Peter Gabriel releases new album ‘i/o’: hope is in art

The Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu is also involved in the album, the 12 songs proposed in multiple versions and accompanied by as many works by world-famous artists

At the end of a year in which Peter Gabriel released a new song to mark every full moon and performed live to enthusiastic audiences across the UK, Europe and North America, arrived yesterday his highly anticipated new studio album, ‘i/o’. “After a year of releases during the full moon, I’m very happy to see all these new songs together again, ready for their journey around the world,” Gabriele wrote on social media on the occasion of the release.

‘i/o’ is a disk containing 12 songs which confirm Gabriel’s ability to write songs that strike deeply and enhance his extraordinary voice, still perfect and pleasant. All the songs on the album appeal the theme of life and the universe. Our connection with the world around us – “I’m just a part of everything” sings Peter on the title track i/o – is a recurring motif, but also the passage of time, mortality and pain, along with themes such as injustice, video surveillance and the roots of terrorism. Despite being reflective, the tone of the album is never disheartening: ‘i/o’ is a record full of hope, which closes with the optimistic track ‘Live and Let Live’.

Recorded mostly at Real World Studios and Peter’s studio, i/o’s long process involved an exceptional cast. Peter kept his trusted circle of musicians next to him – the guitarist David Rhodesthe bass player Tony Levin and the drummer Manu Katché. Several songs also have the imprint of Brian Enobut they also collaborated on the album Richard Russellthe pianist Tom Cawleythe trumpeters Josh Shpak And Paolo Fresuthe cellist Linnea Olsson and the keyboard player Don E. There Peter’s daughter, Melaniecontributes warm background vocals, as well as Ríoghnach Connolly of The Breath, while Real World regulars Richard Chappell, Oli Jacobs, Katie May and Richard Evans they collectively take care of the production and play various instruments. The Soweto Gospel Choir and the Swedish Men’s Choir Oprhei Drängar they lend their magnificent voices to some songs. Also on the album the strings of the New Blood Orchestradriven by John Metcalfe.

Peter Gabriel, known for being an avant-garde artist, didn’t just want to collect these 12 songs but he has them all offered in two different versions: The Bright-Side Mixedited by Mark ‘Spike’ Stent, and the Dark-Side Mix, remodeled by Tchad Blake. “We have two of the greatest mixers in the world, Tchad and Spike, who give a different character to the songs – explains Gabriel in the notes accompanying the release of the album – Tchad is a sculptor who builds a journey with sound and feeling, while Spike loves the sound and the assemblage of these images, so he’s more of a painter.” Both versions are included in the double CD version and are also available separately as a double vinyl album. And that’s not all. A third version, theIn-Side Mixin Dolby Atmos, was made by Hans-Martin Buff “who did a wonderful job generating these much more three-dimensional mixes” and is included in the three-disc set, including the Blu-ray.

Continuing the idea developed for the albums “US” and “UP”, Peter has again invited a series of visual artists to contribute a work of art to accompany his music. Each of the 12 songs has been entrusted to a world-renowned artist to create an accompanying work, be it painting, photography, sculpture or even plasticine. The dozen artists involved are impressive: Ai Weiwei, Nick Cave, Olafur Eliasson, Henry Hudson, Annette Messager, Antony Micallef, David Moreno, Cornelia Parker, Megan Rooney, Tim Shaw, David Spriggs and Barthélémy Toguo.

Another visual link to Peter’s past work is the cover shot. The photo, by the photographer Nadav Kander, echoes the covers of some of his previous albums. These echoes of the past may resonate, but i/o is fundamentally an album of the here and now. Many of the themes may be timeless, but they are also warnings that we are living on borrowed time, both as a planet and as individuals. As Peter sings in the divine So Much, “this edition is limited”.