Porcupine Tree, Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, September 20, 2022.
The kick-off of Porcupine Tree’s first Chicago show in twelve years was nothing if not dramatic: a deep drone booming out as automated stage lighting menacingly swept the 3,000+ plus audience, the house lights dimming at the point of maximum tension — then a full-on visual assault from lights and screen, tracking with the slashing hard rock riffs of In Absentia’s “Blackest Eyes”.
At stage left: Richard Barbieri, ensconced in his wraparound nest of keyboards, conjuring up fearsome sonic webs of mist, gloom and abrasive noise as required. At stage right: Gavin Harrison, similarly surrounded by an overwhelming array of drums, cymbals and percussive accessories — and somehow appearing to be able to hit them all at once. And at center stage: Steven Wilson, throwing shapes on guitar as the power chords crashed, scrambling toward the mike on bare feet to chime in with typically sunny lyrics about a serial killer making a move on his desired prey.
It was an impressive opening, but something seemed off, and Wilson quickly acknowledged the state of affairs — sickness had been running through the band, and tonight it was effecting his voice. Promising his best efforts on both the Tree’s back catalog and the whole of their new album Closure/Continuation, singer and band proceeded to a nimble, ominous reading of “Harridan” and a lilting take on “Of The New Day.” Here Wilson’s challenges for the evening became apparent, as congestion and pitching problems crept into passages sung with less than full power. By “Rats Return”, though, Wilson had his voice under control, excoriating the cowardice of political strongmen both at the top of his lungs and in chilling undertones, while vicious fuzzed riffs raged around him.
The rest of the first set was completely stunning, mixing new tracks with superbly chosen throwbacks like the Floydian angst of “Even Less” and the doomy drive of “Drown With Me”. A zesty “The Sound Of Muzak” had it all: a bitterly hilarious Wilson intro (“21 years ago, I wrote a song about how music was becoming commodified — something you picked up at the supermarket, or as part of a software application. Well, thank goodness that didn’t come to pass!”), one bewilderingly brilliant Harrison drum fill after another, and a spontaneous audience singalong to the choogling chorus. Then it was Barbieri’s turn to stoke the darkly atmospheric “Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled”, its instrumental build eerily synced with the video suicide note of Heaven’s Gate cult founder Marshall Applewhite. And after senseless death, mourning: the new “Chimera’s Wreck” finally clicked into place for me as a survivor’s lament, Wilson diving into the depths of human experience, probing extremes in search of exorcism and catharsis. But after that emotional a ride, what do you do for the second half?
Tim Bowness’ sterling new album Butterfly Mind — to be released after last-minute supply delays on August 5th — isn’t just his latest for InsideOut Music/Sony, it’s also his 40th anniversary release! Since 1982, Tim has made his mark in the music industry as a contributor to bands such as Plenty (2 albums of recently re-recorded material from their 1980s heyday) and No-Man (7 albums, including 2019’s comeback Love You to Bits), as the co-founder of the record label and online music shop Burning Shed, and as co-host of the podcast The Album Years with No-Man collaborator and long-time friend Steven Wilson. Oh, and he’s also released five of his six previous solo albums on InsideOut since 2014, all chock-full of thoughtful, provocative art-rock brought to life by the cream of today’s progressive musicians. Butterfly Mind continues Bowness’ hot streak while striking out in fresh, arresting directions.
This is also at least Tim’s fifth interview with us at Progarchy. This time around, as well as revealing how “shed envy”, George Orwell, and flavored milk drinks played into the creation of Butterfly Mind, Tim unpacks his philosophy of lyric writing, reacts to Steven Wilson’s memoir and brings us up to date on the latest challenges of running Burning Shed. A complete transcription follows the video below!
So, when last we spoke, and I think that was in 2020, you joked about doing nothing and emptying out your Hard Drive of Doom over the next couple years. But here we are, in the run-up to yet another new album. So, what was the impetus behind the songs that have become your new album, Butterfly Mind?
Well, I did actually have nine months of not writing anything; the same before Late Night Laments as well. Basically, I didn’t write for about eight and nine months, and then I suddenly felt compelled to write. Because before Late Night Laments, I’d been working on No-Man’s Love You to Bits, and that had taken us about a year. That was a case of rewriting an existing piece and adding to it. And Late Night Laments came out very much as an album in opposition to Love You to Bits, cause Love You to Bits had been this quite electronic, pummeling, beat-oriented work. And I desperately wanted to do something quieter, more reflective.
And when I’d finished Late Night Laments, I really did have no ideas! All I did for about nine months was record cover versions of songs for fun. As you say, I got my Hard Drive of Doom out, I re-recorded some very old Plenty songs, and about nine months after that, I wrote a piece called “Lost Player”. And the floodgates opened once again!
So, within about four months, I’d written four or five pieces, several of which didn’t end up on the album. Two were with Richard Barbieri, who is in Porcupine Tree, as I’m sure many of you might know. And another was a track with [Plenty member] Brian [Hulse], which is ending up on the Japanese version of the album. But it really kickstarted again, sort of October 2020, and I just suddenly felt the desire to write. And if there was any motivation, it was again to do something different from what I’d done.
So, whereas Late Night Laments as an atmospheric album and it was quite consistently quiet, with this album I wanted to surprise myself and surprise the listener.
And I think you did! Because it’s true; when I heard Butterfly Mind, it immediately seemed harder-edged – there’s experimental sonics; you’ve got some songs with multiple sections; there’s almost a sort of muted hysteria in terms of the subject matter. But we can get to that in a bit.
On this album, instead of using that variety of players that you used on Flowers at The Scene and Late Night Laments, you’re building out from this core band – Brian Hulse on guitars and keys, Nick Beggs on bass and Stick, and Richard Jupp on drums. How did that unit come together?
It came together in a variety of ways, really. With Richard Jupp, I’d long been a fan of Elbow, and with him it was a case of shed envy! I’d seen an article on him and his home studio, and he had this magnificent shed and home studio. So, I contacted him, and obviously mentioned how much I liked his drumming as well. I particularly liked it on the first couple of Elbow albums, where he’s a very versatile player who can do dynamic, and he can do quiet. And luckily his teenage son, it turned out, was a fan of No-Man, Porcupine Tree and The Album Years, so he knew my work.
So that’s how Richard got involved; I said, “would you be interested in playing with me?” The session with Richard was great, because it was the first session after all the lockdowns in the UK. And so we were in the studio together, working in real time on the music. So, it’s very exciting! And he definitely went above and beyond what I’d expected. Because originally, he was planned to be on maybe half the album. But he heard certain tracks like “Always the Stranger” and said, “I’ve got to play on this; let me play on this!” So, it was really good!
Nick Beggs came about because as much as I love the players I’d been using on my previous albums — Colin Edwin, John Jowett, they’re both incredibly gifted. And I’ll continue to work with them; in fact, I’ve worked with Colin since I completed this album. I wanted something different; I wanted a different kind of energy. I mentioned this to Steven Wilson and he said, “Nick Beggs would be my choice.” So, then I approached Nick Beggs, and luckily he agreed.
So, yeah, it comes from a core group working on the song, then finding the right solo instrumentalists. People like Ian Anderson and Dave Formula, who are on the album.
Yes, and I noticed that here are plenty of cameos – you mentioned Ian Anderson; Peter Hammill comes in on guitar and vocals for a couple of tracks again; Greg Spawton plays bass pedals that don’t sound like bass pedals, so that’s kind of fun.
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s true!
But the biggest news that I saw in terms of guest shots was Ben Coleman playing some violin. What led the two of you to team up again? As I understand it, it’s the first time you’ve been in the studio together since No-Man’s initial heyday.
Yeah, it’s the first time since 1993, so 29 years! I think in the case with a lot of the players, such as Ian Anderson, it’s because I felt like it required that flute solo voice. And Ian plays on three tracks; one of them isn’t on the album, it’s on the outtakes CD, which is the second disc of the CD version.
And so really, it was finding the players I thought were appropriate for the piece. And Dave Formula is somebody whose music I’ve loved for many years. He was in a band called Magazine, who were very big when I was at school, and then he was also in a band Visage, who were also very big as well. But he’s a tremendous Hammond organ and synth player, who has been around actually since the mid-60s. He’s the same age as Ian Anderson, even though his heyday was in the early 1980s, with people like Visage and Magazine!
So generally speaking, I found people whose music I felt resonated with mine, and I felt they’d be able to bring something out of the material. And the same goes for younger artists. Like Martha Goddard, who sings backing vocals on three tracks, and Mark Tranmer, who is a wonderful guitarist who’s in a band called The Montgolfier Brothers.
And with Ben Coleman, it was because I could hear violin on two of the track; I could suddenly hear that classic No-Man sound! I just got in touch with him, and luckily, he was interested. He contributed to three or four of the tracks on the album in the end. And it was glorious – as soon as he started playing, it was that sound!
Yes, yes it is! It’s absolutely unmistakable! So let’s dig into subject matter a little bit more. The first time I heard “We Feel” and “Only A Fool” they were genuinely scary to me! And I also know that you never want to connect all the dots for us; you want us to take away our own meaning. Or our own perception of what you’re trying to say in these songs. But what clues are you leaving for us to decipher?
Six months in, 2022 is already shaping up as a banner year for new music. My own positive bias prevents me from objectively reviewing The Bardic Depths’ brand new album (though modesty doesn’t seem to prevent me mentioning it; I’m still stoked that I got to participate) — but there are still plenty of fresh releases to cover this time around! As usual, purchasing links are embedded in each artist/title listing; where available, album playlists or samples follow each review. But first, the latest installment in what’s becoming Progarchy’s Book of the Month Club . . .
Big Big Train – Between The Lines: The Story Of A Rock Band: when Greg Spawton and Andy Poole started a band, it didn’t stand out at first; one early concert promoter called the nascent Big Big Train “fairly mediocre” in retrospect. How BBT became a prog powerhouse — through sheer bloody-mindedness, growth in their craft and a keen ear for what world class musicians like Nick D’Virgilio, David Longdon and so many others could contribute — is the tale at the core of this passionately detailed band bio/coffee table book. Standout features include lavish design, with a overflow of revelatory photos; fully rounded portraits of major and minor participants, mostly unfolded through Grant Moon’s thorough interview work; and remarkable candor, especially in a self-published effort, about the human costs of BBT’s rise to genre prominence and mainstream media attention. (Moon’s portrayal of Spawton and Poole’s gradual estrangement, even as their joint project finally gathers speed, is both sensitive and haunting.) Between The Lines covers all of Big Big Train’s great leaps forward and forced backtracks through Longdon’s untimely death, leaving the reader with Spawton and his fellow survivors determined as ever to continue. Not shy about celebrating the beauty and ambition of the music the group has made, on record and in person, it also doesn’t flinch from portraying the price paid to scale those heights.
The Pineapple Thief, Give It Back:on which Gavin Harrison gives his new band’s vintage repertoire a kick up the backside with his stylish stick work, and Bruce Soord willingly “rewires” his own songs with new sections, verses and narrative closures. The results probe further into the moody motherlode that new-era TPT mines and refines: dramatic vignettes simmering with emotional turmoil; lean, mean guitar riffs arching over roiling keyboard textures; and always, those simultaneously airy and propulsive grooves. But while Soord and Harrison take the creative lead, this is a marvelously tight unit at work; Steve Kitch (keys) and Jon Sykes (bass and backing vocals) are indispensable contributors throughout. All of which makes Give It Back another enticing entry in the Thief’s discography — deceptively low-key on first impression, it blossoms into a compelling combination of tenderness and grit. (With plenty of headroom in the mastering to pump up the volume!)
Porcupine Tree, Closure/Continuation: The big news is that this is recognizably a Porcupine Tree album — that’s why, over repeated listens, it works so well. Steven Wilson is as happy and carefree as ever, cutting loose about fraught relationships (“Harridan”), nihilism in high places (“Rats Return”, “Walk the Plank”) and, of course, the inevitability of death (“Chimera Wreck”); plus there’s a spooky take on a Lovecraftian invasion (“Herd Culling”), a compassionate portrait of a man with nothing (“Dignity”) and a drop-dead gorgeous ballad that looks forward in hope and back in regret at the same time (“Of the New Day”). Still, it’s the reconstituted band, mostly writing the music in team formation, that gives the record its core integrity and guts. Wilson’s angular guitar and bass work, seemingly effortless songcraft and vocals that often climb to a wordless falsetto (a legacy of The Future Bites?) are perfectly swaddled in Richard Barbieri’s squelchy sound design and ineffably eerie synth solos, then hurtled forward by Gavin Harrison’s consummate percussive drive — whether he’s cruising the straightaways or leaning into jaw-dropping polyrhythmic curves. Of a piece if not conceptual, Closure/Continuation is never less than well-wrought and frequently awesome, worthy to stand alongside Porcupine Tree’s catalog as either a next or a final chapter in their saga. Now floating like a butterfly, now stinging like a bee, with commitment evident in every note, it may well knock you out.
Steven Wilson (with Mick Wall), Limited Edition of One: How to Succeed in the Music Industry Without Being Part of the Mainstream, London: Constable (imprint of Little, Brown Book Group), 2022, 361 pages
Steven Wilson – the most famous contemporary artist that no one has ever heard of. Well, certainly the most talented. After many years of maintaining a veil of mystery between his public persona and his personal life, Wilson recently published a book (in the UK – it comes out in the US in July). I believe the audiobook and digital versions are both available for purchase in the US right now.
The book comes in three versions: regular hardback, special edition in a slipcase with 128 pages of additional material plus a 70-minute CD featuring music pulled from old cassettes made very early in his career, and an artist’s edition that has long since sold out of its limited 125 copies. Wilson also read the audiobook version, for those so inclined. I bought the hardback regular edition from Burning Shed in the UK and had it shipped to the US because I didn’t feel like waiting the extra few months. That was expensive enough. I would’ve liked the special edition with the additional written material and CD, especially now after having read and thoroughly enjoying the book. I’d love more material, but it just isn’t in the budget. Alas, the life of a non-profit employee early in his career, especially during the worst inflation in 40 years.
I hesitate to call Wilson’s book a memoir. While it contains a lot of passages one would include in a memoir, it is so much more than a memoir. It has chapters dedicated to Wilson’s pastime of creating lists of favorite music, books, movies, and even a list where he debunks common myths about himself. Since Wilson was aided by music journalist and author Mick Wall in writing Limited Edition of One, there are some interesting elements where Wilson “breaks the fourth wall” and includes the transcriptions of some of the conversations they had in the development of certain chapters. There are chapters of memories, in no particular order. He talks about his childhood, certain parts of his career, how his musical heroes influenced his musical development, how his dad’s electronic tinkering and making equipment for Steven influenced the development of the experimental side of his music… and so much more.
One of the primary themes of the book is the recurring idea of a struggling artist trying to make it big, but not quite getting to the level of which he initially dreamed. Arriving somewhere, but not here. While he can live comfortably on what he’s done, it hasn’t been easy. While most in the pop world hit it big, with help from the record labels, in their late teens (or even earlier!) or early 20s, but it’s all over by the time they’re 30. Wilson is 54, and he’s more famous now than he’s ever been. As such, this book is the story of an atypical musical career, which I think makes it much more fascinating than a “tell-all” memoir from a music legend from 40-50 years ago who has long since ceased innovating musically. I think Wilson’s struggles as a musician have helped fuel his driving spirit of innovation.
Perhaps had he been born 15 years earlier, Wilson could’ve been as big as his musical heroes. But then again, the Wilson we enjoy (or complain about) wouldn’t have been the same artist if he had been operating in the same musical milieu as his heroes rather than chewing on their sounds years later as he strives to create his own art. Music as a whole did progress, and Wilson saw to it that it did. Porcupine Tree took progressive music into uncharted territory, creating new soundscapes while still incorporating the best elements of the past. Sadly the public, or the media elites, wanted music that was easy, simple, that didn’t make you think too hard.
Anyone who’s heard any of Wilson’s diverse discography knows full well that “dumb” music isn’t part of his repertoire. Even when he “goes pop” as he started to on To the Bone and as he certainly did on The Future Bites, the end result asks much of the listener. I may have roasted The Future Bites, but I did so with upmost respect for Wilson as an artist. My critique came from a position where I don’t particularly like pop music or many of the varied artists that heavily influenced that side of Wilson’s work. I named my review “Steven Wilson Bites the Future… and the Fans?”, partly as a form of clickbait, but also because Wilson made a conscious decision to expand his audience, perhaps at the expense of an existing fan base, much of which would rather see Porcupine Tree be the main focus of Wilson’s career. He talks about this in the book, but he also sees it from the perspective of an artist having to make the music that excites him at that particular point in time. As such Wilson’s advice to other artists is to ultimately be true to yourself, your art, and what you want your art to say, even if people get upset about it.
Short, sharp shocks this month: all albums and EPs reviewed below come in under the old school LP limit of 45 minutes! Purchasing links are embedded in each artist/title listing; album playlists or samples follow each review.
Entransient, Ghosts in the Halls: My hometown’s very own prog-metal band lays out the cards for all to see on their Facebook page: “Melodic neo/post-prog rock from Michigan. Influenced by Anathema, Alcest, and Porcupine Tree.” The good news is that guitarists Matt Schrauben & Doug Murray, bassist Nick Hagen, drummer Jeremy Hyde and vocalist/keyboardist Scott Murray refine those influences into a distinctive blend, marked by rich atmosphere and a towering core sound. The opening epic “Parasite” grabs hold immediately with its games of acoustic/electric musical chairs; “Synergize” and “Last Strawman” drive forward without mercy, as Murray testifies fiercely over bare grooves and fuzzed chords alike. More reflective moments like the title track, “Misplaced” and “Where the Shadows Lie” dial down the tempos and the lyrical angst while keeping the edge intact as the band prowls lush, more aerated soundscapes. (Kudos for Hagen’s mixing and engineering, as well as for the mastering work of The Pineapple Thief’s Steve Kitch; the band’s dynamic and textural range is captured with crystalline clarity throughout.) Entransient has an open, readily appealing touch to their music; as they blaze a fresh trail in a style that easily collapses into cliché, they’re well worth a listen.
Envy of None: No, this sounds nothing like Rush, even with Alex Lifeson’s guitar work in the mix. (If that’s what you want, the new anniversary edition of Moving Pictures is now available — and getting glowing reviews from unlikely sources like Pitchfork, for pete’s sake.) Lifeson does provide satisfying crunch, acoustic contrast, and creative lead work in spades, bedding in seamlessly with fellow core players Andy Curran (bass & guitar) and Alfio Annibalini (guitar and keys). They weave a darkly enticing aural mesh that cradles the understated, seductive singing of Maiah Wynne; her breathily fragile volleys, playing off the sticky minimalist hooks embedded in EoN’s web, are what might really ensnare you. Musically, this is all about basic song forms deployed in ambient/industrial/goth/post-rock styles; the seasoned instrumental interplay and Wynne’s preternaturally mature vocal work are what elevate the album above the obvious genre markers. So it’s old-fashioned chemistry and star quality, from veterans and newcomer alike, that turn out to be key to Envy of None’s appeal. Try it on that basis and see if it grabs you.
Steven Wilson has officially opened the pre-order for his book, Limited Edition of One: How to Succeed in the Music Industry Without Being Part of the Mainstream, which is due to be released on April 7. Wilson comments,
My book, ‘Limited Edition of One’, will be published by Little, Brown on 7th April and it is now available to pre-order in several editions, including a deluxe version and a super-deluxe “artist edition” of only 125 copies.
The book was written under a “no rules” philosophy with the collaboration of legendary rock biographer Mick Wall. In addition to containing autobiographical material, it has a lot on my broader ideas about music, as well as list and discussion chapters on the kind of things I get asked about a lot (favourite films, songs, record shops…etc), and some that I don’t. Also among its pages are photos from my personal archives, and a short story (which might be my favourite part). I’ve chosen to focus on the stuff that people really don’t know about me, rather than what is well known and documented by now. The tongue-in-cheek subtitle ‘How to Succeed in the Music Industry Without Being Part of the Mainstream’ perhaps tells you more about what to expect.
The limited deluxe version features a second volume of supplementary material and photos, plus a CD with “audio illustrations” of some of the things I talk about in the book, including mercifully brief extracts of my school bands, early attempts at electronic music, and unreleased demos from the beginnings of No-Man and Porcupine Tree among others. Although some of its musical merits might be debatable, my intention is to put you there in the room when I’m talking about these early musical endeavours.
Finally the super deluxe “artist edition” comes in special packaging and also includes a sheet of handwritten lyrics.
One of the things I appreciate about progressive rock is how brutally honest many of the musicians can be in their art. Steven Wilson and Devin Townsend immediately come to mind in this regard. Townsend has always shown his emotions in his lyrics and music, whether it be in face-melting heaviness of Strapping Young Lad or in his varied solo work. Wilson’s lyrics and the musical soundscapes he creates also reflect deep wells of emotion and even a somewhat philosophical approach to those emotions.
“Pariah” off 2017’s To The Bone is in a long tradition of similar contemplative melancholic and emotional songs by Wilson. Porcupine Tree’s “Lazarus,” Wilson’s “Drive Home” and “Routine,” as well as the more recent “12 Things I Forgot,” come to mind. I think “Pariah” may rise above the aforementioned tracks because of the exquisite duet with Ninet Tayeb.
The term “pariah” has a negative connotation in modern English, but I believe the term is usually used incorrectly to refer to a person who dramatizes their situation and makes a show of being an outcast when they aren’t actually outcast from their community or society. The definition is simply someone who is an outcast. The word comes from India, where it is used to refer to members of the lower order of the caste system.
I’m not quite sure which version of the word (the vernacular use or the correct use) Wilson is using here. Wilson’s character in the song is clearly someone dealing with depression, but we aren’t sure why. I don’t think “pariah” is being used in a derogatory fashion in the song, though.
For some reason I never realized this until yesterday, but Ninet’s inclusion on the song acts as a foil to Wilson’s melancholy. Wilson sings,
I’m tired of weakness, tired of my feet of clay
I’m tired of days to come, I’m tired of yesterday
And all the worn out things that I ever said
Now it’s much too late, the words stay in my head
So the day will begin again
Take comfort from me, it’s up to you now
You’re still here, and you’ll dig in again
That’s comfort to you, it’s up to you now
So Pariah, you’ll begin again
Take comfort from me
And I will take comfort from you
Ninet is playing a role often personified by females across thousands of years of philosophy. In the Biblical book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a female, and in Boethius’ “Consolation of Philosophy,” philosophy is personified as a woman. Maybe it’s a stretch to compare Wilson to Solomon or Boethius, two of the wisest men who ever lived, but what I’m getting at is “Pariah” is set up in a similar way. Specifically in Boethius we see the author having a conversation with philosophy. In this track we see Wilson (or Wilson’s character) in a depressed state. He’s worn out, tired of his failings, and tired of everyone else, and it’s a woman who sits down to talk with him.
Ninet’s angelic yet slightly gritty voice reminds him that tomorrow is a new day. She reminds him that he’s still alive, still breathing, and that’s something from which to draw comfort. She even offers to give him comfort, and perplexingly she says she will also take comfort from him. Perhaps she finds relief in aiding someone else in their darkness. As I mentioned above, I don’t think pariah is meant to be derogatory here. The lyrics are too gentle and Ninet’s delivery too sincere for that.
Prog magazine is reporting some interesting news from Steven Wilson. In addition to the new Porcupine Tree album due out in 2022, Wilson is working on a new concept solo album for 2023, and perhaps most interestingly he has a book coming out in March May 2022, entitled Limited Edition of One. Wilson comments on the book,
As well as containing some autobiographical material, it also has a lot on my ideas about music and the way things have changed in my time as a professional, lists, photos from my personal archives, conversation transcripts and even some fictional elements.
As there have already been a few books written about me and/or Porcupine Tree in recent years, I’ve chosen to focus on the stuff that people really don’t know about me. As you can probably guess, there will also be a special limited deluxe version. This will feature a second volume of supplementary material and photos, plus a 70 minute CD with “audio illustrations” of some of the things I talk about in the book, including mercifully brief extracts of my school bands, and early unreleased demos by No-Man and Porcupine Tree, among others. Although much of its musical merits might be questionable, my hope is to put you there “in the room” when I’m talking about my early musical endeavours.
Harridan and a few of the other new songs have been in play since shortly after the release of The Incident. They initially lived on a hard drive in a slowly growing computer file marked PT2012, later renamed PT2015, PT2018, and so on.
There were times when we even forgot they were there, and times when they nagged us to finish them to see where they would take us. Listening to the finished pieces, it was clear that this wasn’t like any of our work outside of the band – the combined DNA of the people behind the music meant these tracks were forming what was undeniably, unmistakably, obviously a Porcupine Tree record.
You’ll hear all of that DNA flowing right through Harridan.
The new album, titled Closure/Continuation, was completed in September and will be released on Music for Nations/Sony on June 24, 2022. Regular and deluxe CD and LP editions are now available for pre-order at the PT webstore and at Burning Shed. (Burning Shed’s exclusive white vinyl version is already sold out.)
European tour dates have been announced for October/November 2022, with tickets on sale Friday, November 5. Pre-ordering the album through the PT webstore (or just registering there) guarantees pre-sale access this Wednesday, November 3. US and Canada tour dates for autumn 2022 will be announced early next year.
All details above are available via PT’s website. Let the anticipation (and/or the bellyaching) commence …
[Sly and the Family Stone’s album ‘There’s a riot goin’ on’] is Muzak with its finger on the trigger . . . If you listen, you get sharper, and you begin to hear what the band is hearing; every bass line or vocal nuance eventually takes on great force.
Greil Marcus, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock’n’Roll Music
Steven Wilson’s The Future Bites didn’t click for me until I stopped listening to it. Let me explain.
It was when I was playing TFB for the fifth time, as I was doing something else, that I finally heard it — almost as if the album was designed to catch you by surprise when you’re focused elsewhere or distracted. I found myself drawn toward the interplay of backing textures instead of the spare surface detail, zooming in on the ambience of the foundational grooves and pads instead of the gyrating vocal and instrumental leads. Instead of missing the rock rhythms, the power riffs, the extended structures and the virtuoso musical moments of Wilson’s previous efforts, I started digging into what was actually there. The minimalism — maybe even the monotony Bryan Morey detected in his review — becomes the message.
Which, whatever you may think of the results, is a pretty neat trick. So the thought struck me: is this latest release meant to work as background music, as much or more than as a foreground listening experience? When you turn the frequently static norms of today’s electronic pop inside out, is this what you get?
If so, it fits with more of Steven Wilson’s catalog than later adopters might think — sample the extended trance trip of Porcupine Tree’s Voyage 34, the forlorn, scratched-up drones of his Bass Communion efforts, even the symphonic disco of 2019’s No-Man comebackLove You to Bits if you doubt me. (Not to mention his remastering of vintage efforts by German synth wizards Tangerine Dream.) And it seems to me his new sound — a postmodern British upgrade of Greil Marcus’ concept? — is not just purposeful, but channeled for a purpose. After all, the man knows (and has lyrically railed against) the sound of Muzak. By embracing it here, he’s planting depth charges beneath our buffed-up virtual lives, triggering both our individual delight as we succumb to the age of the algorithm and our creeped-out, collective unease with the results. We may be having a good time amusing ourselves into financial and spiritual bankruptcy, but Wilson’s depictions of lost, alienated souls (by turns ironic, empathetic, furious, blackly hilarious) hold up a mirror — one with the caption “Limited Edition Deluxe Box Set Purchaser” across the bottom — and dare us to study the reflection as we spiral downward.