Mojo (UK)


- Ian Harrison

OVER LOCKDOWN, Steven Wilson wrote his long-planned, unorthodox memoir Limited Edition Of One. Its penultimat­e chapter, a disconcert­ing short story which evoked a synthesis of JG Ballard and Willy Wonka was, he says, “a little piece of dystopian science fiction… then I thought, Wouldn’t it be interestin­g to write some music for the imaginary movie interpreta­tion of the short story and to use it as the basis for something a little bit more conceptual, or pretentiou­s, in the best possible sense of the word. I love to be pretentiou­s.”

So The Harmony Codex, his seventh solo LP, began. With time set aside to tour 2022’s long-gestating LP Closure/Continuati­on by Wilson’s on-off progressiv­e band Porcupine

Tree, work commenced during lockdown in 2020 at home in north London, in a converted garage kitted out with instrument­s and recording equipment. He describes it as “a concrete rectangula­r block. I had to bring in an acoustic treatment specialist – the basic idea was to break up all of the flat surfaces with these kind of knobbly bits and panels. It’s visually a quite interestin­g space. I have some fancy lights that I can change with an app, no actual objets d’art, but I’ve got a picture of my dog.”

With a young family to attend to, he kept regular hours. “I have this kind of work ethic and routine,” he says. “That thing about, ‘Oh, this song came to me in a dream,’ that’s never been me. I’ve always been someone that goes to the workspace and chips away.”

As well as working with members of his regular group, collaborat­ors included Israeli vocalist Ninet Tayeb, Norwegian jazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, co-producer David Kosten and, on programmin­g, Jack Dangers from Meat Beat Manifesto. “I find that it keeps things fresh if you change your tools,” he says. “In this case, I bought an ARP 2600 modular synthesize­r off Matt Berry. It’s a beast, an imperfect, inspiratio­nal piece of technology. Matt’s obsessed with analogue synthesize­rs, much more than I am.”

Noting that not all of the songs relate to the short story, he promises long electronic pieces, acoustic balladry, pop and “an 11-minute spiritual jazz-prog wig out… It’s very much all over the place, unpredicta­ble, ridiculous­ly eclectic, the kind of LP I like to listen to. It’s going to be released in one massive chunk, without any singles. It’s a journey through different styles, different moods, like a piece of cinema, and I believe that’s the way this record should be experience­d.”

But what is the film? Mentioning David Lynch, Blade Runner and Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, Wilson says, “it’s that idea of playing with perception, playing with what I call dream logic – it’s not traditiona­l narrative logic… the best sci-fi is actually about the human condition, it’s absolutely about us.”

Three years after its inception, he admits he’s still tweaking the record, working on spatial audio mixes. “One of the big things for me on this record is the spatial audio aspect of it,” says the man renowned for his remixes of Yes, King Crimson, XTC and more. “How is this record going to translate in Dolby Atmos, 5.1 and all these other formats? Creating sound all around the listener and now above the listener as well – I love that.”

“I bought an ARP 2600 modular synthesize­r off Matt Berry.” STEVEN WILSON

 ?? ?? Harmonious notes: Steven Wilson working on his “ridiculous­ly eclectic” new LP in his garage in north London.
Harmonious notes: Steven Wilson working on his “ridiculous­ly eclectic” new LP in his garage in north London.

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