Steve Wilson – Grace For Drowning Blu-ray
Steve Wilson has built himself a reputation of being an expert, when it comes to surround mixes.
He mixed a number of the Porcupine Tree albums himself and is also responsible for his solo projects and surround re-mixes of select King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer records.
Grace For Drowning is Steve Wilson’s his second solo record, featuring (among others) Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess on 3 tracks.
Even though it is not as heavy as the Porcupine Tree albums, the overall mood is as expected very melancholic and not exactly uplifting (I guess the title already gave that away).
There are 12 tracks in stereo and 5.1 multi channel at 96kHz/24 bit encoded with lossless DTS-HD Master Audio, 2 stereo bonus tracks and films for 5 of the album tracks.
Steve Wilson is called the master of surround sound by many, and I agree, his work is mostly great, but I don’t particularly like the surround mix of Grace for Drowning. The main vocals are very dry and don’t blend well with the rest of the music. On the fantastic Lightbulb Sun DVD Audio the vocals are mostly dry too, but there is some vocal ambience in the surrounds to create a sense of space when needed. Something I sorely miss here. Also at times there is an imbalance in the soundfield that I find distracting. In ‘Deform To Form A Star’ there is a solo guitar that is prominent in the center speaker and on the right side (right front and right surround). The whole weight of the music tilts to the right and feels very unnatural. I don’t mind instruments being featured in only one surround speaker, as long as there is some interaction with the speaker on the other side (the surround mix of Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat makes use of this effect in a pleasing way). But a continous passage like this guitar solo only on one side just doesn’t make any sense to me. The strings in ‘Postcard’ are also louder in the right surrounds.
‘Remainder The Black Dog’ features the piano in 4 speakers (left, right, left surround, right surround), but front and back sound so similar (instead of decorrelated) that the slightest head movement results in a phasing sound. And again the first lead guitar solo is very dry and missing ambience.
I’m really sorry to say, but this is the worst Steve Wilson mix I’ve heard to date. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what Steve Wilson is doing for surround sound and there are some good moments on ‘Grace for Drowning’ (the song ‘Track one’ is great, especially when it picks up in dynamics), but overall I expected more from an album that was nominated for a Grammy for best surround sound music album in 2012.
Surround Sound Music Verdict
Fans of Steve Wilson and his surround mixes will most likely be very pleased. The music itself is of the same quality we’ve come to expect from him and the mix is very discreet. However, due to some bold mixing decisions I cannot bring myself to like it.
Buy if you are a fan, but I’ll stick to Porcupine Tree’s Lightbulb Sun if I want to listen to a great Steve Wilson surround mix.
You can get the Blu-ray here: