peter gabriel - up

.:: "The album is a 'bookends' record, looking more at the beginning and the end of life than the middle". This is a personal album, reflecting on the life that grows out of death and recognizing patterns and forces at work above and beneath our normal focus.

Most of the recording and mixing has been done at Real World Studios, although some of the initial recording was done in Senegal, France and on a boat on the Amazon. It's the first time that Peter has taken the full reins of production, except in these last few months when he called in the legendary Tchad Blake to mix the record, with some additional mixing and production help from Stephen Hague on 'I Grieve'. It is also the first time Peter has done a lot of work on the string arrangements, especially on 'Signal To Noise', for which he spent a couple of weeks working with Will Gregory and later Nick Ingman.

There is an extraordinary line up of musicians on the record with Peter's traditional ex-drummer focus on drums and percussion. On that front we find Manu Katche, Ged Lynch, Dominic Greensmith and Will White and on percussion Ged Lynch, Mahut Dominique and Hossam Ramzy. The familiar faces of David Rhodes (Guitar) and Tony Levin (Bass) can be found all over the record with the great Upright Bass played by Danny Thompson. There is also a wide range of singers from the wonderful and sadly departed Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the Blind Boys of Alabama and Peter's own daughter, Melanie. 'Sky Blue' is probably the most backward looking track on the album and features some atmospheric guitar from Daniel Lanois and one of Peter's favourite musicians from his teenage years, Peter Green.

So many hundreds of hours of recording have been logged that this album is probably the first to have its own archaeology department.

That Up exists at all is faintly miraculous. Over the past seven years, with guests including Youssou N'Dour, Peter Green, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Peter Gabriel has held recording sessions in Senegal, Atlanta, Singapore, the French Alps, and on a boat on the Amazon River, as well as at his own RealWorld studios. Having written and prepared over 150 songs, he's managed to cut this huge body of work down to just 10 tracks.

There's a remarkable consistency and contemporary feel here that springs from a thoughtful layering process, with Gabriel combining tribal rhythms with complex backing vocals, samples, rock guitar, piano and--crucially--electronic effects. Indeed, the opener, "Darkness," begins with an aggressiveness that recalls the Prodigy, before hints of vulnerability and fear surface. Elsewhere, there is the dreamy "The Drop" and the orchestral heights of "Signal to Noise." Throughout, Gabriel uses water metaphors to put forward his positivist message. And it's all brilliant, sophisticated, and soulful. The man's a marvel and Up is a masterwork. --Dominic Wills

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