing piece from the “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” puzzle. It’s a breezy, hooky rocking track that of course would have made the album even better. Though that seems impossible. The melody line revisits ones used on the album which is very cool as well. I do wish it didn’t fade at the end but that’s nick-picking I suppose.
“Sunday Rain Sets In” is a melancholic, spacious instrumental with a calm jazzy feel to it, with a brief moment of insanity toward the end of the song. I like how the tracks are sequenced with a more upbeat, vocal track followed by a more sedate instrumental. I do wish the “moment of insanity” was fleshed out more but instead it is a slap in the face which is certainly effective. “Vermillioncore” is another instrumental which sounds very much like Porcupine Tree to me. I think this track would have fit onto “In Absentia” easily. I love the heavy guitars. Probably my favorite track on the album. KILLER track!
The closing track is a cover of “Don’t Hate Me” which was on Porcupine Tree’s 1999 album, “Stupid Dream.” While the song doesn’t stay too far from the original, it isn’t a carbon copy the way that SW’s re-recording of “Lazarus” was. The key to this track is the vocals of Ninet Tayeb, who was featured on “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” Making this song into a duet really gives it a different feel and meaning. She has an incredible voice that fits in perfectly with SW and makes this version a truly satisfying closer on this EP.
It might be getting old to say that Steven Wilson has done it again. But when he is so consistently brilliant, you have to say. “4 1/2” is yet another masterpiece even if it’s a shorter one. This will definitely hold everyone over until the next album!
1. My Book of Regrets
2. Year of the Plague
3. Happiness III
4. Sunday Rain Sets In
6. Don’t Hate Me