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Steven Wilson, The Future Bites: the new album is a “sonic time machine”

Photo: Lasse Hoile

(Raffaella Mezzanzanica)

The “law of conservation of mass” originates from “Lavoisier’s fundamental postulate”: “Nothing is lost, nothing is created. Everything is transformed”.

Can this postulate be applied to music? The answer is: “absolutely”. In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid.

Steven Wilson represents how art can be related to “Lavoisier’s fundamental postulate”. His fans have always been used to his sonic transformations and his unprecedented music contaminations. Let’s think about his experience as the frontman of Porcupine Tree. In more than twenty years with the band (1987-2010) and ten studio albums, he managed to rethink and transform a “psychedelic-born” into a more “metal” and “hard rock” band. The album In Absentia is the main example of that change. This is also the reason why Prog Magazine titled the July 2020 interview with Wilson: “How ‘In Absentia’ became modern prog’s most influential album”.

In his solo work, Steven Wilson has delighted his fans with albums highly regarded for the excellent sonic journeys, lyrics, music videos and production.

In addition, he has been the creative mind behind the remixes of albums of bands that have marked the history of progressive music, at least in the most classic meaning of this definition: Jethro Tull, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and King Crimson. Indeed, in King Crimson’s recently released box set, The Complete 1969 Recordings, it’s included his new Dolby Atmos mix. “Remixing” does not mean “distorting” or “changing” but “rearranging”, hence keeping the essence of a song or even of an entire album unchanged. And Steven Wilson is a real master in doing this.

Today not only is Steven Wilson the artist who represents contemporary prog music, but he embodies music overall. His creations are based on a deep knowledge of the history of music, styles and genres. And he did all this on his own, learning to play different instruments, including the guitar, but also the different production techniques. After critically acclaimed albums like Hand Cannot Erase (2015) and To the Bone (2017), four years after the latter, he released The Future Bites on January 29th.

The Future Bites is a “sonic time machine”. After experimenting with the most different music genres, with this album Steven Wilson takes us back to the 80s. However, it would be an understatement to talk about The Future Bites simply saying that it is inspired by the sounds of that decade and this would mean to not recognize the fact that he took those sounds, genres and styles and projected them to the present days and beyond.

The result is a contemporary and futuristic album in terms of sound but also in terms of content, lyrics as well as production which involved Wilson himself and David Kosten who is considered one of the most “adventurous” British music producers.

The Future Bites is a concept album that becomes a sonic representation of people’s phobias, obsessions and addictions.

Personal Shopper, for example, talks about extreme, exasperated consumerism. We live in a manipulative society, where we are forced to desire useless things and, in some cases, this could take to addiction, illness and even tragedy. These attitudes are the subject of clinical studies and, to define them there’s a specific definition: “CBD – Compulsive Buying Disorder”. Personal Shopper is a brilliant song, which combines a dance/electronic sound with a dark video, directed by Lucrecia Taormina (“I wanted to create a fictional world in which people buy goods and the transaction would not only be money but also a part of their body, alluding to the concept of the more you look for answers outside, the more you disappear on the inside. “- cit. Lucrecia Taormina – Source: Steven Wilson official website). The song also featuresSir Elton John. We want a lot, we want everything and the more things we have, the more we are dissatisfied. And the more we desire material things, the more we get confused about what really matters. We cannot buy self-love, self-control, self-esteem. Material things give us a feeling of temporary fulfillment, but soon after that, we return to being insecure, even more than before.

Follower talks about how reality is distorted by the presence of Social Media. Reality is not real by definition. We are addicted to Social Media and look for appreciation within these “virtual boxes”. People are not rated for who they are, but on the basis of the number of “followers” or “friends” found in their Social Media accounts. Steven Wilson had already shown his intolerance for Social Media through the lyrics of another song, Pariah, the third track of To the Bone (“I’m tired of Facebook, tired of my failing health / I’m tired of everyone / and that includes myself “).

Self is a song that deals with the new forms of narcissism and self-absorption that have developed together with the use of smart phones and technology in general. (“SELF is about our new age of narcissism and self-obsession, one in which a human race that used to look out with curiosity at the world and the stars now spends much of its time gazing at a little screen to see themselves reflected back in the mirror of social media – quote Steven Wilson) In the video, director Miles Skarin uses the deepfake technique and transforms Steven Wilson into various characters including Donald Trump, Scarlett Johansson, Harrison Ford, David Bowie.

The Future Bites is a mature, conscious, contemporary album, cheerful in its sounds and somehow dark in its contents.

It is the maximum representation of the research of an artist who does not believe that music is something static but that it can be manipulated, overturned and even distorted. Steven Wilson has a clear vision of music. About twenty years ago, he published The Sound of Muzak, one of the most representative songs of his band, Porcupine Tree, and expression of his idea of ​​music back then and for the future (“The music of the future / Will not entertain / It’s only meant to repress / and neutralize your brain “…” Now the sound of music / Comes in silver pills / Engineered to suit you / Building cheaper thrills “…” One of the wonders of the world is going down / It’s going down I know / It’s one of the blunders of the world that no-one cares / No-one cares enough “).

And, speaking of rhymes, those in his songs are never predictable or ordinary. Think about Song of Unborn, the last track of the album To the Bone (“It’s not what you’ll possess / It’s how you will express / The essence of you”… “Don’t be afraid to die / Don’t be afraid to be alive “), and also to The Future Bites with 12 Things I Forgot (” There was a time when I had some ambition / Now I just seem to have inhibitions”).

Today Steven Wilson is going even further and, in fact, he is about to finish writing a book he started during the lockdown period, a real “big project”, as he defined it in an interview with “Under the Radar”. It is a book focused on his vision of music, including a chapter on his relationship with fans and with Social Media, a chapter on his idea of ​​how to listen to music (“do away with this notion of genre for a start”) and one on his philosophy on how to make music.

In short, a book that could be the most contemporary answer to “How the Music Works”, published by David Byrne in 2012.

Steven Wilson has also proved to be a very generous artist: a few hours after the release of The Future Bites, with a post on his Social Media channels, he thanked everyone who contributed to the making of the album. This is the another expression of the greatness of Steven Wilson and not only as an artist.Promo portrait: Lasse Hoile – Steven Wilson Press Kit