For the first time, Dhani Harrison felt right about creating a solo album after many years of playing in bands. IN///PARALLEL, his solo debut for BMG, proves that it was well worth the wait.
Dhani describes IN///PARALLEL as the music he hears in his head; a sprawling, pre- and postapocalyptic cinematic universe that takes the listener on a journey through his life, the places he’s been, the people who’ve helped him along the way.
From the widescreen intro and Middle Eastern vibe of “Never Know,” a song about the ability to choose your own destiny, to the orchestral flourish of “Admiral of Upside Down,” Dhani steps it up with a grand-scale vision that begs for a spectacular live presentation. The sound stems inspiration from visionary icons like David Bowie, Radiohead and Massive Attack to fellow film composer Hans Zimmer.
“The record is about self-discovery, self-love, self-healing,” he explains. “You can’t be loved until you learn to love yourself. You can’t help others until you learn to help yourself.”
Dhani takes on the culture of vapidity in “#WarOnFalse” and the song “Úlfur Resurrection” is a strident nod to the end of days, which is also an electronica-inflected ode to his pet “spirit wolf” Woody, who passed during the recording. He then takes a blast at the transparency of social media in “Downtown Tigers,” which takes place in New York. Harrison excoriates systemized brutality in “Summertime Police,” anticipating the events at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and delves into mythology, Trident missiles, UFOs and the pre-war hysteria of Steven Spielberg’s 1941 in “Poseidon (Keep Me Safe),” before zeroing in on near-death experiences in “The Light Under the Door.” “All About Waiting” preaches the virtue of patience, while the closing “Admiral of Upside Down” was recorded long before Stranger Things made the notion of a parallel universe fashionable, ending at the beginning in a mobius loop that completes a circle only to start a new one.
Dhani admits he didn’t put his name on a solo album until now because he’d never really had a chance to know who he was as an artist until now.
“I needed a chance to develop further,” he explains. “I worked on this record on and off for two or three years on my own. I produced it, engineered it, arranged it. I brought [thenewno2 member] Paul [Hicks] in to work on it with me, and he said, ‘it’s complete the way it is.’ It wasn’t a band album, it was a Dhani Harrison record.”
Dhani did eventually enlist other collaborators, including Hicks, as well as vocalists Mereki and Camila Grey, along with string arranger Davide Rossi, multi instrumentalist Jonathan Bates and Jane’s Addiction drummer/percussionist Stephen Perkins, but make no mistake, IN///PARALLEL is his vision, and his alone.
“There are totally different rules now, a different world we’re living in,” says Dhani. “Good art reflects its time. It’s never been a more dangerous place. And you have to be aware of those dangers.”
Dhani Harrison has more than paid his dues in a career that includes three albums and two EPs with his band project thenewno2, along with a role in the supergroup Fistful of Mercy (with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur). He co-produced (with Jeff Lynne) his father’s posthumous 2004 album Brainwashed, which earned three Grammy nominations and won the award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (“Marwa Blues”). He’s also collaborated with an eclectic array of musicians during his career including like-minded artists such as The Wu-Tang Clan, Regina Spektor, Pearl Jam, UNKLE and Prince. In addition, Harrison has become an accomplished soundtrack composer, creating memorable scores for Richard La Gravenese’s Beautiful Creatures and his TV show The Divide (with Tony Goldwyn), as well as the feature Learning to Drive (with Sir Ben Kingsley) and TV series, including executive producer Paul Giamatti’s Outsiders, the Amazon original series Good Girls Revolt and Showtime’s White Famous.
The new effort encapsulates his growth. “It’s an introspective trip from where I was to where I am now,” he says. “I had things happen during recording this that changed my perspective on everything. The album was fully formed in my head; I heard it from start to finish. It came to me; I just put it down, like pulling bits from a cloud. It starts like everything else as a thought, and if you can concentrate hard enough, it becomes real.”
“I have a fairly lucid memory. I remember events from my life and put music to them. Each track is pretty much a scene from my past. My gift from the universe is that I really enjoy changing, and that’s why I’m now happy being Dhani Harrison. With everything you accomplish, you gain a freedom to do something else in your life, not unlike a video game, where you unlock different levels, powers and weapons. I had to go through the process, and I unlocked a lot of different stuff in myself, which allows me to be who I am now.”
Even while the album explores a universe filled with paranoia, dread and ominous warnings about the future, Dhani Harrison offers a ray of hope that all is not lost, if we pay heed to its message.
“It’s a good time to go out and make some noise,” he says. “The only thing holding me back is myself, but this album is a chance to show the world who I really am. If it scares you, good. I’m not a traditional pop singer/songwriter; I’m a composer. You have to question everything. We can create our own self, and when you get to the end, it’s just the beginning. Just because you find it, doesn’t mean you are it. You have to then go and be it.”
Dhani Harrison accepts his own destiny with IN///PARALLEL and forges yet another new identity as an artist, built upon what came before, but ready for the future. Now it’s our turn to hear it.
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