no-man – love you to bits album review

4 10 2019

no-man will release love you to bits, the duo’s first studio album for eleven years, on 22 November 2019. The album is made up of two connected five-part pieces (love you to bits and love you to pieces).

The album marks a return to the more beat-driven electronica of Loveblows & Lovecries – A Confession and parts of Flowermouth, but with a tempo consistency missing from previous albums.

On first hearing the finished album, I was surprised by the sense of urgency, and how some of the performances are quite visceral. I heard echoes of Trent Reznor / nine inch nails and at times, Outside era David Bowie, before the songs took on a real identity of their own.

The album should not be surprising to long-time fans of no-man – my CD single of Only Baby sits close to Donna Summers Once Upon A Time double-album in my CD rack, occasionally throwing coquettish glances in its direction. So whilst love you to bits feels influenced by the urgent sequenced riffs of the “father of Disco” Giorgio Moroder, Bowness and Wilson have developed so much as writers and musicians since the early days, and this is clearly evident as there is so much more to this album than high-energy electronics.

There are two remarkable performances that leap out of the speakers from guest players. On love you to bits guitarist David Kollar delivers a white-hot manic solo that is one of the highlights of the album, and on love you to pieces Steven Wilson band member Adam Holzman serves up a fusion electric piano solo that is dripping with passion (and a fair amount of reverb).

Other guests include Ash Soan (The Producers / Trevor Horn / Downes Braide Association), who adds powerful live drums on top of the drum machines, giving a real push to sections of the album, plus some damn funky synth basslines from Norwich’s finest low notes rumbler (and half of Burning Shed) Pete Morgan, plus a surprising but emotive appearance from The Dave Desmond Brass Quintet (Big Big Train).

The first track (or suite), love you to bits, is driven by deep synth lines and Bowness’s sardonic lyrics surveying the shattered wreck of a relationship. As the live drums kick in, Wilson’s guitar processing harks back to the sound of early no-man, and at times the music draws from the mood of Only Baby and Bleed.

love you to bits contains one of no-man’s finest choruses, and even with the aforementioned I Feel Love / Moroder / Belotte influences, the album feels very current, and will surely appeal to fans of most forms of electronic / electronic dance music.

“I love you, like I don’t love you at all”

Just before the 6 minute mark, one of my favourite moments kicks in. Featuring a short guitar and bass interplay that is pure Platinum era Mike Oldfield, the section breaks down to an Underworld / Born Slippy motif that leads to a vocal and instrumental refrain that sums up the beauty of no-man, with a subtle nod to lighthouse (my favourite no-man song). The music then picks up, with wild Bowness vocals and beautiful lead guitar lines from the boy Wilson. I will let you discover the unexpected ending to love you to bits yourself, which sees out the first five part piece.

love you to pieces is a darker, more twisted cousin of the first half of the album.

“our sticky love just left me weak”

Opening with a dub-like, slow it all down continuation of the theme, the song takes a detour and again draws on the DNA of no-man’s past.

“There’s no need to look for answers
To the questions never asked
There’s no need to make a shelter
from your versions of our past”

A heavily vocodered, processed vocal breakdown leads to the aforementioned Adam Holzman solo section and I’m reminded a little of some of the instrumentation of Bird Shadows, Wolf & Moon, an earlier mostly vocal-less piece credited to no-man on the Drop 6 compilation.

As the synths sparkle like diamonds on the mid-section, and as the pace drops, I love the production touches on Tim’s vocals – reminding me of the tape decay of The Disintegration Loops and The Caretaker. It’s the most moving part of the whole album, and is like having pure, unadulterated no-man shot through your veins. I have no doubt that long-time no-man fans will be deeply moved by the mid to end section of love you to pieces.

The decay and melancholy of the end section reminds me a little of the darker parts of 10cc and Godley & Creme, feeling like a Mogadon infused I’m Not In Love, as the melody is scraped away to reveal the bare bones of the piece.

love you to bits is a world away from the most recent no-man albums, but even if you are not usually a fan of the more electronic side of the band, I think there is plenty here to savour. The album touches on the band’s earlier sound palette, but is so unlike anything else in no-man’s catalogue.

Although often jokingly teased as the band’s “disco epic” when mentioned in interviews, love you to bits is in fact one of the most progressive albums released under the no-man name. Not as a genre, but progressive as evidence of no-man changing, evolving and progressing onto something new.

I hope the album is heard outside of the Bowness / Wilson audience, as it will surely appeal to anyone with a love of electronic music. Prepare to be surprised and you will not be disappointed.

Buy the album

Buy love you to bits (CD / Vinyl / packages) from Burning Shed

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Buy love you to bits on CD from Amazon

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Buy love you to bits on vinyl from Amazon

love you to bits details

love you to bits (Bits 1-5) (17.03)
love you to pieces (Pieces 1-5) (18.54)

Tim Bowness – Vocals
Steven Wilson – Instruments

Ash Soan – Drums
The Dave Desmond Brass Quintet – Brass on love you to bits
Adam Holzman – Electric Piano solo on love you to pieces
David Kollar – Electric Guitar solo on love you to bits
Pete Morgan – Synth bass on love you to bits

produced and written by no-man
mixed by Bruno Ellingham
mastered by Matt Colton


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2 responses

4 10 2019
garyslittleuniverse

Are you guys still on kscope? As not getting much from a distributor point of view 👀

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8 10 2019
Steve Evans

Would love to see a reissue of both ‘Loveblows and Lovecries’ and ‘Lovesighs’ – ideally all in one package.

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