Back in 2005, Peter Gabriel told Rolling Stone that he was making steady progress on his new LP i/o after three years of work. “At the moment, I’m trying to write principally about birth and death, with the sex in the middle,” he said, noting that he was producing the album himself. “My mental process is so slow, that it’s not really fair to take that time out of anyone else’s life.”
Eighteen years later, the Chinese Democracy of Peter Gabriel albums is finally on the verge of release. Leadoff single “Panopticom” was shared this morning. It features bassist Tony Levin, guitarist David Rhodes, drummer Manu Katché, and backing vocals by Ríoghnach Connolly of The Breath. According to a press release, Brian Eno contributed the “haunting electronics.”
“The first song is based on an idea I have been working on to initiate the creation of an infinitely expandable accessible data globe: The Panopticom,” Gabriel said in a statement. “We are beginning to connect a like-minded group of people who might be able to bring this to life, to allow the world to see itself better and understand more of what’s really going on.”
“Panopticom” was released to coincide with a full moon this evening, and subsequent i/o track releases will also be timed to the lunar cycle. “Some of what I’m writing about this time is the idea that we seem incredibly capable of destroying the planet that gave us birth and that unless we find ways to reconnect ourselves to nature and to the natural world we are going to lose a lot,” Gabriel said. “A simple way of thinking about where we fit in to all of this is looking up at the sky… and the moon has always drawn me to it.”
Gabriel plans on pairing every i/o single with a work of art. For “Panopticom,” he selected Red Gravity by David Spriggs. “It was the theme of surveillance that connected me with the work of David Spriggs because he’d done a piece relating to that,” Gabriel said. “David does this amazing stuff using many layers of transparencies so you get these strange creations with a real intensity to them. Part of what he does is imagine what art might look like a few years in the future and then try and create accordingly and I think he’s done that very successfully in this particular piece.”
i/o is Gabriel’s first album of original songs since 2002’s Up. He’s stayed busy over the past two decades with projects like his 2010 covers LP Scratch My Back and his 2011 symphonic work New Blood. He’s also gone on several tours, including a 2012 to 2014 tour celebrating his 1986 album So and a 2016 co-headlining run of North American arenas with Sting.
A release date for i/o has yet to be announced, but he’s kicking off ‘i/o The Tour’ on May 18 in Krakow, Poland. Only European gigs are on the books at the moment, but North American dates will be announced in the near future.