“Steven Wilson is the king of contemporary progrock as far as I’m concerned. Brilliant music with beautiful guitar solos and amazing synthesizer sounds. Tight drumming, solid bass parts and complex rhythms. Typical for progressive rock is the idea of a concept album. And, above all, stunning artwork. Nowadays, next to the standard cover art, you have so called ‘limited editions’. Entire books made by artists. As is the case with this album, “Hand.Cannot.Erase”. The themes on the album will not necessarily make you happy. It’s about loneliness, isolation and alienation; memories cannot be erased by hand, they will always exist.
The story is about Joyce Carol Vincent, who, after dying in her North London apartment in 2003, remained undiscovered for more than two years. You sometimes read these kind of newspaper reports and then your usual thoughts are: must be some old woman of about 90 years old. But Joyce Carol Vincent was only 38 years old. In 2011 Irish director Carol Morley made a documentary drama “Dreams of a Life” about Vincent’s life. It is a retrospect of her life and how it could have gone so wrong. Many questions remain unanswered. The paradox of a woman who had friends, family, colleagues and neighbours, and no one noticed her death. Everyone who knew her says she was a happy girl, but apparently there was a short circuit in her head. This is symbolically displayed on the cover. This docudrama was the inspiration for Steven Wilson to make the album.
Slowly but surely Joyce Carol Vincent withdrew from her life. She quit several jobs. The boyfriend she had never came forward. Not even after her death. There was probably some sort of abuse, Joyce Carol Vincent spent some time in a women’s shelter. Contact with her family had also been broken off after she moved to London. She locked herself in a small apartment in North London. The cause of death is unknown. The strange thing is that she was busy wrapping Christmas presents. The TV was still on after two years. Bizarre that the neighbours had never noticed anything. The stench was attributed to trash cans around the corner. The electricity bill was automatically debited. The epitome of alienation. Even huddled together, nobody seems to care about each other. Exactly the theme Steven Wilson wants to address. In fact, it can happen to anyone. Who cares about the neighbours nowadays? Do you ring the doorbell if you haven’t seen each other in a month?
On the one hand it is an depressing theme, but at the same time the ‘limited edition’ is of dazzling beauty. Both the book and the music. The book was created by Lassie Holie and his team of illustrators. A real work of art. They have turned it into a kind of diary with over 100 pages with magnificent photos, newspaper clippings and texts from a diary. All fake, but you find yourself completely stepping into Carol Joyce Vincent’s shoes. I have personally met the musicians on this album at the Boerderij. Guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Marco Minnemann performed last year with their band The Aristocrats. Keyboardist Adam Holzman gave a wonderful solo performance in 2018 and bassist Nick Beggs played with Steve Hackett, three years ago. Super nice guys and top-notch musicians. Govan’s guitar solos regularly give me goose bumps, such beauty.
With this album cover and the music at full blast you once again realize the value and beauty of progrock in 2021. Steven Wilson himself has become too big for De Boerderij. These days, he can easily sell out the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. Hopefully we will regularly see his colleagues perform live at the Boerderij. I can hardly wait.”
By Gerrit-Jan Vrielink
Translation: Alex Driessen