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)





Wayne Hussey – Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades

29 10 2014

S"Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades"o you’ve not heard the second solo album from The Mission singer-songwriter, Wayne Hussey. What would you expect to hear? The sound of an artist trying to re-create the “glory years” or an album drenched in 80s goth nostalgia?

What about one of the albums of the year, full of moving vocal performances, a real variety of styles, and an album that sound’s nothing like his “day-job” in The Mission?

It’s the latter you will actually hear. I’m not a fan of The Sisters of Mercy or many of the so-called “goth” groups from that era. But goth didn’t pass me totally by without digging it’s talons into my heart and leaving me with the love of some of the bands such as All About Eve and song’s such as The Mission’s Tower of Strength, Severina and the beautiful Butterfly on a Wheel, so I was curious as to what a Hussey solo album in 2014 might sound like.

If you put aside any preconceptions, you might discover that Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades is an excellent album. The album opener is a brave choice – Madam G is a lovely, infectious torch-song, with a subtle late-night arrangement, and was co-written with former All About Eve singer-songwriter, Julianne Regan. Don’t take my word for it, have a listen yourself on the Spotify link below.

Nothing Left Between Us is a slowly building song chronicling a decaying relationship.

“Why are we still holding on, to something that’s already gone”

Wayne Hussey

You Are Not Alone has a Laurel Canyon feel, with a touch of Led Zeppelin thrown in for good measure.

The Bouquets & the Bows is the highlight of the album for me, mainly due to the powerful vocal performance. I love the ending of this song, with the acoustic bass intertwining the piano riff as the song drifts away.

Wither on the Vine musically seems to reference The Cure from around the A Forest era, with the drum and guitar sound. A song calling for tolerance, this track is the one that would likely appeal to fans of Hussey’s earlier work.

I’m reminded a little of This Mortal Coil when listening to No Earthly Cure. A fine chorus tops this wonderful song.

The sequencing of the album works really well – ‘Til the End of Time continues the pace of the previous songs, then winds down with an acoustic breakdown as the swampy Devil’s Kind romps in and turns up the tempo.

When I Drift Too Far from Shore is a string-driven, Bowie-esque piece, whilst Next Station references a Bowie song in it’s lyrics (and possibly in the the song title too).

The album closes on the spoken word Aporia, which touches on some of the problems of the current human condition (racism, homophobia) and what’s that I hear, Bauhaus‘s Peter Murphy on backing vocals?

To quote Aporia“ignorance just ain’t no defence”. I’ve told you how good this album is, have a listen on Spotify and if you like what you hear, support the artist and buy the CD.

Buy Hussey – Songs Of Candlelight & Razorblades on Amazon UK

Buy The Mission – The Brightest Light (2 CD) on Amazon UK

Buy The Mission – Anthology – The Phonogram Years (2CD) on Amazon UK





Memories of Machines – “Warm Winter”

17 05 2011

Memories of Machines is a collaboration between no-man vocalist Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra from the Italian band NosoundMemories of Machines formed in 2006, and Warm Winter is the band’s first release.

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


The album opener, New Memories of Machines sets the scene for the album, which is a mix of electronic and acoustic sounds, making an album of songs alternating between traditional and ambient / classical arrangements.  The album kicks into life with the second track, Before We Fall, with a powerful interplay between the acoustic and electric playing of Giancarlo, and backing vocals from All About Eve’s Julianne Regan.

“It’s not love how you see me
It’s not love how we touch”

Regular Bowness listeners will already be familiar with Beautiful Songs You Should Know, which appeared on no-man’s Schoolyard Ghosts album from 2008, as well as an earlier Nosound version in 2006.  The Memories of Machines version has a more organic feel than no-man’s take, and is driven by Marianne de Chastelaine’s emotive cello lines.

There is a lot of optimism in the first set of songs on Warm Winter, almost as if the early part of the album maps out the formative stages of a relationship (playing a prospective lover the songs that have defined your life to date, moving to an unfamiliar city, “Trading the ghosts for someone new”) and as the album progresses, the songs document the cracks that appear in the relationship.

Warm Winter is a piece of rare beauty, and I’m sure will be an album highlight for a lot of people.  It’s also possibly the most uplifting song sung by Bowness to date.  I personally find that sad songs are the ones that usually affect me emotionally, but Warm Winter is a rare exception to that rule.  Whilst it is certainly not a KC and the Sunshine Band soundalike, it is uncharacteristically positive.  The track also has one of Tim’s finest vocal performances, with echoes of mid-period Bowie in the vocal phrasing and ending with a powerful guitar solo (one of the few on the album) from Giancarlo.

The optimism starts to peel away with Lucky You, Lucky Me, and the appearance of the mellotron heralds an appearance from Steven Wilson (no-man / Porcupine Tree), who also adds guitar to the track, in addition to his role in mixing the whole album.  One of the highlights of the Warm Winter album is the mix, and the man Wilson (as usual) does not disappoint.  A lot of attention has also gone into the sequencing of the album, and it deserves your full attention, sounding at it’s best played in the way the band intended you to hear it, not with the songs scattered with no care all over some random playlist.

“I take my words
And use my words
To heal the hurt and the blame.”

Change Me Once Again is a tale of control and compromise, with a haunting chorus lit up by a simple piano riff and the layered vocals of Julianne Regan.

Something In Our Lives features an appearance from OSI / Fates Warning’s Jim Matheos, whilst Lost And Found In The Digital World is built over Robert Fripp’s soundscapes and haunting trumpet from UMA’s Aleksei Saks, giving the track a Brilliant Tree era David Sylvian feel.

“Lost and found in the digital world.
Lost and found.
It’s time for letting go.”

Schoolyard Ghosts is a solo Bowness composition that was originally destined for the last no-man album of the same name, and although the song didn’t appear on the no-man album in the end, some of the tune leaked into no-man’s Mixtaped.

Add to this the performances on the track from recent no-man live band members Michael Bearpark, Stephen Bennett, Andy Booker and long-term Bowness collaborator Peter Chilvers, and the track Schoolyard Ghosts will sound familiar to most no-man listeners.

“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.”

An intensely personal Bowness lyric and the only track with real progressive leanings (the keyboard solo recalls …And Then There Were Three era Genesis), Schoolyard Ghosts has some wonderful interplay between the musicians.

“The schoolyard ghosts that haunt your dreams,
Hold you back and make you feel unclean.”

As the final note fades, the album’s closing piece, the nearly 7½ minute long At The Centre Of It All slowly fades into view.  This track became my instant favourite when I first heard the album, and my opinion hasn’t changed many months later.

A mostly electronic piece, with suspended piano notes and deep cello cutting through the glacial strings, a delay-heavy Bowness vocal intones

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

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.”

A moving end to a beautiful album.

Tracklisting:

New Memories Of Machines (1.31)
Before We Fall (5.12)
Beautiful Songs You Should Know (4.59)
Warm Winter (5.34)
Lucky You, Lucky Me (4.17)
Change Me Once Again (5.56)
Something In Our Lives (4.11)
Lost And Found In The Digital World (5.14)
Schoolyard Ghosts (5.32)
At The Centre Of It All (7.26)

Memories Of Machines is:
Tim Bowness – vocals, guitar on Schoolyard Ghosts
Giancarlo Erra – guitars, keyboards

Produced and arranged by Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra
Mixed by Steven Wilson at Nomansland
Mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge

© 2011 Mascot Records

Buy Memories of Machines at Amazon UK
Buy Memories of Machines at Amazon US
Buy Memories of Machines from The Burning Shed








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