At the end of a year in which Peter Gabriel has released a new song on the occasion of every full moon, as well as performed live to rapturous audience throughout the UK, Europe and North America, today sees the release of his much-anticipated new studio album, i/o.

i/o is 12 tracks of grace, gravity and great beauty that provide welcome confirmation of not only Peter’s ongoing ability to write stop-you-in-your-tracks songs but also of that thrilling voice, still perfectly, delightfully intact. Throughout the album the intelligent and thoughtful – often thought-provoking – songs tackle life and the universe. Our connection to the world around us – ‘I’m just a part of everything’ Peter sings on title track i/o – is a recurring motif, but so too the passing of time, mortality and grief, alongside such themes as injustice, surveillance and the roots of terrorism. But this is not a solemn record. While reflective, the mood is never despondent; i/o is musically adventurous, often joyous and ultimately full of hope, topped off as it is, by the rousingly optimistic closing song, Live and Let Live.

Recorded mostly at Real World Studios and Peter’s home studio, the lengthy gestation of i/o means it has a sizeable cast list. Peter has kept his trusty inner circle of musicians close to hand, which means guitarist David Rhodes, bassist Tony Levin and drummer Manu Katché are sterling presences throughout. Several songs bear the fingerprints of long-time associate Brian Eno, whilst there are notable contributions from Richard Russell, pianist Tom Cawley, trumpeters Josh Shpak and Paolo Fresu, cellist Linnea Olsson and keyboard player Don E. Peter’s daughter Melanie contributes warm backing vocals, as does Ríoghnach Connolly of The Breath, while Real World regulars Richard Chappell, Oli Jacobs, Katie May and Richard Evans collectively provide programming and play various instruments. Soweto Gospel Choir and Swedish all-male choir Oprhei Drängar lend their magnificent harmonies to a selection of tracks, and the mass strings of the New Blood Orchestra, led by John Metcalfe, both soothe and soar.

Renowned for being a boundary-pushing artist, i/o is not simply a collection of a dozen songs. All 12 tracks are subject to two stereo mixes: the Bright-Side Mix, handled by Mark ‘Spike’ Stent, and the Dark-Side Mix, as reshaped by Tchad Blake. “We have two of the greatest mixers in the world in Tchad and Spike and they definitely bring different characters to the songs. Tchad is very much a sculptor building a journey with sound and drama, Spike loves sound and assembling these pictures, so he’s more of a painter.” Both versions are included on the double-CD package, and are also available separately as double vinyl albums. And that’s not all. A third version – the In-Side Mix, in Dolby Atmos, comes courtesy of Hans-Martin Buff “doing a wonderful job generating these much more three-dimensional mixes” and is included in three-disc set, including Blu-ray.

Continuing the idea developed for Peter’s US and UP albums, he has again invited a range of visual artists to contribute a piece of art to accompany the music and each of i/o’s 12 songs were handed to a world-renowned artist to create an accompanying work, whether paint, photography, sculpture or even Plasticine. The dozen artists make an exceedingly impressive team of collaborators: Ai Weiwei, Nick Cave, Olafur Eliasson, Henry Hudson, Annette Messager, Antony Micallef, David Moreno, Cornelia Parker, Megan Rooney, Tim Shaw, David Spriggs and Barthélémy Toguo.

Another visual link with Peter’s past work is the cover shot. Taken by photographer Nadav Kander, it echoes with the covers of his earlier albums, always present but, with the exception of So, intriguingly obscured or manipulated.

These echoes of the past might resonate, but i/o is fundamentally an album of – and for – the here and now. Many of its themes may be timeless, but they’re also warnings that we’re living on borrowed time, both as a planet and as individuals. As Peter sings on the divine So Much, “this edition is limited”.

The wait has been worth every minute. i/o is another triumphant Peter Gabriel record.

Tracklist:

CD | Digital

1. Panopticom

2. The Court

3. Playing for Time

4. i/o

5. Four Kinds of Horses

6. Road to Joy

7. So Much

8. Olive Tree

9. Love Can Heal

10. This Is Home

11. And Still

12. Live And Let Live

2LP

SIDE A

1. Panopticom

2. Playing for Time

3. The Court

SIDE B

4. Four Kinds of Horses

5. i/o

6. Love Can Heal

SIDE C

7. Road to Joy

8. So Much

9. Olive Tree

SIDE D

10. This Is Home

11. And Still

12. Live and Let Live

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