The Future Bites – Steven Wilson – 5.1 Surround Sound Review
Steven Wilson was all too accurate when naming his album. Originally slated for a June 2020 release, the future did bite, not least of all because his album was pushed to early 2021.
By Ben Jacklin
There’s definitely an irony in the fact that Steven Wilson named a project The Future Bites without knowing exactly what was in store. As well as everything else that 2020 brought, it also led to a delay in this album, which was originally set for release in June 2020. In 2021, the album saw the light of day, including a 5.1 surround sound version for the audiophiles among us.
In fact, The Future Bites is available with loads of added extras including extended versions, a cassette featuring demos, and of course, the Blu-Ray disc which has the 5.1 and Dolby Atmos versions of the album.
Wilson is known for his work with prog band Porcupine Tree, but he has been releasing solo projects for over a decade now. The Future Bites is not just a social commentary, but a coming of age album for Wilson as a solo musician.
Steven Wilson is also no stranger to pushing the boundaries of recording and mixing music, and this is one of the reasons why The Future Bites offers so much for the audiophile. The album is packed with detail, some of which creeps up on you from a new corner of the room on the fourth or fifth listen of the album. It’s this kind of exhaustive songwriting and production that keeps progressive music fans coming back for more, and the result is a pleasing, timeless album.
As a listener, you get the impression that Wilson really doesn’t care what you think, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He is sculpting the album he wants to, and hoping, rather than praying, that you go along with his ideas. The track runtimes speak volumes, with a song approaching 10 minutes, and a song that is barely one minute long.
“Self” shows the more accessible side of the songwriting, with a direct and catchy assault on the senses, including upfront vocals and a catchy hook, encased in slightly unnerving effects, and the singer showing his willingness to use the falsetto voice.
The album evolves into luscious layering and beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Massive Attack album.
The guitar-driven “12 Things I Forgot” verges on radio-friendly, and is another album on the more accessible end of the spectrum.
The layering on “Man of The People” is one of the finest moments for the mixing, as the synth and guitar layers build and swirl around the impactful falsetto. It’s understated, but there is something new to reach out and grab you in every single listen.
An 80’s feel in “Personal Shopper” and some fascinating guitar lines cutting across one another in “Follower” keep you gripped, but the finale, “Count of Unease” is a stunning and intimate masterstroke. This features some of Wilson’s finest vocal work, and shades of something Guy Garvey might write. The track evolves slowly, and captivates as it swells and breaks down twinned with the vocal mantra “always outside, always out of my mind.” As fine of an album-closer as you are likely to hear in 2021.
The inclusion of some of the demos, and the incredible surround sound mixing, shows you the evolution these songs have experienced before seeing the light of day. The album’s pace moves quickly, with nods to electronica, prog, and even trip-hop and jazz, but it somehow retains continuity around vocal themes and a stunning ambiance, enhanced by 360 audio.
The Future Bites was worth the wait.
About the Author
Ben is a writer and musician from the UK with a background in music technology. He writes about engineering and production, musicianship and music equipment for a number of publications including his own site, subreel.com