Tim Bowness – Late Night Laments album review

7 07 2020

Tim Bowness releases his latest solo album, Late Night Laments, on Inside Out Music on August 28th 2020.

The album is available in a double-CD package version as well as on vinyl (including a limited edition blue vinyl from Burning Shed). Late Night Laments was co-produced by Bowness and Brian Hulse, mixed by Steven Wilson, with mastering by Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout). The album’s beautiful artwork is by Jarrod Gosling (I Monster/Regal Worm).

Late Night Laments is consistent in the mood and pace of the music, but is widely unpredictable lyrically – touching on generational divides, ideologically motivated violence, social exclusion, and a much-loved children’s author’s mental breakdown.

Opening with the most musically uplifting track, Northern Rain sets the scene for the rest of the album. Icy cold 80s synths and minimal percussion are the order of the day throughout. Northern Rain is a mix of The Blue Nile, topped up with the pop melancholy of Deacon Blue’s masterful Raintown (in part due to the backing vocals from Melanie Woods).

“the world we knew is dying,
and maybe that’s okay”

The temperature drops further for I’m Better Now, with dark lyrics and heavily processed Björk Vespertine era beats. A performance highlight on this track is the guitar work from Kavus Torabi, that sits atop the washes of chilling synths.

“two seconds of hate,
a lifetime of grieving –
I couldn’t wait to stick the knife in”

Darkline has a feel of no-man’s returning jesus, with the discordant angular arpeggios, and featuring some fine synth work from Richard Barbieri, who Tim worked with on the Flame album.

“I turn to rust as the planet burns”

We Caught The Light features Bowness on “several echoed ukuleles”, that underpin the song and add its initial rhythm. The double bass from Colin Edwin and drums from Evan Carson add a mid-70s feel, and the vocal arrangement is constantly evolving, especially on the end section, where Bowness is joined again by Kavus Torabi and Melanie Wood (Knifeworld).

The Hitman Who Missed contains one of the strongest arrangements on the album, from sparse bass and piano instrumentation to a more expansive middle section, that drops and re-builds at several points. Another song that harks back to earlier times, with some lovely vibraphone from Tom Atherton, who proves that there is room for the instrument beyond Left Bank Two (Take Hart).

Photo by Mark Wood

Credit must go to Tim’s main musical foil on this album. Brian Hulse adds keyboards, occasional guitar and some fascinating drum programming throughout Late Night Laments.

One of the most emotional tracks is one of the sparsest, with Never A Place. Bowness often writes songs that are built on repeating, decaying and evolving riffs, and this is a perfect example. The melodies grow from inbetween the slabs of heavily processed sequenced keyboards and noise, and deliver something unique and unexpected. A definite album highlight for me, and a track I find myself returning to often. And the vibraphone is back for this song too, another plus point for me.

The Last Getaway arrangement reminds me somewhat of a gentler exploration (than no-man’s soft shoulders from flowermouth) of Suzanne Vega’s experimentation on her 99.9F° album. This is the heartbreaking song that Tim describes as being about a much-loved children’s author.

“I hated how I’d feel,
so I struck the only deal.”

Hidden Life would not have sounded out of place on the first Bowness / Chilvers album. A cheap drum machine and just Bowness / Hulse, no guest contributors here.

A combination of the musical nods to The Associates (Breakfast) and the instrumentation / arrangement gives a real late night 80s feel as the album heads to its conclusion.

One Last Call is a perfect end to the album, and my favourite lyric and vocal performance on the album. The song is heart-wrenching, and is up there with Post-its, truenorth, Dancing For You and Nowhere Good To Go in the sad songs say so much category.

The mood reminds me a little of the delicate If Leaving Me Is Easy from Face Value. In fact, Phil Collins would have killed for this song back in the early 80s. The good news is, Tim does not have a paint pot on his piano, so all appears good in the house of Bowness.

“I thought that I was empty
and empty I’d remain”

One Last Call evokes the weightless feel of the early hours, and before you know it, the album abruptly ends, leaving you wanting more, so back to the beginning you go.

Photo by Mark Wood

Whilst this is musically a million miles away from Lost In The Ghost Light, Late Night Laments shares a musical cohesion that makes for a very rewarding and emotional listening experience, and the album holds a unique and satisfying position in the Bowness solo catalogue.

PRE-ORDER THE ALBUM

Buy the album on CD and vinyl (including an exclusive blue vinyl) from Burning Shed

Buy the Late Night Laments CD from Amazon

Late Night Laments (38:50)

  1. Northern Rain (4.49)
  2. I’m Better Now (3.52)
  3. Darkline (3.57)
  4. We Caught The Light (3.56)
  5. The Hitman Who Missed (3.21)
  6. Never A Place (4.41)
  7. The Last Getaway (4.55)
  8. Hidden Life (5.05)
  9. One Last Call (4.15)

Produced by Tim Bowness and Brian Hulse
Mixed by Steven Wilson
Mastered by Calum Malcolm

Northern Rain, Darkline, The Hitman Who Missed, Never A Place and The Last Getaway written by Tim Bowness and Brian Hulse

I’m Better Now, We Caught The Light and One Last Call, written by Tim Bowness

Hidden Life written by Tim Bowness, Brian Hulse and Pete Morgan

Tim Bowness – vocals / backing vocals / synths 2, 9 / samples 2, 9 / ukuleles 4 / fx 2, 6
Brian Hulse – synths / keyboards / guitars / programmed drums / backing vocals 4

with

Tom Atherton – vibraphone 1, 4, 5, 6, 9
Richard Barbieri – synths and synth solos 3, 7
Evan Carson – drums and percussion 1, 4
Colin Edwin – double bass 4, 5, 9
Alistair ‘The Curator’ Murphy – dianatron 5
Kavus Torabi – glissando guitar and guitar solo 2 / backing vocals 4
Melanie Woods – backing vocals 1, 2, 4

The bonus disc on the CD edition features five unreleased pieces, four from the Late Night Laments sessions and one – featuring Peter Hammill and Adam Holzman – a Flowers At The Scene outtake.

Cheerleaders For The Damned (extras)

The Other Side (4.11)
Beauty In Decay (3.43)
Beyond The Firing Line (4.19)
Cheerleader For The Damned (2.52)
War Games By The Sea (3.00)





News: Prince – Sign O’ The Times | Remastered & Expanded

25 06 2020

The Prince Estate is continuing to release his studio albums in expanded form, complete with material from his legendary Vault. Considered by many to be his masterpiece, Sign O’ The Times is being issued on vinyl and CD, remastered and overflowing with extras.

The super deluxe edition (8 CD and 1 DVD) includes all the audio material that Prince officially released in 1987, as well as 45 previously unreleased studio songs recorded between May 1979 and July 1987, and a complete live audio performance from the June 20 1987 show on the Sign O’ The Times Tour at Stadium Galgenwaard in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Also included is a brand-new DVD containing the complete, previously unreleased New Year’s Eve benefit concert at Paisley Park on December 31 1987, which was Prince’s final performance of the Sign O’ The Times Tour stage show and his only on-stage collaboration with jazz legend Miles Davis.

Weighing in at a hefty price, this is a real collectors edition – and includes a 120-page hardcover book with previously unseen images and hand-written lyrics.

The super deluxe edition (like the 1999 super-deluxe) is likely to sell-out, and become a collectors item. If you are fan of Prince, the super deluxe is a treasure trove of unreleased music, plus one of the greatest albums of all time in remastered form. Dig deep, it will be worth it!

Pre-order the Super-Deluxe CD edition

Super Deluxe Edition 8 CD+ DVD Set

Remastered Album (CD 1)

Sign O’ The Times
Play In The Sunshine
Housequake
The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
It
Starfish And Coffee
Slow Love
Hot Thing
Forever In My Life

Remastered Album (CD 2)

U Got The Look
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Strange Relationship
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
The Cross
It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night
Adore

Single Mixes & Edits (CD 3)

Sign O’ The Times (7” single edit)
La, La, La, He, He, Hee (7” single edit)
La, La, La, He, He, Hee (Highly Explosive) (7” single edit)
If I Was Your Girlfriend (7” single edit)
Shockadelica (“If I Was Your Girlfriend” B-side)
Shockadelica (12” long version)
U Got the Look (Long Look) (12” edit)
Housequake (7” edit)
Housequake (7 Minutes MoQuake)
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (Fade 7” edit)
Hot Thing (7” single edit)
Hot Thing (Extended Remix)
Hot Thing (Dub Version)

Vault, Part 1 (CD 4)

All tracks previously unreleased

I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (1979 version)
Teacher, Teacher (1985 version)
All My Dreams
Can I Play With U? (featuring Miles Davis)
Wonderful Day (original version)
Strange Relationship (original version)
Visions
The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker (with horns)
Witness 4 The Prosecution (version 1)
Power Fantastic (live in studio)
And That Says What?
Love And Sex
A Place In Heaven (Prince vocal)
Colors
Crystal Ball (7” mix)
Big Tall Wall (version 1)
Nevaeh Ni Ecalp A
In A Large Room With No Light

Vault, Part 2 (CD 5)

All tracks previously unreleased

Train
It Ain’t Over ‘Til The Fat Lady Sings
Eggplant (Prince vocal)
Everybody Want What They Don’t Got
Blanche
Soul Psychodelicide
The Ball
Adonis And Bathsheba
Forever In My Life (early vocal studio run-through)
Crucial (alternate lyrics)
The Cocoa Boys
When The Dawn Of The Morning Comes
Witness 4 The Prosecution (version 2)
It Be’s Like That Sometimes

Vault, Part 3 (CD 6)

All tracks previously unreleased

Emotional Pump
Rebirth Of The Flesh (with original outro)
Cosmic Day
Walkin’ In Glory
Wally
I Need A Man
Promise To Be True
Jealous Girl (version 2)
There’s Something I Like About Being Your Fool
Big Tall Wall (version 2)
A Place In Heaven (Lisa vocal)
Wonderful Day (12” mix)
Strange Relationship (1987 Shep Pettibone Club Mix)

Live In Utrecht (CD 7 & CD 8)

All tracks previously unreleased

Intro/Sign O’ The Times
Play In The Sunshine
Little Red Corvette
Housequake
Girls & Boys
Slow Love
Take The “A” Train/Pacemaker/I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
Hot Thing
Four (With Sheila E. Drum Solo)
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Let’s Go Crazy
When Doves Cry
Purple Rain
1999
Forever In My Life
Kiss
The Cross
It’s Gonna Be A Bea
utiful Night

Live At Paisley Park – December 31, 1987 (DVD)

All tracks previously unreleased

Sign O’ The Times
Play In The Sunshine
Little Red Corvette
Erotic City
Housequake
Slow Love
Do Me, Baby
Adore
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
What’s Your Name Jam
Let’s Pretend We’re Married
Delirious
Jack U Off
Drum Solo
Twelve
Hot Thing
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Let’s Go Crazy
When Doves Cry
Purple Rain
1999
U Got The Look
It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night Medley (featuring Miles Davis)

Please note – video content is exclusive to the physical DVD and will not appear on digital download or streaming versions of the Super Deluxe Edition set.

Pre-order the 3 CD edition

Deluxe Edition 3 CD Set
Remastered Album + Single Mixes & Edits

Remastered Album (Disc 1)

Sign O’ The Times
Play In The Sunshine
Housequake
The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker
It
Starfish And Coffee
Slow Love
Hot Thing
Forever In My Life

Remastered Album (Disc 2)

U Got The Look
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Strange Relationship
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
The Cross
It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night
Adore

Single Mixes & Edits (Disc 3)

Sign O’ The Times (7” single edit)
La, La, La, He, He, Hee (7” single edit)
La, La, La, He, He, Hee (Highly Explosive) (7” single edit)
If I Was Your Girlfriend (7” single edit)
Shockadelica (“If I Was Your Girlfriend” B-side)
Shockadelica (12” long version)
U Got the Look (Long Look) (12” edit)
Housequake (7” edit)
Housequake (7 Minutes MoQuake)
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (Fade 7” edit)
Hot Thing (7” single edit)
Hot Thing (Extended Remix)
Hot Thing (Dub Version)





Musik Music Musique 1980 – The Dawn Of Synth Pop album review

22 06 2020

Musik Music Musique is a 3 CD compilation from Cherry Red, chronicling the beginnings of the synth-pop music revolution that was to dominate the charts for years to come. Whilst containing well-known names from the era (Buggles, The Human League, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet) the tracks chosen from these artists are not the obvious big-hits.

The real discoveries and delights in this compendium are the more obscure tracks, from the likes of XYNN, Nick Nicely and other acts who often released just a handful of songs before disappearing forever.

The first of the 3 CDs contains one of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s finest earlier songs, the naggingly addictive Messages. The Human League are represented by their cover of Mick Ronson’s Only After Dark, taken from the final album produced by the line-up that featured Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, who left the League to form Heaven 17 with Glenn Gregory later in 1980.

Victims of the Riddle was the debut single from Toyah (it was actually released in 1979, but we will let that slip!). A keyboard driven song, with minimal guitar, it sits well on this compilation. Waiting by Ultravox is a good choice, as is Hazel O’Connor’s Sons And Lovers, with tribal drums offsetting the sax and synth squelches.

My favourite track on Disc One is from one of the most under-rated albums of the 80s, Sympathy from the debut (and only) album from Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls. Pauline was the vocalist in new wave band Penetration, and this Martin Hannett produced album saw Murray move in a more electronic direction. If you haven’t heard this album, its definitely worth investigating.

The compilation’s title track is from Zeus aka producer Zeus B. Held (Fashion’s Fabrique, John Foxx’s The Golden Section, Pete Wylie Sinful) and is a charming vocoder delivered pop song. XYNN (German multimedia artist Michael Winter) delivers the sparse and haunting Computed Man.

Gina X Performance (another Zeus B. Held collaboration) is represented by Vendor’s Box, a fuller arrangement than a lot of the purely electronic tracks on this compilation.

Lawnchairs by US band Our Daughter’s Wedding uses a similar synth sequence to the OMD track that kicks off the first CD, and is a regular on alternative 80s compilations / 80s themed radio.

Two of my favourites (from the songs I was unaware of previously) sit on the first CD. Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne by Suicide was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars, and DCT Dreams by Nick Nicely is a lo-fi masterpiece, overflowing with more than it’s fair share of pop hooks.

The second disc opens with a key early Spandau Ballet track Glow, and a hidden gem from Robin Scott’s M in Official Secrets (avoiding the obvious Pop Muzik, great song as it is).

Galactica from French space-rock band Rockets is well sequenced next to Kim Wilde’s album track Tuning In Tuning On and Landscape’s European Man, which pre-dated their most well-known song from 1981, Einstein a Go-Go. Admit it,that song is stuck in your head now, isn’t it?

Melbourne band The Metronomes provide a “Ray Bradbury inspired tale of star-crossed love between two computing devices” with their contribution A Circuit Like Me, that cosies up to one of John Foxx’s early, icy slice of the future singles No One Driving.

The most well-known track on this compilation is the Midge Ure assisted Philip Lynott (Thin Lizzy) single Yellow Pearl, a song that was used as the theme for Top Of The Pops during the first half of the decade.

Dalek I Love You (Destiny) by Liverpool’s Dalek I is a premium slice of electronic new wave influenced pop. French band Taxi Girl contribute an early single in Mannequin. Fans of The Stranglers will remember Taxi Girl from the 1981 La Folie tour and the JJ Burnel produced / Jet Black featuring Seppuku album in 1982.

This World Of Water, a no 31 with a bullet UK singles hit by New Musik, a band formed by producer Tony Mansfield, sits in the track list just before one of my favourite Japan songs, the Roxy Music Manifesto influenced Quiet Life.

The third and final disc opens with one of Buggles finest songs, Astroboy (And The Proles On Parade). Last year there were rumours of a new, third Buggles album. Here’s hoping….

The second song titled Mannequin is from Glasgow’s Berlin Blondes, with a great mixture of new wave basslines and electronic synth lead lines. Yello supply a scratchy, discordant Bimbo and the pure-pop quota is increased by The Lonely Spy from David Balfe and Bill Drummond’s Lori And The Chameleons project.

Blood Donor serve up a quirky Doctor Who homage and The Korgis Drawn And Quartered highlights a different side to the band who had a huge hit with the dreamy Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime.

The debut album from Visage was so influential, and single Mind Of A Toy features here. The handclaps and slap-bass mutant funk of Mataya Clifford and the track Living Wild adds a wild sense of fun to the final disc.

Karel Fialka’s The Eyes Have It was a near-hit in 1980, and received lots of radio play at the time. The Russians Are Coming by The Red Squares is a short track driven by cold war paranoia.

The compilation ends with La Düsseldorf and their boozy sounding Dampfriemen, drawing on early Kraftwerk and what sounds like too many visits to Bavarian Bierkeller’s. Dampfriemen is the only song on the album featuring a kazoo solo along side the electronic instruments, so a fitting end to this entertaining glimpse into the birth of 80s synthpop.

Disc one

Messages – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Musik, Music, Musique – Zeus
Coitus Interruptus – Fad Gadget
Computed Man – XYNN
Metal Love – Rod Vey
Vendor’s Box – Gina X Performance
Lawnchairs – Our Daughter’s Wedding
Tokyo – Science
Only After Dark – The Human League
Victims Of The Riddle – Toyah
DCT Dreams – Nick Nicely
Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne – Suicide
Waiting – Ultravox
Money – Moebius
Falling Years – The Fallout Club
Da Vorne Steht Ne Ampel – Der Plan
No, Nothing, Never – Dark Day
Sons And Lovers – Hazel O’Connor
Sympathy – Pauline Murray And The Invisible Girls

Disc two

Glow – Spandau Ballet
Official Secrets – M
Chip n Roll – Silicon Teens
Galactica – Rockets
Tuning In Tuning On – Kim Wilde
European Man – Landscape
Can’t You Take A Joke? Ha Ha Hi Hi! – Henriette Coulouvrat
A Circuit Like Me – The Metronomes
No One Driving – John Foxx
Kebabträume – D.A.F.
Harmonitalk – Gary Sloan And Clone
Yellow Pearl – Philip Lynott
Dalek I Love You (Destiny) – dalek I
Mannequin – Taxi Girl
This World Of Water – New Musik
Quiet Life – Japan
Chase The Dragon – Kevin Harrison
Diskomo – The Residents

Disc three

Astroboy (And The Proles On Parade) – Buggles
Mannequin – Berlin Blondes
A Certain Way To Go – The Passage
Between – Sic
Bimbo – Yello
Images Of Delusion – Genocide
The Lonely Spy – Lori And The Chameleons
Lucy – Craze
I’m A Computer – The Goo-Q
Doctor …? – Blood Donor
Brushing Your Hair – Alex Fergusson
Drawn And Quartered – The Korgis
Mind Of A Toy – Visage
D’ya Think I’m Sexy – British Standard Unit
Living Wild – Mataya Clifford
Private Lives – Systems
The Eyes Have It – Karel Fialka
Suis-je Normale – Nini Raviolette
China Blue Vision – Eyeless In Gaza
The Russians Are Coming – The Red Squares
Dampfriemen – La Dusseldorf

Released on 31 July 2020.

Buy Musik Music Musique 1980 – The Dawn Of Synth Pop





Andrew Gold: Lonely Boy – The Asylum Years Anthology review

15 06 2020

Lonely Boy – The Asylum Years Anthology is a 6 CD / 1 DVD collection from Andrew Gold, released by Esoteric Recordings via Cherry Red on 24 July 2020. The collection features all of the solo albums released by the singer – songwriter on the Asylum label between 1975 and 1980.

Prior to his solo career, Andrew Gold worked with Linda Ronstadt, as multi-instrumentalist and arranger for her 1974 Heart Like a Wheel album.

The Lonely Boy anthology contains the studio albums Andrew Gold (1975), What’s Wrong With This Picture (1976), All This And Heaven Too (1978) and Whirlwind (1980). The studio albums are all newly re-mastered from the original Asylum Records master tapes, and have never sounded better.

Disc 5 is titled Out-Takes And Unreleased Recordings, with disc 6 consisting of Live Recordings – Released 1976 / 1977 whilst the final disc is a DVD of promotional videos and live recordings / interviews (including quite a few from the legendary Old Grey Whistle Test TV show).

The debut album perfectly captures the mood and the sound of 1975, with a mixture of early 70s Laurel Canyon and late 60s Beatles inspired harmonies, particularly on Heartaches in Heartaches and Hang My Picture Straight.

The most familiar song on Gold’s debut is Endless Flight, that was famously covered by Leo Sayer on his best-selling 1976 album of the same name.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? contains Gold’s most famous song, Lonely Boy but is a solid mid-70s rock/pop album in its own right. Highlights include the bittersweet ballad Passing Thing, the mostly acoustic and country tinged Firefly plus a playful cover of Maurice Williams’s Stay (that was also recorded a year later by Jackson Browne, in slightly rewritten form, on Browne’s Running On Empty album).

All This and Heaven Too is the most rewarding of Gold’s solo albums from the Asylum years period. How Can This Be Love has hints of 10cc (Gold would later record with 10cc and form Wax with Graham Gouldman).

The charming space-themed Oh Urania (Take Me Away), the sparse but haunting beauty of Looking for My Love and the masterpiece that is Genevieve are career-highlights. This is the beauty of box-sets such as this, discovering songs that never made it onto mainstream radio at the time, and certainly do not feature on 70s or 80s themed radio stations now but are lost classics, crafted with love and deserving of our attention.

Most people will know the two big hits from this album, Thank You for Being a Friend (the theme to NBC sitcom The Golden Girls) and Gold’s biggest hit in my neck of the woods, Never Let Her Slip Away, which features background vocals from J. D. Souther, Timothy B. Schmit (Poco / Eagles) and rumour has it, an uncredited Freddie Mercury. Never Let Her Slip Away is one of my favourite singles from the seventies, and a perfect pop song.

The Asylum years ended with the Whirlwind album, released as the new decade began. More guitar-heavy than previous Gold albums and more in-step with current trends such the new-wave infused pop of The Police and Joe Jackson, highlights include the nods to his earlier work with Sooner or Later and the slide-guitar driven Make Up Your Mind.

The live recordings disc, with performances from 1976 and 1977 is overflowing with memorable performances, and the quality is pretty good, considering the age of the recordings.

The out-takes and unreleased recordings disc is a fascinating dip below the artist’s engine, with excellent alt-takes such as a must-hear version of Lonely Boy and a sublime bossa-nova instrumental version of Genevieve.

The sleeve-notes, lyrics and an informative essay on Gold’s work from Don Breithaupt add to the value of this essential collection for lovers of 70s music.

Lonely Boy – The Asylum Years Anthology is an excellent collection, that provides the best of the 70s work of Andrew Gold, and also serves as a charming snapshot of this period in rock and pop music.

Buy Lonely Boy – The Asylum Years Anthology on CD





John Foxx and The Maths – Howl album review

1 06 2020

Howl is the 5th studio album from John Foxx and The Maths, and is released on Metamatic Records on July 24 2020.

Joining John Foxx, Benge and Hannah Peel on this album is former Ultravox guitarist Robin Simon, who first worked with Foxx on Systems of Romance in 1978.

My Ghost sets the scene – guitars and synth’s duelling for attention, and an uptempo glam-rock meets early Prince beat. Intriguing lyrics and heavily processed vocals add a layer of mystery to this addictive opening track, that has hints of post-punk in the end section, referencing Foxx’s Ultravox work as well as some of the his work on The Garden (my favourite John Foxx album).

“my ghost comes running at me,
like living smoke from a burning tree”

Howl was the first single from the album, initially available on Foxx’s bandcamp page and it was clear that this new material would appeal to fans of his earlier albums. Howl is so satisfying, perfectly titled (the guitars do ‘howl’) and a joy to listen to, with the mix of electronica and chopped up and wild lead / rhythm guitar work referencing late seventies Bowie.

There is no time to pause, as the psychedelia of Everything Is Happening At The Same Time may slow down the BPM’s slightly, but the thick wall of sound is still a powerful statement. Benge and Hannah Peel excel on this beautifully produced and arranged piece.

Tarzan And Jane Regained is a more lo-fi production, and a simpler arrangement initially, as the buzzsaw guitar layers build incrementally as it becomes one of the albums most memorable tracks. Each playback reveals further details within the production, as previously hidden synth and guitar lines rise to the surface.

The sound changes with the widescreen clarity of The Dance, a song that showcases some of the most inventive synth lines on Howl. The guitars are used more as washes rather tan lead or rhythm, and sit further down in the mix, rising to the forefront during the chorus, which is pure Siouxsie & The Banshees from the Ju Ju era.

The dark, wild and seedy streets and characters of 1970s New York are celebrated in New York Times, a song screaming out to be released as a single. New York Times contains one of Foxx’s most memorable choruses, topped off by a great vocal performance making this track so vital.

“What would it take, to remove all the hate”

The darkest track on Howl is Last Time I Saw You, which drips with disdain and despair, and references Soho’s Berwick Street in London.

“The first time I saw you, I had to look away”

Even though this is probably Foxx at his most musically obtuse, I find myself returning to this song more than any on Howl. It is the most interesting lyric on the album, and I have no idea to the meaning behind Last Time I Saw You, which makes it all the more intriguing.

Howl is an intense listening experience, made sweeter by the delicate grace of its final song, Strange Beauty. Reminding me of the fragility of The Cocteau Twins at times, with chorus driven guitars and some shiver-inducing original 80s electronica, all four band members shine on this career highlight. Foxx also delivers a lyric and vocal full of elegance and longing.

“And when it fades way, leaving me with just a trace of of strange beauty,
of strange beauty, stranger than anything I’ve ever known”

Strange Beauty is timeless, and as the synth solo’s make way to a slow fade, you wish it could go on for longer, which is the sign of a great song.

Howl is a rare beast – an album that works as a perfect headphone experience, as well as blasting loud from your speakers. The production does a superb job in enabling this rewarding listening experience.

This is the album I have wanted to hear from John Foxx for a long-time – taking his guitar-led past into the same room as the stark electronica he is renowned for.

This incarnation of John Foxx And The Maths seem to have hit a peak, with a formula that will hopefully lead to more new music in the future. I cannot wait to hear what Foxx / early Ultravox fans think of this album, as there is so much here to enjoy and excite.

John Foxx (vocals/guitars)
Benge (keyboards/percussion)
Robin Simon (guitars)
Hannah Peel (violin)

My Ghost
Howl
Everything Is happening At The Same Time
Tarzan And Jane Regained
The Dance
New York Times
Last Time I Saw You
Strange Beauty

Buy Howl on CD
Buy Howl on vinyl

Buy Ultravox – Systems Of Romance on white vinyl





Blancmange – Mindset album review

22 05 2020

Mindset is the third album to be written and co-produced by Neil Arthur with Benge (Wrangler/John Foxx And The Maths), and follows last years excellent Wanderlust album.

The title track is a strong opener, with familiar drum patterns and an addictive guitar and synth interplay that sticks in your head for days.

The synth lines on Warm Reception and This Is Bliss will surely warm the hearts of fans of early 80s electronic music.

“Drinking to forget, or was it to remember”

Arthur spits out his distaste at the unaccountable keyboard warriors hiding behind their screens and spewing bile in Antisocial Media. Initially sounding genuinely pissed off, but with his tongue firmly in cheek, Arthur’s Antisocial Media feels truthful, but also makes me smile. Anonymous truckers indeed!

“Two faced anonymous truckers… Correct me if I’m wrong”

Clean Your House is the most commercial track on Mindset – bright sparkling synths and clap-happy drum patterns sit at odds with the lyrical tale of a messy relationship coming to it’s bitter end.

Despite it’s darker lyrical subject matter, Insomniacs Tonight is an optimistic and warmly uplifting track. The music really fits the lyric and at times displays a nostalgic feel of earlier Blancmange, but this is definitely more a tale of restlessly lying wide awake staring at the ceiling, rather than living on it.

“No light”

Sleep With Mannequin has more than it’s fair share of sonic twists and turns, though the tempo remains constant throughout, at a metronomic pace. Benge’s work on this track reminds me a little of Richard Burgess’ Landscape.

The album’s longest track is the six and a half minute trip that is Diagram. A sparse but slowly building arrangement topped with a spoken tale of searching for transparency and truth, Diagram does not overstay its welcome.

I want to hear, hear silence”

Not Really (Virtual Reality) is an oddity on the album. An almost glam-rock stomper, heavy on guitar and stuttering sequences, before dropping off to usher in the final, atmospheric piece in When, with the beats slowed down to a heartbeat pace topped off with dark electronic pulses as Arthur contemplates “When is anything about what it’s about”.

Mindset is much less oblique proposition than its predecessor Wanderlust, and it works well as a complete album, with a wider sonic spectrum than it’s predecessors.

Lyrically the album is strong – Neil Arthur looks at the consequences of our living in an increasingly digital world and the way we communicate and how some people use words to harm others and distribute fear and untruths.

Buy the Mindset CD from Amazon

Buy Mindset on vinyl from Amazon





Airbag – A Day at the Beach album review

9 05 2020

A Day at the Beach is the 5th album from Norwegian band Airbag, and is their first studio album in 4 years.

A Day at the Beach features six new songs inspired by the resurgence of 1980s electronica, new wave and movie scores, whilst still retaining the band’s progressive rock leanings.

The album was produced by Asle Tostrup and Bjørn Riis, and befitting the musical content, is lovingly mastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / The Opium Cartel).

Machines And Men acts as a bridge between the progressive rock sound of Identity and Disconnected and a more electronic 2020 direction for Airbag. Guitars give way to Tangerine Dream / New Order referencing synths, but don’t worry, Bjørn Riis is still a strong presence throughout the album. As with all Airbag releases, there is a heavy use of textures, and peaks and flows to keep your attention and hit you emotionally. I particularly love the drum treatments on Machines And Men.

A Day at the Beach (Part 1) is an absolute joy. Decaying guitars and deep bass underpin piano and mid-period Porcupine Tree like synth swirls to deliver one of the most atmospheric pieces on the album.

Into The Unknown continues in a similar, albeit longer vein. The synth riff driving the intro has an 80s Drive soundtrack feel, and the neon pulse and achingly personal lyrics make the track an album highlight. The guitars from Bjørn Riis are restrained but all the more powerful as the track builds, and the drums kick in with a second half that will appeal to Pink Floyd and Prog fans.

Sunsets is one of the biggest surprises on the album,. Opening with an off-kilter drum pattern, and then heading in an almost post-punk direction, with a John McGeoch (Siouxsie & The Banshees / Magazine) guitar sound, before switching to a more traditional Airbag chorus.

The insistent bassline on Sunsets works well with the heavily processed guitar on the verses, and we are treated to a quality Bjørn Riis guitar solo at the half-way mark. Again, the use of textures and ever-mutating arrangements keep your interest piqued throughout.

Listen to an edit of Sunsets below.

A Day At The Beach (Part 2) dials the electronica back into sharper focus, with an pulse-led instrumental conclusion to the song that premiered earlier on in the album sequence.

A Day at the Beach is such a good headphones album, and I cannot wait to hear it played loud through speakers when I receive my vinyl copy in June.

The album closes with Megalomaniac, a slow-building guitar piece that suddenly falls away and then rises powerfully to see the album to it’s conclusion.

“You always get what you want…”

I am a huge fan of electronic music, as well as a lot of progressive rock, and I love it when the two genres intertwine as they do on this album. A Day at the Beach has been a long time coming, but is one of the highlights in Airbag’s catalogue of fine studio albums. The band may have lost two members but they have opened up the possibilities of what they can achieve and how they can tell their stories.

Machines And Men
A Day at the Beach (Part 1)
Into The Unknown
Sunsets
A Day At The Beach (Part 2)
Megalomaniac

Buy A Day at the Beach on CD from Amazon

Buy A Day at the Beach on CD from Burning Shed

Buy A Day at the Beach clear vinyl from Burning Shed

Buy Bjørn Riis A Storm Is Coming CD on Amazon

Buy Bjørn Riis Forever Comes To An End CD on Amazon

Buy Bjørn Riis Lullabies In A Car Crash CD on Amazon





The Opium Cartel – Valor album review

2 05 2020

The Opium Cartel is songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jacob Holm-Lupo’s vehicle for songs that exist somewhere between pop, art-rock and synth pop, and away from his more progressive work with White Willow.

Valor is the third Opium Cartel album, and is set to be released on June 5 2020 on Apollon Records.

In the Streets sets the scene for an album that will appeal to those who love pop and progressive music from the 80s (The Blue Nile, Roxy Music, early Talk Talk, Bill Nelson, Alan Parsons Project) as well as current bands such as neon-pop heavy-hitters The Midnight. An optimistic and innocent track, the album opener is stacked to the brim with analogue synths (not a VST in sight, baby) and is wonderfully serenaded out by an uplifting sax refrain from Ilia Skibinsky.

Slow Run sounds like a hazy summer evening, and a hint of regret is starting to seep into the lyrics.

“This is not the same town, that we left behind”

The first of two instrumental pieces, A Question of Re-entry, features the moving guitar of Airbag’s Bjørn Riis, and is driven by the analogue synth pads and pulsating solos of Holm-Lupo.

Nightwings features the studio debut of Jacob’s daughter, Ina A, who effortlessly slips in to the albums sonic palette, delivering an assured modern pop vocal performance. Nightwings has a slight hint of mid-80s The Cure in its arrangement, and will surely appeal to lovers of the Stranger Things and San Junipero soundtracks.

Fairground Sunday is my favourite track on the album, and one of the few times I am reminded of Holm-Lupo’s White Willow catalogue. The music evokes the beauty of wide open spaces, with crystal clean fresh air and sharp starry skies, but is also under-pinned with a darker sub-current that reveals itself on subsequent plays.

Under Thunder has a wonderful Alan Murphy / Experiment IV (Kate Bush) referencing guitar riff and some of the most inventive rhythm arrangements on the album.

The Curfew Bell is one of the album’s darker, more gothic pieces. Heavily reverb-infused drums and rich strings, plus Gaelic sounding multi-tracked vocals from Leah Marcu (Tillian) lead into another instrumental piece featuring Bjørn Riis, A Maelstrom of Stars, that ups the Pink Floyd / prog ante a few notches. Some fine mellotron lines, plus one of the deepest bass synth sounds ever committed to tape, push to the fore on the tracks outro.

The CD ends with a bonus track, a cover of Ratt’s 1988 song What’s It Gonna Be, with Alexander Stenerud on vocals. With the hair-metal of the original track shorn, The Opium Cartel’s take is more akin to A-ha than Europe. I swear I can heard the sound of Fairlight stabs buried deep in the mix, or maybe that was just wishful thinking. And is that a nod to Don’t Fear The Reaper at the end?

Valor sounds like a love-song to the 80s, which of course means the album sounds very current and feels extremely accessible. The down-side is that straight after playing the album, you will find yourself desperately searching for your dusty old VHS copies of The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and The Lost Boys. I hope you enjoy the album.

In the Streets
Slow Run
A Question of Re-entry
Nightwings
Fairground Sunday
Under Thunder
The Curfew Bell
A Maelstrom of Stars
What’s It Gonna Be



Buy The Opium Cartel – Valor on Amazon

Buy The Opium Cartel – Ardor

Buy The Opium Cartel – Night Blooms





News: The Blue Nile – “High” remastered 180g vinyl and 2CD reissue

10 04 2020

To complete the reissue programme of the band’s catalogue, The Blue Nile have been working alongside long term producer/engineer partner Calum Malcolm to remaster the band’s final studio album High, for release on CD and (for the first time) on vinyl on 5 June 2020.

The album will be released as a two-disc Deluxe CD set, featuring nine remastered tracks plus a bonus disc consisting of four previously unreleased songs and two extended remixes.

Also available for the first time will be a 12” vinyl version featuring the nine remastered album tracks, on 180 gram black vinyl.

Often overlooked when discussing the band’s music, High is a fine album, containing one of their most moving songs, the country tinged because of toledo, the slow-burning title track and stay close, that could have comfortably sat on their debut album, A Walk Across The Rooftops.

Buy High (Remastered 2CD Deluxe)

Disc: 1
the days of our lives
I Would Never
broken loves
because of toledo
she saw the world
high
soul boy
everybody else
stay close

Disc: 2
wasted
the days of our lives (remix)
she saw the world (remix)
i
big town
here come the bluebirds

Buy High (remastered 180g) vinyl

the days of our lives
I Would Never
broken loves
because of toledo
she saw the world
high
soul boy
everybody else
stay close





Tim Bowness / Peter Chilvers Modern Ruins track-by-track album review

5 04 2020

18 years after the duo’s debut California, Norfolk Tim Bowness (no-man) and Peter Chilvers (Brian Eno/Karl Hyde) return with their second studio album, Modern Ruins, mixed by Peter Hammill.

Opening with the direct and movingly simple Sleeping Face, the duo pick up from California, Norfolk before the album swerves off in a more electronic direction. Sleeping Face really “hits you like a fist”. One of the saddest songs in a huge canon of sad and moving Bowness songs.

The aching strings and plaintive piano, with hints of Americana, effective mood enhancing found sounds and a slight flavour of country music, means that the song sounds like a lost standard from the 1950’s.

Prepare to have something in your eye when experiencing Sleeping Face for the first time.

From this point onward, Modern Ruins deviates from its predecessor. The Boy From Yesterday is underpinned with bubbling and slowly decaying electronica. I love the way the arrangement builds, as Bjork-like pulses and colourful synth patterns scatter around Tim’s vocals.

You, making your move is a real surprise. Without giving too much away, think of the ending to the final Sopranos episode. How does this story end, did our protagonist walk away or did something more sinister occur?

The production on Modern Ruins is so strong throughout the album, and the audio treatment on tracks such as You, making your move are subtle but often sharply effective.

Blog Remember Me wins best song title of 2020 hands down for me, before the year is even done. Luckily, the song lives up to the great title. The album’s strongest ear-worm by far, it delivers an emotive study of how we communicate and hope to be remembered, ringing even more true with the added poignancy in our current climate of reliance on social distancing and digital communication to keep us as intertwined humans.

Blog Remember Me is remarkably uplifting and features a rare Bowness / Chilvers sing-along section at the end. I dare you to resist joining in.

“The things that seemed important, no longer seem important. 
The things that seemed important, no longer seen.”

Put simply, Blog Remember Me is one of my favourite Bowness / Chilvers songs.

The Love Is Always There reminds me a little of Among Angels by Kate Bush, and is one of the few tracks that could have been included on the duo’s debut release. A short and simple piece, it is well sequenced next to Cowboys In Leather, a song that would not sound out of place in a David Lynch film. A nice production touch is the rhythmic effect on the heavily processed backing vocals, making them work as an additional instrument in their own right.

Slow Life To Fade is my favourite piece on the album. I love the Arabic sounding distorted vocal phrases employed by Tim at key points in the song.

And when the electronics from Mr Chilvers really kick in, with hard sequenced synths battling against brutal, scary distorted horror-movie vocal effects, well I’m simply in musical heaven. And as Slow Life To Fade is the album’s longest track, I’m in a happy place for so much longer.

Modern Ruins ends with its second long piece, Ghost In The City. Another track that, production wise, reminds me a little of Kate Bush, particularly side 2 of Hounds of Love. The reverb hanging on for dear life to the coat-tails of Chilver’s piano notes is beautiful.

Ghost In The City is Bowness at his most lyrically bleak and raw. The strings and the deep piano lines give a feel of The Blue Nile at their most heart-wrenching, and like The Blue Nile, this song is a perfect soundtrack for late night headphone listening. More than anything, Ghost In The City evokes the calm beauty of a sleepy city at 4am, before the population springs back into action and pours out of their homes.

Modern Ruins is a step up from California, Norfolk. There was a feeling of a somewhat lo-fi, early 80s singer-songwriter release about the debut Bowness / Chilvers album. This new album feels more confident and assured, displaying more varied and expansive arrangements and an increased use of electronic textures.

Modern Ruins delivers a set of the duo’s strongest songs, with no weak points or overstayed welcomes. Every single note, vocal line and lyric, held together with all the ingenious production twists, make this one of my album’s of 2020.

Sleeping Face (4.08)
The Boy From Yesterday (6.23)
You, Making Your Move (1.58)
Blog Remember Me (5.40)
The Love Is Always There (3.38)
Cowboys In Leather (3.43)
Slow Life To Fade (7.32)
Ghost In The City (7.18)

Buy Modern Ruins from Burning Shed








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