Tim Bowness & Giancarlo Erra – Memories of Machines review

31 01 2022

An expanded and remixed 10th Anniversary version of Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra’s 2011 album Warm Winter (now issued as Memories Of Machines, the original project name) will be released on 25th February 2022 through Kscope.

Featuring contributions from Robert Fripp, Peter Hammill, Julianne Regan, Jim Matheos, Colin Edwin, Huxflux Nettermalm, Peter Chilvers, Aleksei Saks and members of Nosound and Tim Bowness’s live bands, the album contains 12 sweeping and majestic songs.

Available on cd/dvd-a/v – with hi-res stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes – and double vinyl, the reissue contains two 2020 recordings – an album outtake and a new version of the 2006 Nosound piece Someone Starts To Fade Away – created especially for this release.

This new expanded edition of the album features a 2021 remix from the original tapes by Giancarlo Erra, and results in a very different album, with a warmer, more natural sounding release. Much as I loved the original version, I prefer this take on the songs. The songs sound more widescreen, if that makes sense? Comparing the original to this new version, the vocals are more central and more prominent in the mix, and there is more warmth added to the instrumentation. New Memories Of Machines ushers in a new era / Erra (sorry for the pun) of this classic album.

“Stories
Come out of other stories
Lead to other stories
New memories of machines”

Before We Fall features backing vocals from All About Eve’s Julianne Regan, and it’s always a joy to hear Julianne, and is a timely reminder that we need more music from one of our finest vocalists. The 2021 mix offers a smoother and more joined up version of this wonderful song. The chorus soars on this version, that contains a powerful guitar driven wall of sound.

It’s not love when we meet up
It’s not love when we speak
It’s not love when I say I can’t feel”

Beautiful Songs You Should Know has a slightly altered arrangement, with synth strings underpinning the song from earlier in the track, and the acoustic guitar is lower and less percussive in the 2021 version. As with all the songs on this re-imagining, the production feels more sympathetic, and this is not a criticism of the original, its a different, more organic listening experience.

“I want to play you
All the beautiful songs you should know.”

Warm Winter is slightly longer in this incarnation, and after all these years, it still cuts deep, with one of Tim’s finest vocals. On first listen, it was slightly jarring having the drums stripped from the majority of the arrangement, but their absence gives the song a different, more unique pace. When they do appear (in a more treated form) at the song’s conclusion, it highlights Giancarlo’s powerful guitar lines, that are also more distorted and layered than before.

Lucky You Lucky Me is a revelation, with the chorus sounding like sparkling audio diamonds have been dropped into the mix by Mr Erra. Some of the synth backing has been removed from the second verse, and simplifying the arrangement makes the chorus hit even harder. The guitar solo is different on this take – with a psychedelic, bluesy double riff suiting the more earthy arrangement and mix.

Change Me Once Again has the drums sat further back in the mix, which lets the gorgeous guitars take centre stage. A fine vocal by Mr Bowness, underpinned by the layered vocals of Julianne Regan, make this one of the album’s most rewarding songs. The Gilmour-esque guitars help make this a key track.

The piano and electronics are dialled down in the new mix of Something In Our Lives, which makes the layered chorus richer. The atmospherics and brooding mood marks a shift in tone for the album from this point on.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – the music of Lost And Found In The Digital World has a real feel of Brilliant Trees era David Sylvian, with the aching synths and the haunting trumpet of Aleksei Saks adding a new flavour to the soundscapes. This new version is one of the most improved by Giancarlo’s new mix, especially with the solos at around the half-way mark. In the original, the trumpet and the lead solo are competing for space, whereas in the new mix, they complement each other perfectly.

“It’s time for letting go.”

Schoolyard Ghosts loses some of the intro section here, and the song that takes some of it’s cues from no-man’s Mixtaped is here as a definitive version of this well-travelled song. The end section has a flavour of the restrained power of David Bowie’s Blackstar.

“You and Jules down vodka shots
To hide the feelings that you’ve got.
You love her eyes, you love her mouth,
You love her put on Rock-chick pout.”

The final track of the album proper is here in an extended form. At The Centre Of It All is a behemoth of a composition, and at the time of release was my favourite track on the album back in 2011, and my opinion has simply solidified hearing this new version. The funereal pace is interrupted by jagged solos bursting out like spikes of pain to disturb you and make you feel the hurt in the lyrics.

In my original review, I said: Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin contributes double bass to the song, as Giancarlo’s restrained guitar bookends the deep synth lines, as the “Beautiful Songs You Should Know” sadly become “Just pointless lists at the centre of it all.”

One of the most emotional and hard-hitting pieces of music from the entire rich catalogue of songs from Bowness and Erra, At The Centre Of It All has never sounded better.

“All the things that were meant to be,
All the love you were meant to feel,
Became too hard to reveal.”

The album concludes with two bonus tracks. Recorded in 2020, Dreamless Days feels like a long-lost no-man track. A discordant, slowly evolving riff underpinned by bass and an accordion gives way to a Mono band / avant-rock sounding end section, as Tim’s vocal loops see the song out.

The final extra track is a 2020 recording of the Nosound / Bowness piece Someone Starts To Fade Away. The original version was the first Bowness / Erra recorded collaboration, from the 2008 album Lightdark. This new recording features a similar riff based backing as Dreamless Days, as the sharp kaleidoscopic pieces replace the piano of the original recording. I hear hints of Flat Earth era Thomas Dolby in some of the arrangements twists and turns. Someone Starts To Fade Away fits so well on this album, and I do hope that these 2020 sessions lead to a new album from Tim and Giancarlo.

I can see this Kscope re-imagining of Memories of Machines leading to the album being heard and treasured by a larger audience than the original. And if you already own this album, the new version is a massive upgrade on the already amazing original, so I would urge you to buy this definitive version too.

Memories Of Machines is available as a 2 disc (CD/DVD), 2LP and digital album.

Buy Memories of Machines from Burning Shed

Buy Memories Of Machines CD from Amazon
Buy Memories Of Machines vinyl from Amazon

Tracklisting

New Memories Of Machines [01:25]
Before We Fall [05:10]
Beautiful Songs You Should Know [05:37]
Warm Winter [06:00]
Lucky You Lucky Me [04:26]
Change Me Once Again [05:46]
Something In Our Lives [04:08]
Lost And Found In The Digital World [05:25]
Schoolyard Ghosts [04:53]
At The Centre Of It All [09:49]
Dreamless Days (outtake) [04:31]
Someone Starts To Fade Away (2020 TBGE) (04:51)


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