Since arriving in our hearts, minds and ears in 1987 with his innovative rock band Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson has continued to surprise and delight us with his progressive musical ideas. In possibly his career highlight, Wilson now delivers The Harmony Codex, his 7th solo album, one you’ll want to (and need to) play on repeat to fully unpack the myriad notions and layers that lay within.
Released everywhere last Friday, 29th September 2023, THE HARMONY CODEX isn’t like other records you’ll hear this year.
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.
Watch WHAT LIFE BRINGS,
Here’s what the world’s music media has to say about The Harmony Codex.
“For the first time in Wilson’s career, to these ears, he has made a record to be loved rather than admired. If you have kept Steven Wilson at arm’s length for whatever reason, try this.” Record Collector, 5/5
“A sonic journey where you never quite know what’s around the corner.” Mojo 4/5
“A shimmering blend of electronica and prog inspired by a dystopian parable” The Arts Desk 4/5
“Sonically immaculate.” Uncut
“More analogous with cinema than anything he’s done before… it’s palette is as colourful as a Farrow & Ball showroom.” Under The Radar
“An album that stands up to, and indeed demands, repeated listenings.” The Prog Report
“None of his previous six studio records sound remotely like any other, and that’s exactly the path The Harmony Codex continues on…. epic, complex, uncompromising and unpredictable.” Classic Rock, 9/10
THE HARMONY CODEX features:
6 BEAUTIFUL SCARECROW
8 TIME IS RUNNING OUT
9 ACTUAL BRUTAL FACTS
Out now via Virgin on CD/2×12”/Deluxe boxset/BluRay/DL/streaming. Buy The Harmony Codex here.