We’ve updated our Terms of Use to reflect our new entity name and address. You can review the changes here.
We’ve updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

PS, You Are Brilliant

by Steve Lawson

supported by
peterzabriskie/DeepFrequency thumbnail
peterzabriskie/DeepFrequency This was the LP that got me listening to Steve.
Rachel Rhodes
Rachel Rhodes thumbnail
Rachel Rhodes Astounding wizardry. Again. Except different. Always evolving, our Steve. I hate picking a favorite track, because it's a whole experience. Listen, you'll see what I mean. Favorite track: How Did We End Up Here? (Take A Knee).
Zendeer thumbnail
Zendeer The soundscapes in this latest release from Steve Lawson are like a perfect afternoon in the best modern art museum--wandering through visually and intellectually stimulating art, with light and sound textured by the architecture. Each track is like rounding the corner and finding yet another intriguing room of art that immerses you in a new experience. Thank you Steve! I really love this one! Favorite track: How Did We End Up Here? (Take A Knee).
Bob Devlin
Bob Devlin thumbnail
Bob Devlin Very soothing. And, again, very different from the other albums. My favorite thing about your music is that it's never the same. Always changing, evolving, moving forward. Thanks again for sharing this with us. Favorite track: To Hear With An Open Hand.
For those who’ve listened to the last few things I’ve released, this is in pretty familiar territory - tonally and rhythmically, this is a space I’ve explored in a number of ways over the last couple of years, and one that feels like it yields a fair amount of subtle variation over time. As soon as I started using the Quneo for playing and looping live electronic percussion in 2015, this was a big part of the vibe I wanted to go for. It owes a BIG debt to legendary hip hop producer Dilla, and his gloriously wonky aesthetic, as well as being part of a long-term thread in my own musical journey for rhythms being formed from overlaying things in ways that are way more complex than the component parts might suggest. Emotionally, I experience this kind of playing as an exploration of the kind of political space that hip hop has occupied in my own thinking for decades - the guns ’n’ bling end of things held little interest, but the role that the astute observation of the world from the vantage point of urban black america has played in my thinking is difficult to overstate. So this is a meditation on those same concerns, space to consider questions of racial injustice, of white supremacy and its overarching influence on Western political machinations, to consider the voices we allow in to shape our world and the ones we exclude because the cultural context may be alien... A space to listen to others with our hands open to receive their wisdom...
There’s so much about where we are and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that makes no sense to me right now. Any yet, we’re blessed with the apparent inevitability of hindsight. Brexit, Trump, the total misrepresentation of a protest against police brutality, a UK foreign secretary who consistently makes racist comments, Russia choosing the US president... Politics in the West is properly astonishing but it’s all easy to see unfold as we look back. It still doesn’t make me any better at predicting or guessing what comes next, and I reach various levels of exasperation with those who seem to hang their sense of self on a need to predict the future with no attempt to properly understand or engage with the pain of the present. This piece was originally called Logical From The Inside, and the two stories it tells as a soundtrack are in the two titles, and they both come from the same place. This has a LOT of that unfolding complexity, the unknowable quality of a load of layers that aren’t synced to one another, from which emerges a complex unplanned rhythm... the bass hook that starts part way through is accidentally in 7/8, but I wasn’t immediately aware of that, so the drum track is an in the moment attempt to make sense of this line that has both internal logic and consistency, but defies my immediate attempt to classify what it is and what it does to the music. It’s only after that it becomes clear what’s happening, and that inevitability becomes a rich, dense, nuanced logical unfolding. Like a microcosm of history, making sense as we look back at it but still offering little in the way of a clear path forward. Still, in any consideration of how the world is and how we got here, there is a call to respond, to be counted, to amplify the voices of those so urgently need to be heard. To protest the catastrophic mess we’re in, and to point to a better way forward. To Take A Knee.
A fairly straightforward tribute to the two artists who inspired this particular piece - Dilla (AKA Jay Dee) and Allan Holdsworth... I have an uneasy relationship with the world of ‘fusion’ or ‘jazz rock’ - so much of it sounds interminably smug. It’s the sound of music college grads who’ve singularly failed to consider what their music might be for continuing in the vein of trying to impress their peers with the cleverness of their playing, and turning that into a career, and even a little industry, selling guitar music to guitarists, ‘bass music’ to bassists... Of course, there are myriad glorious exceptions to that rule (and also no shade intended to anyone who finds meaning in conspicuously technical displays of Guitarism...). On of those musicians who utterly transcended the form was Allan Holdsworth. He’s a textbook example of the artist as Tortured Soul. A man whose desire to make meaningful music apparently lead him to periods of self-loathing, and eventually to some extraordinarily destructive self-medicating. But his music reflects that sense of never quite meeting his own hugely high demands, it’s questing, searching music, music full of questions and explorations, in stark relief to the swamp of self-satisfied shredding that surrounded it in the 80s and 90s. One of his most interesting areas of exploration was the colour and quality of symmetrical scales - the ones Olivier Messiaen termed ‘modes of limited transposition’. I spent two years exploring these at school, writing reams of music that utilised them, so was enormously grateful to be brought back into their orbit by my re-exploration of Allan’s music following his death earlier this year. I’ve spent a big part of this year listening to his entire back catalog. It’s an extraordinary body of work, occasionally bound to the anachronistic production values of the mid-80s, but always full of creative and exploratory ideas that transcend those limitations. Even his use of that most extraordinary expression of late-modernity’s pernicious influence on instrument design, the Synthaxe, is mind-bendingly beautiful. So this one is for Dilla and Holdsworth - two people who taught me to keep asking questions in musical form, and never bother try to record the answers...
This is the oldest piece on the album, and was released as a single track the day after it was recorded. Here’s the original description, written on June 12th 2017: “Sat down to play last night, thinking about the election. It's been a pretty extraordinary few days, mostly because people expected so little from this, and we've actually ended up with... hope? At least some light on the horizon. Anyway, I started playing and what actually came out was a darker meditation on what we're hoping to avert. As it is, the Tories with all their austerity measures, draconian nonsense and brutal treatment of asylum seekers and the poor are still, just, in power. If they HAD got the majority they were hoping for, we'd be looking at an awful lot more preventable deaths due to terrible policy over the next few years. So here's a soundtrack to that foreboding, and by omission the sounding of a bell of hope that this is currently an unlikely dystopian destination, and we're heading towards that light on the horizon... #ForTheMany “ ...to that I’ll add that over time, the question that this piece keeps raising is whether the near catastrophic explosion that builds towards the end of the track (just before the final calm) is the sound of the destruction the Tories have wrought on this country, or the sound of the resistance, a defiant scream... is that part of this timeline, or the alternate timeline? Is this us reaching across and stopping the damage? I’m still not sure. Answers on a postcard...


Ta-daaaa! My new solo album. PS, You Are Brilliant was improvised live in the studio in June (If They Had Won) and July (the other three tracks) 2017. The album takes even further the kind of textural and rhythmic explorations that came to the fore on The Surrender Of Time - dark, dissonant layers of sound coupled with glitchy, wonky hip-hop beats and odd time-signature chance-based loops that bring an even more complex set of relationships between the various layers at work.

The title - PS, You Are Brilliant - was inspired by a comment on Facebook by an incredible friend of mine who died this year - Roanne Dodds was one of the most relentlessly encouraging people I've ever come across, and her philosophy of inviting people to do what they do best, and ceaselessly encouraging people in order to bring out the very best in them is one that was both in step with my own approach to musical collaboration, and one that spurred me on in so many areas of my creative and academic life. She brought a sense of possibility to every conversation, and alongside that was so so good at actually making things happen, at organising and pulling together teams to make sure that those ideas, that impetus and all that amazing encouragement came to fruition. I think about her pretty much every day, as I do things that she encouraged me to do, as I reach to be the best that I can be in every area of my life, and pass on that encouragement to others. So this one is for Roanne...

On a music production level, I think I've spent more time listening to this before releasing it than anything I've put out in a long time. These tracks went through quite a few mixes before I decided on the kind of sound I wanted, and that meant listening again and again on multiple systems. That amount of focussed listening tends to transform the experience of the music, from the surprise and delight of hearing improvised performances back, to the anticipation associated with records we know and love, and have favourite bits that we're just waiting for each time the track is playing.

Which is to say, these are not tracks that will get stuck in your head in one listen. This is music that rewards repeat listening. Focused, headphone listening.

Oh, and if you put it on at a party, fade it before the end of If They Had Won - the explosion at the end gets really gnarly :)


released October 30, 2017

Steve Lawson - bass, Quneo, mixing, mastering, artwork, photography, sleevenotes. The whole nine yards...




Steve Lawson UK

The UK's most celebrated and prolific solo bassist - alternating between solo and collaborative releases - have a rummage around and see what you find. The subscription is by FAR the best way to keep track of the many musical goings on!

contact / help

Contact Steve Lawson

Streaming and
Download help

Shipping and returns

Redeem code

Report this album or account