- 01 Dec 23
Mister Darkside. 9/10
Peter Gabriel’s first album of new recordings since 2011’s New Blood is based around the series of single tracks he released this year, part-echoing what Bjork did with Biophilia. i/o (meaning input/output) has two main mixes, one “bright” and the other “dark”, with contributions from the likes of Brian Eno, percussionist Manu Katche, The Breath’s Ríoghnach Connolly and bassist Tony Levin, alongside choirs from Soweto and Sweden.
The 12 tracks reflect Gabriel’s beguiling originality. The dark side is more serious and brooding without being solemn, even climaxing with the chipper ‘Live And Let Live’. Opener ‘Panopticom’ connects back to 1986’s So, with ‘Sledgehammer’ drums, clanging chords and ethereal synths. The sinister ‘The Court’ follows with a mix of industrial synth and orchestral touches, as well as snazzy percussion and a lyrical wag of the finger at the world, a la Van Morrison.
The title-track emphasises both our individuality and our inseparable link to the universe. It has Elton-style piano riffs before the band pile in, with some impressive choral vocals rounding out the arrangement. The sumptuous ‘Love Can Heal’ is full of watery mystery and hints at Enya and Mike Oldfield, with the lyrics suggesting that love can cure everything, more or less. A questionable notion as you recoil in horror at the daily news diet, but still worth restating.
The Dark-Side Mix comes courtesy of Tchad Blake, while the lighter Bright-Side Mix is the work of Mark ‘Spike’ Stent. The dual approach, coupled with the album’s on/off scheduling, might suggest Gabriel is unsure where he fits in the current musical landscape. But that very uncertainty makes i/o an appealing work about the intersection of the cosmic and the human.