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Peter Gabriel UP

Peter Gabriel - UP


"This is going to be unlike any previous Gabriel album." - Radio Real World, 1996

"OVO doesn't work on its own as an album. Isn't very satisfying. Probably because it´s not personal enough. It's too universal. And the Peter we kind of love is the Peter that is expressing his inner passions." - Spencer Bright, September 2001

When Peter Gabriel withdrew to his studio after the final gig of the Secret World tour (Woodstock Festival 1994), fans' eyes were riveted on Box, longing for an answer to the question that was eating away at them - "Oh my! Eight long years - was it worth the wait?" It was definitely worth it, and it would have been worth a much longer wait, too. With UP, Peter Gabriel will be giving us a masterpiece.

Do you know this feeling: A new album is released with many different songs on it, yet still those songs taken together form a unity, a universe of their own. PG4 was such an album, so were SO and US. UP, again, immerses us in a whole new world. From this world we are released only after the breathtaking crescendo that is Signal To Noise and its afterthought The Drop. The journey leaves us out of breath and slightly dizzy.

What does this world look like? Some would say it was dark and brooding. Where there is shadow, however, there is light, just in to chiaroscuro school of painting that lives off the contrasts between light and darkness. UP is certainly introspective, but it is also full of energy. It is Peter Gabriel's special achievement to have even those quiet, melancholy songs on an up-beat note. The album title UP proves to be more fitting than you would have thought at first. There are a couple of uptempo songs, while other songs turn out to be more uplifting than their first few bars made them appear.

What is it about? Peter Gabriel has begun to turn grey, he has just become a father again. It is only natural that he would start to muse about life, birth, death, about everything out of our limited capability of experiencing the world, about primal fears, our place in life and our need to find our own way. So that sounds pretentious and boring? - Hang on a second! Peter Gabriel is not reading a lecture on philosophical discourse at university. He uses poetic lyrics, unusual imagery and his creativity to let us experience those emotional states in his music. The strings he touches, as it were, swing on for a long time in those who listen to him.

Odd ones out: My Head Sounds Like That barely touches on the subjects mentioned above. It deals rather with our senses and the way our interior and the fulfillment of our lives influence them. There is, however, one song that appears not to fit the general subject of the album at all - unless you argue that The Barry Williams Show (just like Signal To Noise) focuses on compassion and the stance we take towards the people around us. Anyway, The Barry Williams Show (the first single) is such a mean song that you cannot help but like it.

Singles and their topics: US had a Sledgehammer clone on it. This time round, however, other topics qualified for singles. Don't get me wrong, sex does feature, but only in very peculiar incarnations.

What's new? With two minor exceptions, Peter Gabriel has been his own producer for the very first time in his career. Frankly, no producer would have worked on a project that has taken eight years. Said studio technician Dickie Chappell in 1996, "We do have a producer. It is just that little bit different. [Peter] does a good job, and it gives him more flexibility." Tchad Blake was called in only for final mixing, and Stephen Hague (co-)produced the mixing of I Grieve.

Peter "played around" a lot on the guitar, which is a first and certainly left its mark on UP. He did not play it the usual way, but manipulated and sampled the sounds he got from it. Some songs, among them More Than This, were written on guitar this way.

On OVO, Peter Gabriel had gained some experience working with and arranging string instruments (violins, mainly). This time, all the string arrangements (and those for Signal To Noise in particular) are his. Will Gregory and after him Nick Ingman assisted him for a few weeks. Apart from that, it's all his work.

Something else is new and very audible on the new album. While he was working on UP, he had his then studio technician (Meabh Flynn, now his wife [but that's another story]) compile a collection of percussion samples, so that he could play new grooves from those percussive elements on his keyboard. Peter, the "would-be" drummer he is, decided to give a lot of space to percussion and drums on this album. It is for this reason that we find an unusual number of drummers and percussionists on this album, not to mention Gabriel himself who played some of the tom-toms and, of course, the samples.

You can hear this large variety of percussion and drums on the album. Some of them were recorded the traditional way, some sound very strange and cannot be traced back to any known instrument.

What's the music like, then? It is really "multilayered". God knows Peter Gabriel had enough time to work on this album, and that's why the songs are very compact regarding the mood and the instrumentation. UP is a convincing album because it features a large variety of musical elements. Some of them take us back to what we love about Peter Gabriel's music in the later 70's and early 80's, viz. unusual sound effects and instruments, strong rhythms and lyrics that talk about unusual perspectives, strange characters, people in extreme situations and journeys through the inner life. Others are completely new and up-to-date "club sounds", as it were. Peter Gabriel's style had arrived in the new millennium. There are many things on UP that we haven't heard yet anywhere else in his work. It is, however, his very own mixture, and you will have some difficulty to imagine a complete song from UP getting played by a club DJ. It must be said, though, that some of them (e.g. Growing Up) are getting very close; it may take just the tiniest remix to do the trick. While US was a mixture of SO and Passion stylistically, world music has barely had an influence on UP. Peter Gabriel did not use exotic world music sounds. Instead, he prefers the innovative use of sounds and and samples he found and engineered himself, male gospel choirs, brass brands and the odd tightly concentrated use of strings. Many sounds on UP have been manipulated and electronically distorted so that you can hardly say anything about their origin. This is true for percussive elements, Peter's own guitar parts and many other sounds in the songs.
Surprises leap out from every bar of the album's music and vocals, yet there is a unity, a common thread linking everything on the album.

Speaking of vocals - What about Peter Gabriels voice? First of all, it is frequently very prominent in the mix, which gives the album a very personal touch. He also did not "iron" his vocal parts the way he usually does. Most of his vocals have remained fresh and raw, warts and all. This, however, is what gives the feeling to the album. The voice that seems to fragile in quiet parts is full in others or roaring with aggressive power. Sometimes it is distorted to sound "extremely grungy", there are emotional cries and long-held notes as in the end of I Grieve. Then there are lamenting sounds a la Mercy Street, sad but beautiful blues songs, or distorted parts (try to talk or sing with a creaking/ croaking voice while you breathe in) that resemble Moribund The Burgermeister and Kiss That Frog. Sometimes Peter sings his own unisono backing vocals or sings one text "on top of the other" [as in The Fountain Of Salmacis; translator's note]. This list could go on forever. It is not at all surprising that Peter was forced to have several singers on  OVO. His lower registers sound like Richie Havens, who would certainly not be able to produce the range of voice Peter has on UP.

Now for the musicians featured on UP. This list does not claim to be complete because at this time we do not yet have access to the album credits:


Peter Gabriel (vocals, keyboards, piano, "guitar", drums, tom-toms)   

Daniel Lanois (guitar) [ Sky Blue]          

Hossam Ramzy (percussion)               

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (vocals)   

Melanie Gabriel (vocals)   

The Blind Boys Of Alabama (vocals)   

David Rhodes (guitar)   

Peter Green (guitar) [Sky Blue]   

The London Session Orchestra (violins, violas, cello, bass)   

The Black Dyke Mills Band (brass instruments) [ My Head Sounds Like That]   

Tony Levin (bass)   

Danny Thompson (bass)   

Ged Lynch (percussion, drums)   

Mahut Dominique (percussion)   

Chris Hughes (drums, drum loops)   

Manu Katché (drums)   

Steve Gadd (drums, brushwork)   

Dominic Greensmith (drums, tom-toms)   

Will White (drums)   

Babacar Faye (djembe) [ My Head Sounds Like That]   

Assane Thiam (talking drum) [ My Head Sounds Like That]   


Topics featured throughout the album. Peter had considered an alternative title for the album, which was IO, as in I/O (input/output) or In & Out or Io, one of Jupiter's moons. That may have been the better title after all for an album dealing with inner life, our place in the world, information popping up in our brain without us knowing why and with "the old in-out-game" (as A Clockwork Orange puts it). The moon concept does not feature directly on the album, but it strongly features in the time leading up to the release. Let me just mention the Full Moon Club on and the "theoretical release date" of September 21, which is a full moon night. The moon and water [see below] are to be important elements in the tour that will take place in late 2002 / early 2003. We have not heard anything more precise yet, though...

The second thing to come up again and again is water. It is as yet unknown whether Peter Gabriel will manage to implement his original plan to send the finished album to musicians in South America, Egypt, India... to have them record their own versions of the album to be called "Up The Orinoco", "Up The Nile" or "Up The Ganges" and so on. Water as one of the elements appears in every song. As in Here Comes The Flood and Red Rain, water partly symbolizes emotional floods. It is about drowning (in one sense or another, with lyrics reading "I know how to drown in sky blue" or "but this display of emotion is all but drowning me"), it is about the unknown in the deep seas, about amniotic and other bodily fluids, about clouds, tears, the sound of falling water-drops, about moments running through one's fingers like water, about visions of accidents out on the sea - or a dropped plastic bag with water and a gold fish in it, symbolizing the fragility of life.

Water also features on the cover, if it does not change from the promo we have got. Front and back are based on black-and-white photos in a generally greyish color. On the front we see five single drops of water falling. They are distributed diagonally across the cover. Under them we see some blurred shapes. Only when you look at the cover very carefully for a longer time (hint: tilt your head to the right or tilt the cover to the left) you notice that the blurred shapes are an un-focused extreme closeup of Peter's face. In the waterdrops there are images of Peter Gabriel's face as well, distorted, turned upside-down, but at least in focus. The back is easier to recognize. There the single water drops, that resemble tears, "rain" into a hand with all the lines in it.

The cover is by the artist Susan Derges who has worked on similar concepts since the early 90's. In this case, Peter has not developed the cover art concept all on his own. He noticed Derges' works, and decided that a photo like that would fit the topics of water and "Inside and Outside" as well as his habit of hiding his face on the album cover.

Comparisons. If we really have to compare UP with Peter Gabriel's earlier efforts, it most resembles Red Rain for atmosphere and a mixture of all his studio albums with the Red Planet-version of The Tower That Ate People for style. As far as the journey through the inner life and periods in one's life is concerned, UP resembles the epic The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

Let us now talk about the songs themselves. The track list has two surprises in store. Nocturnals, long announced to be on UP, is not on it. I Grieve (from the City Of Angels OST) was not to be on UP, but now it is. Fans heavily debated these last minute decisions (there were some very-last-minute-decisions as well). Most wondered whether all new material like Nocturnals should have been preferred; there is, however, always the possibility to release the song as a B-side. It can be said that the selection of songs is leaning towards older material, what with the songs I Grieve and Signal To Noise (which has been played live at no less than three occasions between 1996 and 2001). Considering the long time the fans had to wait for UP, it might have been better to compile UP from material that is completely new to the fans. The known tracks could have been put on the second album I/O which is rumoured to be released immediately after the UP tour.

Song lengths range luxuriously from six to eight minutes (with one exception), so that for radio broadcasts some edits will be necessary.

UP consists of . . .


Darkness [06:49]

This song is about primar fears and insecurities that occur in childhood but also in adults. There is, for example, this creepy house deep in the woods, and nobody knows what kind of monster lives there... - The message of the sond: If you suppress your fears and phobias avoiding the object of your fears, they will become even stronger. Once you accept and face your fears, you can live with them.

Accordingly, you can hear the quiet voice that belongs to a victim of fear attacks, a victim who tries to calm their fears with reason. But there is also the loud distorted voice that belongs to the "monster" that is fear. The first song on UP begins with a quiet, knocking kind of rhythm (which resembles the Sledgehammer intro from the Secret World Tour). If you turn up the volume of your hi-fi because the song is so quiet, well, we're sorry for you. Right after this quiet intro a fat, multilayered screaming guitar and drum part hammers your ears. Actually, this is something that goes for the whole album: Peter Gabriel knows how to mix quiet sounds with loud sounds on UP. You just have to admire him for it because all parts fit together and support the message of the song to boot.

In Darkness, Peter Gabriel uses the technique of beginning the quiet parts with vocals only, slowly introducing more and more instruments ranging from piano to violins to the occasional use of multiple vocals.

The loud sections are big "explosions" of several monumental layers of guitars that either grumble or howl away, accompanied by loud drums. Over that, Peter Gabriel's voice sounds as if it was recorded through a telephone receiver (remember And Through The Wire?) or a megaphone. However it was recorded, it was electronically distorted.

Three minutes and nine seconds into the song you can hear some sad, dissonant piano chords that Tony Banks could not have played any better (this is where Peter sings "lies curled up on the floor").

Interestingly, there is a laugh that was put through a vocoder at the end of the song. We felt reminded of Moribund The Burgermeister or (to mention another artist) Genesis' Mama.


Growing Up [07:48]

"my ghost likes to travel so far in the unknown, my ghost likes to travel so deep into your space"

Hey, it's a dance track! Refreshingly modern, and it could be played in the clubs, too! The subject is heavy stuff, however. It is about the way that things keep changing naturally, are constantly in flow (another reference to water!). It goes on to deal with finding one's place in life and the universe. The song begins in the womb and with birth and after that build its world from points (one point – that's on or off, to be or not to be; two points – the mother's eyes; three points allow you to fix your position in space; four points are enough for a plain to build on). Linking the inside and the outside (= sex) takes the song to the end of life, which is really just another change.

Growing Up sounds very much like the trance elements and quiet parts that can be found on the version of The Tower That Ate People which is on the Red Planet soundtrack. Here, as elsewhere on the album, we hear a sequence of quiet parts mixed with sections that focus on rhythm. Growing Up has an unusual beginning - a dark-sounding cello followed by a quiet but solid cymbal groove (another sections that resembles the Sledgehammer intro from the Secret World Tour). Slowly more and more instruments come in, wavy keyboards, guitars, big howlers, radio interferences, distorted Hammond organ, piano "spots", muffled xylophone-like sounds and much more. Musically, it is a very rich track. Extremely groovy and danceable. The fine bass work in particular makes you want to dance to it.

The highlight of the song is the line "on the floor, there's a long wooden table" (approx at 4:00 in the song). Peter sings to separate parts of the melody (verse vs. chorus) over each other.. beautiful!


Sky Blue [06:38]

A blues! Rarely ever has Peter Gabriel put this much soul into his voice. Sky Blue tells us what it is like to lose one's way in life and love. It shows one way of trying to cope with loneliness in the infinite space and emptiness of nature.

Sky Blue is one of the oldest songs on the album. It was begun during the US sessions. The special feeling of Sky Blue is due to the atmospheric guitars played by Daniel Lanois and Peter Green (of Fleetwood Mac fame). Considering the time the song was written, it does not take wonder that Sky Blue has strong musical parallels to Lovetown. The melody and Peter's mellow voice also remind us of I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

The music is a thin fabric of guitar played "backwards", organ sounds, maraccas, electric guitars, piano, bass. Drums come into the song rather late. Its muffled "chuckling" percussion reminded us of Liquid Selves or the ending of Fourteen Black Paintings. Sky Blue sounds rather rootsy, which is due to the expressive voice of Peter Gabriel and the impressive finale with the Blind Boys Of Alabama singing gospel-style.


No Way Out [07:42]

This songs talks about the fragility of life and the shock we suffer from losing a loved one through an unexpected event or accident.

No Way Out features a large number of bass instruments ("normal" bass as well as an acoustic double bass), deep James-Bond-like surf guitar and a true overkill of percussion and drums (with Chris Hughes, Steve Gadd, Manu Katche, Dominic Greensmith hitting the skins; even Peter plays a tom-tom part) which makes for an interesting groove and a solid basic structure in the song.

Peter Gabriel is known for turning particular topics into music in just the way you wouldn't expect them to be. The flight sequence from Birdy did not have soft, hovering sounds but strong, energetic music. No Way Out is similar in that it is not simply a quiet song of mourning (like the first part of I Grieve); it is rather a strong command to the dying person not to leave his beloved ones alone, as if family bonds were able to give a dying the power to remain "in our world". This interpretation is enforced by the line "your eyes are bright, your blood is warm, your heart is strong, you´re holding on, I feel your pulse, I hold your hand" which is sung over the chorus (see below). No Way Out turns out to be quite a cheerful song that was rightly included on UP.

Several sound elements are quite prominent in the song. There are the deep instruments (bass et al.), the guitars played "backwards", strongly accentuated piano chords, bright and hovering keyboard backgrounds and clanging overmodulated sounds. Once again, there is a moment when two parts of the melody (chorus and verse) are sung "on top of each other", making the song very intense.


I Grieve [07:24]

I Grieve has already been published in a different version on the City Of Angels OST. The UP version is 42 seconds shorter; cuts were made in the instrumental sections while the verses remained untouched. Peter wanted this to be the first "full band treatment" of I Grieve. Additional instruments (mainly percussion, drums and guitar parts) were recorded. Stephen Hague produced I Grieve and Tchad Blake did some extra programming.

I Grieve is about dealing with and overcoming grief. Peter Gabriel stated expressly that he wanted to produce an "emotional tool" which could be used to deal with mourning and grief over a loss much the same way that Don't Give Up was an emotional tool for desperate people. The original version was rather quiet, subdued and melancholy, even though the opposing parts of unbearable grief and a positive return to normal life were already there. Peter wanted the UP version to sound a bit like Phil Spector, and so the new version concentrates on the positive aspect. A tighter version was achieved by the new instrumentation, by changing the volume of the backing vocals Peter sung and by the fact that Peter changed to the higher registers much earlier than in the original version.

The song ends right after the final, long "I grieve" and does not go into a long instrumental closing section, which provides a positive and effectful ending

The Barry Williams Show [07:13]

It's fast, it's funky, it's furious and it's mercyless. You might call The Barry Williams Show a wicked and caustic satire, but it comes too close to reality for this.

If we examine the content, The Barry Williams Show can be compared to Genesis' Jesus He Knows Me. While Genesis attacked the TV evangelists, The Barry Williams Show goes for talk shows, their hosts and the topics covered there.

It is about the questionability of reality TV and the malicious presentation of people and their intimate and private problems in prime time. In the US (the show is also broadcast in the UK) the equivalent to the German "Veras", "Arabellas" and "Bärbels" is male, 58 years old and answers to the name of Jerry Springer. In this song, Peter Gabriel plays the role of - the completely fictitious - Barry Williams, whose name resembles Jerry Springer's only coincidentally. Barry Williams is a reckless talk show host who cares for his guests only until the show begins. Then he dissects them and sets them one on the other. The topics brought up in his show come from the freak show of human life and display anything from broken homes to disordered personalities, in short, all those things that ought to be taken care of by professionals in private. All Barry Williams cares about, though, is having enough sex and scandal in his show to raise the TV viewing figures. When he is ousted from his show by a younger female successor, he plans his "final comeback"...

The Barry Williams Show is, musically, a mixture of Kiss That Frog and the theme tune of a Saturday night show programme on TV - a very fitting choice. Virgin Germany describes The Barry Williams Show as having an "incredibly rocky sound", but that does not half describe the stylistic range of this song. The beginnin is harmless enough, a slightly muffled croaking rhythm track. Soon enough, there is this "dirty" rough voice that reminds one of The Tower That Ate People. Bass and a guitar (whose sound appears "cut off" and "gated") join in, and soon you will find yourself swinging with the music. The chorus "Bab-Bab-Bab-Bab-Barry Williams Show" is very catchy, very cheesy and so tacky that is is really cool again.

The song also features times out for Peter's voice, instrumental sections in which you can hear drums and several trumpets (resembling Herp Alpert or US3's Cantaloup) and violins. Again there are lots of sound effects, keyboards, croaking sounds, bits of barrel organs, electric guitars, cymbals, strings, drums and so forth that make this song very rich.

The final verse has slightly less instruments before the mouth organ comes in (I told you it resembled Kiss That Frog, especially its version); there are only the violins and some percussion later in the background. It is also slowed down which makes the lines "the best TV you´ve ever seen [...] just one more Barry Williams Show, we´re gonna take you where you want to go" just more intense. It's the link to the audiences at the screens and to the way they are responsible for the merciless presentation of sensational embarassments and eruptions.


My Head Sounds Like That [06:27]

This solemn and introspective song is one of the most beautiful songs on UP. In 2000, Peter mentioned that he planned to have this song called Soft City on UP. Sometimes, he said, the sounds in a town change completely (e.g. after a snowfall), become muffled and that this change was, in turn, reflected in people's behaviour. My Head Sounds Like That is the concept of Soft City turned upside down, as it were. It is about the state our brain is in affecting the way we perceive sounds. There is an effect when you are completely stunned and lose your sense of orientation, either caused by a kick in the head or by the daze of an empty day-to-day life. In that situation, your hearing becomes more acute and all those noises that we are accustomed not to notice anymore become audible again and appear much louder than they really are. Peter Gabriel compared this effect to the moment immediately before one has to throw up when one becomes extremely sensitive towards smells of any kind. What happens there to one's olfactory sense, is described for the auditive sense in My Head Sounds Like That.

Musically, My Head Sounds Like That is a mixture of Me And My Teddy Bear, Flotsam And Jetsam and Strawberry Fields Forever (both Peter's 1976 version and general Beatles references). This is the song where full use was made of the percussion library mentioned before. The intro is built from soft beats on the talking drum (played by Senegalese percussionists from Youssou N'Dour's band) and peculiar noises that sound like radio signals or interference noises that were produced quite by accident when the DL2 echo unit crashed yet again. It grows louder slowly.

The main part of the song features Peter playing the piano and the slightly subdued Black Dyke Mills Band who already appeared on That'll Do and Father, Son. The brass part of this song was recorded during the That'll Do sessions. Appearently, Peter killed two birds with one stone there. These main instruments and Peter's slow, sad vocals make this intense song very solemn.

Even though the general character of the song is rather quiet, there are two occasions where "hell breaks loose". First, there is a moment where the drums come in loudly, accompanying a howling electric guitar and Peter's extremely distorted voice. The second moment is near the end and has the most off-putting brass (dis)cords of all times (they remind us of the Ethiopian flutes in The Family And The Fishing Net). They probably stand for the extremely sharpened perception or a moment of clarity in the otherwise dazed protagonist's brain when everything that is missing in his brain assails him at one.

By the way, the song ends with the creeking/croaking sound that was used for Intruder.

Two side notes. Firstly - Who does not think of the location of the Real World Studios when they hear the line "a freight train rumbles past my window"? Peter apparently talks from experience... Secondly - the line "the knife, it scrapes across the burnt brown toast" is plain delicious.

A remix of this song has just been delivered by Norwegian house duo Royksopp. Peter stated that he is very pleased about the result, although the song has been changed beyong recognition. We could not get information from him where this song will be released... [Note from the translator: The Royksopp remix of My Head Sounds Like That was released as track 3 on the Barry Williams Show single PGSCD13).


More Than This [05:57]

This is the second track on UP that is positively modern. The author of these lines suggests this song be released as the next single. More Than This is the most optimistic and most uplifting track. Though it opens in an uncanny atmosphere that reminds us of Red Rain, it is about the fact that, as Shakespeare knew, "there are more things in heaven and earth [...] than are dreamt of in your philosophy." There are many people who receive information that is not rationally accessible. Call it intuition, call it telepathy or second sight - there is "something else out there" than what we can perceive with our five senses.

More Than This is one of those radically new songs Peter composed on guitar. It is therefore full of guitar sounds, though you would not have thought they were guitar sounds because they have been heavily manipulated and processed. As usual, the instruments come in one after the other. First, there are these brief guitar samples, then Peter's vocals, more guitar, percussion, bass, dull drums and so on. They come in one after the other, but, after 25 seconds, the song has the groove that makes it so accessible. There are lots of instruments on this song. Every now and then surprising new sounds are introduced. We would like to mention percussive backing vocals sounding like "umm-tsh, umm-tsh, umm-tsh", lots of acoustic guitar, droning guitar sounds, very "fast drums" (that sound remarkably like Manu Katche's work), hammond organ and bits from howling electric guitar that sound like radio interferences.

The way Peter deals with rhythm in this song is thoroughly remarkable. Everytime you think the song would continue with this rhythm and this groove, there is a brief rupture in which there is few and quiet percussion and in which the focus shifts to vocals, piano and acoustic guitar. The constant change from parts with strong rhythms and parts with strong atmosphere is what makes this song so attractive. The grand finale, however, has the groove again, before the song enters the outro. This may well be the first time in his career (if we except Lay Your Hands On Me and Kiss Of Life) that Peter repeats the very same lyrics 13 times in a row.

A few months ago Peter mentioned that he planned to have the Blind Boys Of Alabama play on this song. This has obviously not happened.


Signal To Noise [07:33]

This is a grand, an epic, poetic, dramatic work. A song in Cinemascope. It is impossible not to be moved by Signal To Noise. Peter has finally found a worthy successor for Biko.

The song is about personal morals. It is a call for compassion and activism, a call for getting involved. Noise, that's the white noise, the background of all the information and trifles with which we are flooded every day. Signal - that's what's really important in the white noise - reports of violated human rights, torture, suppression, civil war, crimes against nature, concepts for our future and so forth. But it is not only about receiving, but about transmitting as well - about getting involved. We have to really listen to the important news items. Instead of letting them go by, we have to pick them up as fellow human beings, thus becoming a signal ourselves by committing ourselves to a worthy cause. Compare Biko's request: "The rest is up to you!" Said Peter in an interview: "In the end, the signal is our solid gold, the most precious thing we have, a thing to strive for and to build upon."

Signal To Noise opens, innocently enough, with a sound like singing whales and four single low surdu drum beats. Soon the London Session Orchestra violins come in to dominate this new version of a song that has only been heard three times live in six years. In the first half of the song the violins are nothing more than a melodiuos background drone, swelling up and ebbing away, yet accentuating the song and intensifying the vocals. Later on, strings (cellos also come in) become increasingly important and make the song sound solemn so that is resembles church music and really good classical music. Keyboards, good brushwork, ticking grooves, gated reverb percussions and the odd sample from Peter's percussion library add to the sound of the song.

Signal To Noise is a very intense duet Peter Gabriel sung with Pakistani quawwali singer Nusrat Ali Fateh Khan, who died in 1997. Peter only had recordings of Nusrat's vocals from the rehearsals and the actual performance during the 1996 VH1 Honors. A session at Real World Studios could not be realized anymore. Still, Khan's improvisations are incredible, passionate, and show what a virtuoso he was. Nusrat Ali Fateh Khan is one of the two singers Peter Gabriel admired most and was most influenced by (the other one being Otis Redding). You will understand why when you hear his vocals that are so powerful and full of emotion and dedication. Peter's vocals on the other hand are great, too, ranging from the desperate begging to the powerful and demanding.

After the vocal parts a special trick occurs approx. 1:50 into the track where the song appears to end. All instruments fall quiet, and only after two seconds of total silence does the song continue. This effect has not been used on earlier versions, and it very much strengthens the rhythm and the effect of the song.

The 2001 studio verions of Signal To Noise featured a very prominent guitar solo, accompanied on another electric guitar by David Rhodes. These guitar parts have been dropped almost completely in a last-minute-decision. It may be argued that this served to stress the contrast between the quiet verses and the storming finale (this was probably Peter's intention). However, the electric guitars introduced another powerful element that could have intensified the song.

But now let's come to the best part of the song, to the best part of the whole album. 4:27 into the song, the most fascinating single drum rhythm since Biko begins. The Bass drums sound like the Dhol foundation under Johnny Kalsi or like the Ekome Dance Group (featured on Rhythm Of The Heat). From that moment, something strange is happening to the strings. The become more and more intense, even menacing and aggressive as in Hitchcock's Psycho, and finally take over the main body of the song in a joint coup with the drum beats. Nobody has ever uses violins this way in a modern pop song (well, perhaps Puff Daddy did something slightly similar on Come With Me on the Godzilla soundtrack). We take our hat off to Peter Gabriel who did all the arrangements for this song. The song ends in an incredible dramatic crescendo, leaving us scant of breath. The author of these line could never finish listening to this song without exhaling a "WOW!" But this is not yet the end of the album.

The Drop [02:29]

A strong contrast to the preceding song. It is the shortest track on the album, one of those sparsely instrumentated (just piano and vocals) ballads that keeps up the traditions from Here Comes The Flood or Wallflower.

The Drop is another song on this album that talks about dying. This time it focuses on the question what comes behind death. Peter uses the image of a passenger on an aeroplane. It appears to be a dreamlike, phantastic plane, though, because its only purpose is to release its one passenger after the other through the open doors high above the clouds. The passenger, whose time has not come yet, tries in vain to determine the destiny of man below the clouds. On another occasion at night the passenger notices the lights of cities below him going out one by one "just like the nerves in the brain".

The Drop is a very moving small song that will send shivers down your spine from the first few piano chords that form the intro. We can easily imagine this song to be the solemn last song of the next Peter Gabriel gigs, just like the minimal version of Here Comes The Flood was played occasionally during the Secret World Tour. The quiet, whispering vocals are not absolutely perfect. They sound rough, fragile, trembling. There are moments where Peter could not keep the right tone. Still he decided to leave these vocals on The Drop, and rightly did, to maintain the emotional effect. The only acoustic effect employed was the addition of echo to the "Where they've gone"-part.

Peter Gabriel said about this song that he himself was only halfway through his life, but that he knew people (probably referring to his parents) who had almost reached the end of their lives. It is just consistent that Peter wonders in this song what might happen to them (and, at one point [hopefully a long time from now], to himself) after death. Says Peter, "But I think where there's death there's also life - and vice versa. A nice, cheerful thought."




With this cheerful thought we close our track by track review of UP. We heartily recommmend this album. It is a "must buy" (we would like to stress that the record company did not grease our palms to have us write that!). UP covers different topics than US, but it is as valuable as US - a true masterpiece. Just when we did not dare hope for it because of the endless time it took him, Peter Gabriel presents another impressive work. We cannot find enough superlatives to use in describing it. The brilliant ideas Peter had in the early 80's have joint with impressive new elements to create magic. All's well that ends well... even if it took ages!

Let's see whether Phil Collins can compare in two month's time...

by Karin Woywod

translated by Martin Klinkhardt

[final note by the translator: "We cannot find enough superlatives to use in describing it." Karin did find enough superlatives. I found the limits of my translating ability in trying to translate them. If this review appears rather sober, it is my fault (as are all the mistakes and typos). Karin was positively ecstatic about UP. MK]