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)


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