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Peter Gabriel Panapticom

Song 01: "Panopticom"

Bright Side Mix
Dark Side Mix
In-Side Mix

The title Panopticom seems a little bit confusing here, since it should actually be called "Panopticon". But Gabriel writes the word with an "m" at the end: Panopticom. For him, the com stands for "communication". Because the idea at stake here is an infinitely expandable information centre accessible to all. Gabriel imagines it as a globe (presumably a digital one) into which one can zoom and call up information on all conceivable places and topics. Information that is already available worldwide may thus become freely accessible and usable.

This vision is based on real-world preliminary work, particularly from the organizations Forensic Architecture, Bellingcat and WITNESS, which Gabriel co-founded. The first two work on collecting, modelling and examination publicly available material from Google Earth, social media posts or YouTube videos and have already collaborated on the conviction of criminals such as those behind the poisoning of Russian opposition activist Alexei Nawalny. They both belong to an umbrella organisation based in Berlin.

Associatively even further: A certain Jeremy Bentham designed in 1791 with the "Panopticon" the concept for a prison in which a single guard has a view of many cells that are arranged in a circle around him, and it is thus possible for one alone to keep everything under control. If Gabriel now turns this Panopticon into a Panopticom, this means, literally: "Big Brother becomes Little Sister" and everyone on the outside can now observe what those in power are doing. Information about the world accessible to all creates freedom.

Panopticom is a hymn to this vision. You can find it naive - or imaginatively optimistic. In any case, the song in its "Bright Side Mix" radiates enormous positivity.
It is conceivable, but by no means confirmed, that others (such as a "Dark Side Mix") will be released alongside this mix.


Lyrics

The lyrics of the song are actually quite clearly formulated - no exuberant wordplay or incomprehensible statements. At the beginning come two terse descriptions that can be interpreted as either threatening or gathering strength. Following the idea of the song, however, this then leads into a clearly positive mood, which comes across as a praise of the "Panopticom".

The verses consist of only two lines of text, so to speak - whereby there is only one of these "verses" at the beginning, then two after the chorus. The chorus itself is in two parts: first the exclamation "Panopticom" four times and lively invitations to the listener in response ("let's find out what's going on"). This is followed by a quasi-continuous text in several lines, to which the basic beat of the music doubles. It describes how the world changes with the Panopticom. Gabriel says the phrase "And we pour the medicine down" was the first to form for the song.

In the second stanza, the phrase "It was in Berlin that all the evidence was found" appears, referring to the headquarter of the above-mentioned organisations working on the digital fight against crime.

At the end of the second chorus, from the line "Tentacles around you", the "around you" is repeated several times for the final part.


Art

Panopticom CoverThe track is accompanied by the work Red Gravity by Canadian-British artist David Spriggs, who makes very large-scale paintings in multiple layers that have a three-dimensional effect. The Gravity series is acrylic on layered Plexiglas in an LED-lit Plexiglas showcase.

The image also represents the "cover" motif for the single.

We have gathered more about the artwork and the artist behind it here.




Bright Side Mix - 6 January 2023


Words and Music Peter Gabriel
Produced by Peter Gabriel
Published by Real World Music Ltd. / Sony Music Publishing
Engineered by Oli Jacobs and Katie May
Pre-production engineering by Richard Chappell
Assistant engineering by Faye Dolle
Mixed by Mark 'Spike' Stent
Mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis
Recorded at Real World Studios, Bath and The Beehive, London
Cover Image: Red Gravity by David Spriggs

Drums: Manu Katché
Rhythm Programming: Peter Gabriel, Oli Jacobs, Richard Chappell
Bass: Tony Levin
Electric Guitar: David Rhodes
Acoustic Guitar: Katie May
Synths: Peter Gabriel
Additional Synths: Oli Jacobs
Bells and Haunting Synths: Brian Eno
Backing Vocals: Peter Gabriel, David Rhodes, Ríoghnach Connolly
Lead Vocals: Peter Gabriel

Length 5:14
Radio-Edit 4:06 [Bouzouki-intro and interlude dropped, outro shortened]



The first release of this track, the so-called Bright Side Mix (whether more will appear is unknown), is a comparatively optimistic number. It's actually something outlandish like a love song to Gabriel's vision of a global information platform.


Music

After an intro played with sampled bouzouki that sounds simple, maybe even innocent, the actual song starts with rolling rhythm in midtempo. A rich, but not over-demanding arrangement carries over the verse, until it quickly goes into the chorus, which at first consists of the call "Panopticom!" and a retort quasi as an answer, to then break out into downright jubilation doubling the basic beat. After a repetition of the bouzouki melody as an interlude, we return to the verse part, although it is only now that we notice that a certain heaviness lies over it. But the jubilation sets in again, comes in final increase, until the song swings out, thereby not in the fadeout ends, but with a livetauglichen, scarce chord.

A little bit the piece awakens associations to other Gabriel tracks - it is difficult to grasp exactly. Baby Man and Animal Nation possibly, both also in a medium tempo. The clearly earthy and acoustic basic tone reminds of US, interspersed electronic elements rather of Up and the time after.

The fact that the song would be based on already known snippets that would have left the studio at some point in the run-up was not noticed.


Personnel

Musically, Panopticom is carried by Gabriel's longtime band members Tony Levin, David Rhodes and Manu Katché. The sound pioneer Brian Eno adds effects (which never stand in the foreground) and a few other colleagues have a smaller share. Overall, however, the song line-up is much tighter than on some tracks on Up or US.

The track was produced by Gabriel alone. The mix comes (like all "Bright Side" Mixes) from the renowned and in the pop business coveted Mark 'Spike' Stent (Björk, Madonna, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen).




Dark Side Mix - 21 January 2023 


Words and Music Peter Gabriel
Produced by Peter Gabriel
Published by Real World Music Ltd. / Sony Music Publishing
Engineered by Oli Jacobs and Katie May.
Pre-production engineering by Richard Chappell
Assistant engineering by Faye Dolle
Mixed by Tchad Blake
Mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis
Recorded at Real World Studios, Bath and The Beehive, London
Cover Image: Red Gravity by David Spriggs

Drums: Manu Katché
Rhythm Programming: Peter Gabriel, Oli Jacobs, Richard Chappell
Bass: Tony Levin
Electric Guitar: David Rhodes
Acoustic Guitar: Katie May
Synths: Peter Gabriel
Additional Synths: Oli Jacobs
Bells and Haunting Synths: Brian Eno
Backing Vocals: Peter Gabriel, David Rhodes, Ríoghnach Connolly
Lead Vocals: Peter Gabriel

Length 5:13




Unexpectedly, Gabriel releases a first Dark Side Mix for the January New Moon. The one of Panopticom is actually an own mix - not a remix or a new production. The structure of the song and its sequence remain the same, also the available elements (and the lyrics). What is really different is the volume, equalisation and effects underlay.
So you don't experience any glaring changes, the differences are more subtle. That way Gabriel also offers us a course in music production.


Music

So the second mix is "only" a variation of the song, but it actually has a different effect.
Right in the intro, the sampled bouzouki is accompanied by plaintive sounds (sampled voice?), which gives a certain forlornness.
In the following, the individual instruments are clearly more audible, more isolated from each other. The arrangement is less filled with atmospheric elements. However, the drums also seem harder, the electric guitar rougher, the bass (especially in the passage after the first chorus) more swept out. Noticeably, the buzzing tones underneath the verses and the first chorus part are also more cutting in sound, less earthy.
Everything is edgier, punchier, not as smooth as in the Bright Mix and has less of its positive drama - less commitment.
The Dark Mix is indeed "darker" and no longer quite the jubilant hymn to the "Panopticom".


Personnel

According to the credits, the staff is the same. In fact, you can hear that the same musicians are working here. Only the spherical elements of Brian Eno are less noticeable.
All "Dark Side" mixes are made by Tchad Blake (Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, Pearl Jam, David Rhodes, Peter Gabriel), whose style is concise as well as grounded.




In-Side Mix - 28. Januar 2023


Words and Music Peter Gabriel
Produced by Peter Gabriel
Published by Real World Music Ltd. / Sony Music Publishing
Engineered by Oli Jacobs and Katie May.
Pre-production engineering by Richard Chappell
Assistant engineering by Faye Dolle
Mixed by Hans-Martin Buff

Just in time for the waxing crescent moon, another mix appeared surprisingly: A "3D" Dolby Immersive version, which enables a kind of three-dimensional illusion. On the Internet, however, this is only possible via the "Atmos system" of Apple Music or Amazon in the stream.

Realworld was probably a bit surprised that an Atmos track always has to be linked to a stereo version, which was not available from the In-Side Mix. That's why (for now?) the Dark Side Mix is stored as a stereo version with the wrong name. This initially caused quite a bit of confusion on social media.

Unfortunately we can't offer a review of this mix here for the time being...

But what is basically known: For Peter, stereo and 3D version don't have to match, they just have to both be great. The mixer Hans-Martin Buff about the resulting possibilities for him: "I get to streamline, I get to focus, I get to embellish, and I get to rough up the sounds that make up Peter’s arrangements. I get to emphasise, to hide, and I even get to record specifically for the immersive Peter Gabriel, and in the end, Peter will be in the room to be the judge of what’s best for his new songs."

Buff is German, has worked with Prince, Roachford, Zucchero or Mousse T..




Sound analysis

With the Bandcamp download you get the maximum quality with the optional formats WAV, AIFF or FLAC. In terms of audio data, all three formats are bit-identical, except that the FLAC format (as usual) has a lossless data compression of about 63% (in absolute figures: 172 MB for AIFF and WAV, 108 MB for FLAC). It is linear PCM with 24 bit and 96 kHz (about sense and nonsense of these "Hi-Res" formats elsewhere).

In the intro, the dynamic range looks quite good with an average loudness of -15 LUFS, even in the verses it gets only a little louder with -12 LU. However, with the full use of drums at about 1:46 min it's over - the level meter is set to stop, which means that the natural peaks of the waves have been severely limited in order to produce maximum loudness. This limitation is very effective, but as a "side effect" strong non-linear distortions occur, which cause a quite desirable saturation effect: the sound is loud, but quite pleasant. In the analogue age, something similar had been achieved by extremely overdriving the tape recordings. Nevertheless, such a thing would not be necessary nowadays, because there are enough effect plug-ins that perfectly emulate analog saturation without sacrificing dynamics. The disadvantage is that only a small fraction of the available maximum resolution is actually used.

The average loudness of -11.2 LUFS would have been a good value in the days of the infamous "Loudness War"; nowadays, acceptable values are more in the order of -15 LUFS. So a bit more "air" would have been nice.
Looking at the frequency curve, we notice a fairly even drop-off to the high frequencies from about 100 Hz to 10 kHz, with a small midrange emphasis between 500 and 1500 Hz - that's the range of Peter's voice - which can be heard well here at all times, while remaining fully embedded in the sound. Between 2 kHz and 10 kHz the drop becomes a bit flatter, here a slight boost at 4-5 kHz would have resulted in a bit more airiness and transparency, but apparently the masterer didn't want that. So the sound is quite bass- and mid-emphasized. You can do it that way, but you don't have to. Above 10 kHz it goes down more steeply, and at 22 kHz it is already at -80 dB, which is how it continues up to 48 kHz - that is practically whisper quiet at otherwise full level. But there is only noise here anyway - so even the bats don't miss anything.

Interestingly, the Dark Side Mix actually sounds "brighter" than the Bright Side Mix. This is due to the 3 dB boost of the upper mids and treble between 1 and 10 kHz and simultaneous cut of the lower mids between 100 and 700 Hz of up to 4 dB (roughly the frequency response I would have recommended for the Bright Side Mix). So, with otherwise approximately the same loudness (the Bright Side Mix is only 0.4 dB louder), the dark side sounds somewhat fresher and, yes, brighter.
However, the mixes differ in practically everything. The first thing you notice in the Dark Side Mix is the reduced ambient content. The vocals are clearer and more in the foreground, as are the drums, which in the Bright Side Mix sound rather washed out and merge with the background. Tchad Blake also largely does without the keyboard areas and also mixes the acoustic guitar further into the background. So his mix sounds a little more purist and unpolished - you could almost say more honest.




Links

Gabriel's explanatory Full Moon video for Panopticom:


More about the track on petergabriel.com

Website Forensic Architecture

Website Bellingcat

Website WITNESS

Website David Spriggs

Peter Gabriel on Bandcamp (in the video more info and excerpts from demo versions at 9:48)


Discuss this track here in our forum

 


Author: Thomas Schrage
Technical Analysis of the sound file: Tom Morgenstern
 

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