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STEVEN WILSON: THE HARMONY CODEX INTERVIEW by Joshua Batten

The Harmony Codex is British progressive musician and Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson’s 7th solo studio album and is one that has already generated much discussion and dissection since its release on September 29th. What’s not up for argument is that it is at times lush, majestic, absorbing and production-wise, sonically perfect. It utilises elements of prog, classical, rock, jazz, electronica and all points in-between. Extended nine and ten minute tracks are followed by three or four minute compositions. Much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get next. However, unlike his last album The Future Bites, which Steven admits was divisive, this new one to date has been almost universally accepted.

Local singer, songwriter Joshua Batten is a massive prog rock and Steven Wilson fan. Josh released a fascinating concept album himself last year titled Learn To Live Again, which tells his story of being a working musician on the Autism spectrum. We were very pleased to get Josh together with Steven Wilson over a zoom call to give his unique take on an artist interview.

MORE ABOUT STEVEN WILSON’S THE HARMONY CODEX
THE HARMONY CODEX isn’t like other records you’ll hear this year. Endlessly fascinating, endlessly revealing, endlessly beautiful, THE HARMONY CODEX is the seventh album from one of the country’s most singular talents.

Listening to THE HARMONY CODEX is akin to losing oneself in an Escher drawing made purely with sound. Over the album’s ten tracks, Steven Wilson navigates a tangle of memories and walks the listener down pathways where shadows cast by reflection, rumination and regret grow long.

This codex is a vivid tapestry conceived and pieced together by an artist working alone in a studio tucked inside the garage of a North London town house, with assistance called in from musicians from all around the globe (including long time studio partners such as Ninet Tayeb, Craig Blundell and Adam Holzman alongside a host of first time collaborators including Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto and Interpol’s Sam Fogarino). Each player was invited to add their individual stamp to the record. The snares, strings and sampled sounds each artist sent down the wires was woven in to make the music that starts the trip.

And it is a trip. Constantly evolving over 65 minutes, THE HARMONY CODEX starts with Inclination – a track built on the foundation of a precision rhythm that’s both mechanical and martial. As seemingly incongruous elements fall on top, the whole thing unfolds into with a swirl of mesmerising digital soul. From there, the record swoons on a wistful acoustic breeze (What Life Brings) before crunching through with bone rattling tribal drumming and a subsonic bassline (Beautiful Scarecrow). Elsewhere, stuttering drum loops are welded to spidery, scratchy gothic guitar lines (Actual Brutal Facts), fragile electronics open out like the night sky from behind clouds (Economies of Scale) and myriad instruments perform a mind bending, genre-flipping highwire act over ten minutes (Impossible Tightrope). Time and again, the lyrics return to that map of memory, and those long, long shadows.

While THE HARMONY CODEX nods to records from Steven Wilson’s recent past, at times echoing the paranoid rumble of 2008’s Insurgentes, the crystalline electronics of 2021’s The Future Bites and the expansive storytelling of 2013’s The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories), here he has managed to create something entirely unique, a record that exists outside of the notion of genre. And although THE HARMONY CODEX is a record made in with spatial audio in mind, it’s not one that needs an elaborate sound system to lift you out of body – two speakers and an open mind will do just fine.

Check out the album here: https://stevenwilson.lnk.to/TheHarmonyCodex

THE HARMONY CODEX features:

1 INCLINATION
2 WHAT LIFE BRINGS
3 ECONOMIES OF SCALE
4 IMPOSSIBLE TIGHTROPE
5 ROCK BOTTOM
6 BEAUTIFUL SCARECROW
7 THE HARMONY CODEX
8 TIME IS RUNNING OUT
9  ACTUAL BRUTAL FACTS
10 STAIRCASE

THE HARMONY CODEX will also be released as a limited edition 3 disc deluxe hardback book-set.  In addition to a CD of the album, the set includes Harmonic Distortion, a 77 minute reimagining of the album featuring alternate versions and remixes by Manic Street Preachers, Roland Orzabal (Tears for Fears), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Interpol, Meat Beat Manifesto, Faultline, and Radiophonic Workshop.  The third disc is a deluxe-only version of the BluRay featuring high resolution 96/24 stereo, 5.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos mixes of The Harmony Codex, 2 videos, and exclusive instrumental mixes of the full 65 minute album in high res 96/24 stereo, 5.1 surround and Dolby Atmos.  The 100 page Carl Glover designed hardback book features Hajo Mueller’s stunning artwork, meticulously created over an 18 month period in close collaboration with Steven during the making of the album.

Disc 1  – THE HARMONY CODEX

1 INCLINATION
2 WHAT LIFE BRINGS
3 ECONOMIES OF SCALE
4 IMPOSSIBLE TIGHTROPE
5 ROCK BOTTOM
6 BEAUTIFUL SCARECROW
7 THE HARMONY CODEX
8 TIME IS RUNNING OUT
9  ACTUAL BRUTAL FACTS
10 STAIRCASE

Disc 2 –  HARMONIC DISTORTION

1 Codex Theme #7
2 Economies of Scale – Manic Street Preachers remix
3  Codex Theme #9
4  Inclination – Faultline remix
5  Impossible Tightrope – alternate version
6  Codex Theme #6 4
7  Beautiful Scarecrow – Meat Beat Manifesto Excursion 1
8  Codex Theme #8
9  Time is Running Out – Mikael Åkerfeldt version
10 Staircase – Interpol Remix
11 Codex Theme #3
12 What Life Brings – Aug 22 mix by Roland Orzabal
13 The Harmony Codex – long take
14 Staircase – Radiophonic Workshop remix

Disc 3 – THE HARMONY CODEX BluRay

1. 5.1 INSTRUMENTALS (96/24)
2. 5.1 MIX (96/24)
3. ATMOS INSTRUMENTALS (48/24)
4. ATMOS MIX (48/24)
5. HIGH RESOLUTION STEREO (96/24)
6. STEREO INSTRUMENTALS (96/24)

THE HARMONY CODEX video (Directed by Crystal Spotlight/Miles Skarin)

https://stevenwilson.lnk.to/TheHarmonyCodex

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