Tim Bowness – Butterfly Mind track-by-track album review

17 04 2022

Tim Bowness releases his 7th solo album Butterfly Mind as a Ltd. 2CD Edition, Ltd Edition LP+CD and digital album via InsideOut on June 17 2022.

Butterfly Mind features the stellar rhythm section of Richard Jupp (in his first major session since leaving Elbow) and Nick Beggs alongside a spectacular generation and genre spanning guest list including Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Dave Formula (Magazine), Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), Martha Goddard (The Hushtones), Gregory Spawton (Big Big Train), Mark Tranmer (The Montgolfier Brothers, GNAC), Saro Cosentino (Franco Battiato), Italian Jazz musician Nicola Alesini, US singer Devon Dunaway (Ganga), Stephen W Tayler (Kate Bush) and, marking his first studio work with Tim for nearly three decades, former no-man violinist Ben Coleman.

Produced by Tim Bowness and Brian Hulse, Butterfly Mind was mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson.

Say Your Goodbyes bookends the album, with part one featuring added vocals from Peter Hammill, ushering in the album with a sense of foreboding as the sparse electronics give way to a powerful, distorted industrial arrangement that harks back to the no-man of Bleed / Say Baby Say Goodbye. This is not the first time I spot the DNA of no-man running through strands of the album, which should come as no surprise as Butterfly Mind was mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson and features Ben Coleman on three of it’s tracks.

Always The Stranger arrives at pace, propelled by the powerful beats of former Elbow drummer Richard Jupp, who adds a real feeling of urgency throughout the album.

“Yes, even their laughter gets you
and even their smiles destroy you.”

The backing vocals from Martha Goddard and the Bowness / Brian Hulse (now a regular contributor to much of Tim’s work) synths glisten underneath the delightful evolving arrangement. Nick Beggs adds a deep, mature bass line to one of my favourite tracks on the album.

The frenetic pace of Always The Stranger makes you savour the downtempo delights of It’s Easier To Love even more.

“Maybe it’s your age,
but everything feels colder.”

A fine Bowness ballad, It’s Easier To Love features a warm, restrained string arrangement from Saro Cosentino and added accompanying vocals from US dance / electronic vocalist Devon Dunaway, adding a unique, welcome texture to the song. Heavily treated / delayed sax from Nicola Alesini adds a delicious topping to the mix of instrumentation, that naturally evolves and builds throughout the song.

The second appearance from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson (who also appears on the opening track), has Anderson really leaving his mark on one of the album’s heaviest tracks, We Feel. Peter Hammill adds guitar along with Brian Hulse, and Nick Beggs delivers a powerful and very inventive bass-line, one of his finest performances on the album. Devon Dunaway drops a Bowie like backing vocal around the mid-way point.

Tim has pulled out the stops with the multiple and varied guest appearances on Butterfly Mind, with musicians offering measured contributions that paint textures not heard before on his solo albums, whilst wisely having a core, stable band of Bowness, Hulse, Beggs and Jupp supplying the album with its cohesive identity.

Lost Player is one of the simpler arrangements, with a reverb-drenched drum pattern and sci-fi soundtrack synth waves, which then surprisingly shifts gear at the two minute mark, giving a chameleon-like transformation of sequenced synths and wordless, reflective hums from Bowness. This abrupt change in tone and theme should not work so well, but it really does deliver one of the albums most emotional moments.

Only A Fool features wonderful Associates like piano lines from Dave Formula (Magazine), on this percussive heavy, pacey piece. The bassline from Mr Beggs is simply delicious, and is another track I return to often, when not listening to the album in order, as the artist intended of course!

“The numbers are frightening,
so much blood on our hands.
we don’t need reminding,
the punch never lands”

After The Stranger features Gregory Spawton (Big Big Train) on bass pedals, on this short continuation of the earlier Always The Stranger, with 90s trip-hop referencing percussion from Richard Jupp.

Photo by Mark Wood

Glitter Fades is a tale of passing time and fading influence. Take us back… The electronic beats blend so well with the deep, late 80s feel of the electronics, and the lead vocal lines from Bowness are perfectly supported by Martha Goddard to add a touch of lightness. Stephen W Tayler contributes clarinet, and I’m reminded at times of the late Eighties synth soundscapes of Richard Barbieri during this very accessible and addictive track.

“We were a golden generation,
the darlings of a cultured age”

Ben Coleman adds violin to the final three tracks, starting with About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor. A late addition to the album, its another personal favourite. Unlike anything else on the album, the arrangement is light, measured and more organic. Deep bass and brush drums add to the warm mood offered by the song. The last couple of minutes are pure magic, as electronics melt into Coleman’s trademark emotive violin lines.

“It was the fight that made you hope for more”

And then we have Dark Nevada Dream. The longest track on Butterfly Mind is also its best. Hints of no-man from the Flowermouth and Returning Jesus eras sit deep in the arrangement. Dave Formula adds pulsating Hammond organ lines, with another fine Devon Dunaway contribution to the chorus.

“Speaking less,
drinking more”

Dark Nevada Dream skips by in an instant, and on my first listen one of my favourite parts was the Bowness spoken section towards the end of the song. It’s not quite a Bowness rap, so don’t worry, but it fits perfectly with the arrangement of one of my favourite solo tracks from Tim.

The core quartet excel on this song, and the contributions from the guest musicians take Dark Nevada Dream to another level.

I am sure this will be most listeners favourite track, and when the inevitable Best of Bowness album is compiled in a few years, Dark Nevada Dream will surely feature.

Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 2 closes the album in a similar vein to the start of the journey, with the startling difference being the violent end section from Ben Coleman, duelling and driving out the organ swells, and bursting out of your speakers / headphones with clarity and force.

If you have opted for the vinyl version of Butterfly Mind, I would also recommend seeking out the limited double CD version. Disc two of this set features alternative takes of tracks from the album. The highlights include a powerful and raw take on Lost Player. This is the original solo demo from Tim and the track that started the whole project off, as Lost Player was the first song Tim wrote after eight months of doing covers and Plenty re-recordings. I also love the stunning alternative version of About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor along with the track that was for a while due to take its place in the original running order, Clearing Houses.

Photo by Mark Wood

Clearing Houses contains one of Tim’s most moving lyrics, driven by a direct simplicity that makes it sit amongst the finest of recent Bowness stories. Its so true that the four walls that surround and protect us throughout key points in our lives hold so many memories, and are so much more than just bricks and mortar. When we move to a new home, we often reflect on the loves, losses and growth we have witnessed. Clearing houses can mean taking time to reflect on the ghosts that live on in the photos taken in the home we are leaving for the final time. Alongside another fine Ian Anderson contribution, Clearing Houses deserves to be heard and enjoyed as so much more than ‘just’ an album out-take.

Butterfly Mind is the most rewarding solo album from Tim to date. Although it has a rich consistency due to the four key musicians who feature throughout, the guests add spice to every song they touch. I sometimes worry that utilising such high profile guests can take away the focus, but none of the musicians or vocalists on Butterfly Mind overshadow the songs or the arrangements. They all add unique flavours and a different personality to the mix, always adding and never detracting from a career best album.

Butterfly Mind Tracklist

Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 1
Always The Stranger
It’s Easier To Love
We Feel
Lost Player
Only A Fool
After The Stranger
Glitter Fades
About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor
Dark Nevada Dream
Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 2





David K Jones – Days In Corners album review

3 04 2022

Days In Corners is the first solo album from David K Jones (bass player with Moonshot, Plenty and The Swan Chorus). Developed in collaboration with Brian Hulse (Plenty / Tim Bowness) and Peter Goddard from demos recorded over 20 years ago, its creation became a lockdown labour of love.

The album includes guest performances by Tim Bowness, Darren Dean, Henry Rogers (Mostly Autumn), Jenny Whittaker and John Wilkinson (Mama / Moonshot).

Album opener rescue me builds from an 80s infused pop base, with some lovely progressive synth solos and a frenetic percussion backing.

The pace slows down with crazy rain, one of the album’s strongest songs. Vocalist Peter Goddard brings some of the wistfulness of Peter Coyle (The Lotus Eaters) to this perfectly paced lament. The electronics and synths work well with the more acoustic backing of piano and drums.

don’t go features some sterling percussion from Mostly Autumn drummer Henry Rogers and the arrangement and vocal styling reminds me of Liverpool’s It’s Immaterial, with a touch of early Elbow thrown in for good measure. Some fine bass work from David K Jones on this track, one of the most openly progressive pieces on the album. I would love to hear more songs in this vein.

The mood lightens with the more optimistic footprints in the sand, featuring a strong, melodic and memorable chorus.

David K Jones has worked with Tim Bowness as a member of Plenty, and contributed bass to three tracks on Tim’s 2019 album Flowers At The Scene as well as appearing on the Moonshot / Bowness spinoff album in 2020, so it is no surprise to hear Tim featuring on the dark balladry of world keeps turning. Tim’s vocals work well alongside Peter Goddard.

as good as it gets is a surprising slice of modern Americana, with an addictive chorus. that summer dials in the electronica, with a stripped back arrangement of bubbling sequencers, piano, bass and drum machine. Peter Goddard gives a strong vocal performance on one of the album’s standout tracks, with lyrics that drift through the changing of the season.

last cigarette features Mama / Moonshot vocalist John Wilkinson alongside Peter Goddard, with lyrics dedicated to Jeff Buckley. The vocal arrangement is outstanding on last cigarette.

The final two tracks head off into more familiar Plenty territory, with spin featuring Moonshot guitarist Darren Dean. The final track no more lullabies is a synth driven, lightly percussive farewell.

Days In Corners is an impressive solo debut from David K Jones. Although the album features a series of guest performers, there is a strong feeling of continuity throughout, with the album held together by the trio of Jones, Hulse and vocalist Peter Goddard.

Listen to Days In Corners on Spotify

Buy Days In Corners on CD from Burning Shed

Tracklist

rescue me
crazy rain
don’t go
footprints in the sand
world keeps turning
as good as it gets
that summer
last cigarette
spin
no more lullabies





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)





Plenty – Enough album review

14 05 2021

Enough is a double CD collecting two 2021 Plenty (Tim Bowness, Brian Hulse and David K Jones) ‘lockdown’ projects, plus the first ever release of the band’s original 1980s demos.

The album is split into three parts over the two CD’s:

Old / Borrowed were recorded between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021, whilst Older has recordings from between Summer 1986 and Summer 1990.

Enough is wisely split into two CD’s – with the 2020/21 recordings on disc one and the older, late 80s demos on disc 2. This works well, as it feels like two separate albums to me, with a modern re-imagining on the first disc, and the fascinating (but obviously more low-resolution) demos that give insight into the genesis of the band on the second.

Plenty’s previous album It Could Be Home had an 80s sheen, whereas Enough feels like a 2021 release, with a real edge that makes the album sit comfortably in the here and now.

Disc one opens with the seven songs of Old. The most recognisable track will be the album opener Forest Almost Burning, that exists in Plenty demo form as well as on No Man Is an Island’s The Girl From Missouri EP. Like most fans, I don’t have a physical copy, and have never been able to track one down, but this modern take makes up for that.

The Plenty version is faithful to the original arrangement, but with an embellished soundscape and more powerful drums plus a fuller guitar arrangement (moving away from the staple chorused guitar of the late 80s). Whilst I love the fragility of the original versions, this is my favourite recording of the song (although sadly missing the Bowness “burnt to the ground” line, which makes a sneaky, almost subliminal appearance in the video). Blink and you’ll miss it!

The Walker was the track that took longest to seep into my twisted heart. It’s a sparse arrangement, with an addictive bassline, and angular guitar. The vocals remind me of Tim’s early no-man style, and the upbeat chorus belie the darkness of the subject matter. The lyrics were recycled on the no-man song Walker, that can be found on the All The Blue Changes compilation.

The Blessed One is one of my favourites in the collection. I’m a sucker for the Experiment IV (Kate Bush) / Alan Murphy guitar sound and the powerful drums from Charles Grimsdale make the song go down a treat.

Towards The Shore will be known to many from its inclusion on the Slow Electric album from 2011. This version breathes a little more, but retains its delicate charm.

you chase another dream –
the old one’s failed again

The Other Side (The Other Version) is the Plenty 2020 (it rhymes!) version of the track that featured on the Late Night Laments companion Cheerleaders For The Damned. This new version is fully fleshed, and no longer beatless, with some lovely electronica on display towards the end of the song.

Bleed A Little More features lyrics that crept into the early no-man track Bleed. The Plenty song is a very different proposition, more uplifting and nearer to the Plenty of It Could Be Home.

War Games By The Sea (Military Upgrade) is another Plenty updating of a Cheerleaders For The Damned piece. This new version is the definitive take for me, and is one of my favourite Bowness songs from this period of his career. The piano is fuller and the drums from Tom Atherton give this song an incendiary power missing from the previously released version.

“even names grow old and tired,
like the children that we sired –
strip the paper from our ancient walls”

The final five songs on disc one are the covers, titled Borrowed. They veer from quite traditional to totally unexpected in their performance and arrangements. All are respectful versions. New Brighton (It’s Immaterial) shines a light on one of the finest Liverpool acts of the 80s, who were much more than their most well-known song, Driving Away from Home (Jim’s Tune). The Plenty version has hints of The Blue Nile, and is a warm, affectionate performance.

The cover of Suzanne Vega’s Soap And Water (from Songs in Red and Gray) would have worked well as a straight cover, but Plenty dial up the tempo and add a ton of electronics to give the song a very different skin. Lyrically, seemingly a song of separation and how it affects the children left behind when a partner leaves, there are echoes of prime Pet Shops Boys in the performance and the arrangement. The touch of urgency adds something new to the song, which is always good to hear in a cover version.

“Daddy’s a dark riddle
Mama’s a headful of bees
You are my little kite
Carried away in the wayward breeze”

I have to admit I struggled at first with the cover of The Teardrop Explodes Tiny Children. One of my favourite songs of the 80s, the original is seared into my soul. The Plenty version swaps the majority of the synths with piano, and like Soap And Water, has a tempo not present in the original. I learnt to separate the two versions, and then I could fully appreciate the Plenty version.

“Oh no, I’m not sure about
Those things that I cared about
Oh no, I’m not sure
Not anymore”

I love the way the song organically builds, and the vocal performance from Tim is restrained and calm, which suits the song perfectly.

Forgive Me (Kevin Coyne) I did not know before hearing this version, so I had no preconceptions. If I had not known this was a cover, I would have presumed this was a Plenty original, as it suits their style.

The final Borrowed track is the biggest surprise. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams) is totally shorn of it’s country / Americana roots and when compared to the original, simply does not compare, its like a totally different song. And you know what, it works!

Along with the subtle electronics, there is an almost blues underbelly to this version, which I was not expecting. The lyrics were always tender, and the performance on this version mirrors that tenderness perfectly.

The second disc I treat as separate to the main album, as the performances and the audio quality are steeped in another decade. There is a wonderful moment in the first demo, The Other Side, when what sounds like a ringing telephone can be heard in the background. I love found sounds, especially accidental ones.

Other highlights from the demos include the David Sylvian inspired (with Steve Jansen sounding percussion) Sacrifice, which later became Flowers At The Scene‘s Ghostlike. Sacrifice still works well even after all the years have passed, and will appeal to fans of Sylvian / Japan (even though Tim has never vocally sounded like Sylvian).

The demo of Brave Dreams on Enough I prefer to the My Hotel Year version. The synth lines are hauntingly beautiful, and it has more emotion and depth than the later studio version. I would love to hear a modern re-recording of the song – maybe a live cut, using this arrangement. Its my favourite out of all the demos.

“We get into the car, and sit without talking”

Towards the Shore cannot quite compete for me with the definitive 2020 remake / remodel, but there is still a glorious charm to this version, that has some of the spirit of one of the more neglected Bowness projects, World of Bright Futures (1999) from Tim Bowness & Samuel Smiles. Its a good way to end the demo disc, as a glimpse into the music that would soon arrive in the form of the beginnings of no-man.

Enough is released via Burning Shed on 9 July 2021.

Tim Bowness: Vocals, Backing Vocals, FX (on Old 5)
Brian Hulse – Guitars, Pianos, Synths, Drum Programming
David K Jones: Bass, Fretless Bass, Double Bass, Bass Pedals

with

Tom Atherton – Drums (on Old 7)
Michael Bearpark: Guitars (on Old 4 and Older 2, 4, 5, 6, 7), Fretless Bass (on Older 7)
Peter Chilvers: Piano, Synths (on Old 4)
Charles Grimsdale – Drums (on Old 3)

Old

  1. Forest Almost Burning (Bearpark/Bowness/Hulse/Jones)
  2. The Blessed Ones (Bowness/Jones)
  3. The Walker (Bowness/Hulse)
  4. Towards The Shore (Bowness/Hulse)
  5. The Other Side (The Other Version) (Bowness/Hulse)
  6. Bleed A Little More (Bowness/Hulse/Jones)
  7. War Games By The Sea (Military Upgrade) (Bowness/Hulse)

Borrowed

  1. New Brighton (Campbell/Whitehead)
  2. Soap And Water (Vega)
  3. Tiny Children (Cope)
  4. Forgive Me (Coyne/Coyne)
  5. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Williams)

Older

  1. The Other Side (1986) (Bowness/Hulse)
  2. Forest Almost Burning (1987) (Bearpark/Bowness/Hulse/Jones)
  3. Sacrifice (1987) (Bowness/Hulse)
  4. Brave Dreams (1990) (Bearpark/Bowness/Hulse)
  5. Broken Nights (1990) (Bowness/Hulse)
  6. The Walker (1990) (Bowness/Hulse)
  7. Towards The Shore (1990) (Bowness/Hulse)

Produced by Plenty
Mixed and Mastered by Brian Hulse

Artwork by Carl Glover

Old and Borrowed recorded between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021
Older recorded between Summer 1986 and Summer 1990

Visit the Tim Bowness store on Burning Shed

Visit the no-man store at Burning Shed





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)





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





Moonshot – Worlds of Yesterday: A Moonshot Retrospective 1971 – 1992 album review

31 12 2019

The songs on this Moonshot compilation were lovingly curated by Tim Bowness, whose album Lost In The Ghostlight tells the story of Moonshot through the thoughts and musing of lead singer Jeff Harrison.

* To avoid confusion, some of the songs on this compilation have remarkably similar titles, lyrics and music to tracks released by Tim Bowness on his Moonshot inspired Lost In The Ghostlight album, but Jeff Harrison never ripped anyone off man.

Shortly before his final tour and final death, Moonshot mainman Jeff Harrison took to twitter. His confusion in this new digital playground was plain for all to see, and long-time fans were worried, with good reason. Harrison died in suspicious circumstances in January 2019 and it was his wish that Moonshot continue with John Wilkinson as their singer. John was the singer in Moonshot tribute band Apollo 11, and its his voice that delivers the Moonshot classics on this new Bowness curated compilation.

Listening to Worlds of Yesterday, it’s clear that Big Big Train are heavily indebted to Warrington’s finest sons. And a little progshaped bird once tweeted that rock / prog-pixie Steven Wilson has a whole wing in his Surrey Mansion dedicated to his love of Moonshot, the highlight of which is a room filled with 208 of Jeff Harrison’s moth-ridden stage outfits from the ill-fated Rosewater tour of Germany. If that isn’t an endorsement to the genius of the band and their influence, I don’t know what is.

If any members of Genesis heard Worlds of Yesterday, I have no doubt that they would say that this is the best album that Genesis never made. Or they might sue the band. I’m not sure which route they would take to be honest, but I hear Moonshot have the best lawyers Warrington have ever produced and they are poised to spring into litigious action.

On to the music, dear listeners. Album opener Moonshot Manchild is the tale untold of a rockstar out of time and place, a position the many men of Moonshot were likely familiar with. Musically drawing from early Yes, mid-period Genesis and a hint of late period Martin Lee (Brotherhood of Man).

The flashing lights are blinding, you never felt so old”

Stupid Things That Mean The World draws from the shallow-well of Invisible Touch era Genesis, with spurting and spluttering synths hiding the deep pain clearly felt by our prog protagonists. A veritable ear-worm of a song, with a smorgasbord of vintage keyboards powering the track.

Long-time fans of Moonshot will be familiar with the rare band ballad Worlds of Yesterday. Its the sound of a Moonshot wrestling with the changing times, and was a highlight of their many German and Austrian tours. The song was used in a prominent episode of the 80s German TV hit Helga und die Nordlichter, in case you are wondering where you had heard the tune before. The layers of guitar and keyboards on Worlds of Yesterday highlights the links between the world of progressive music and the 80s new romantic / synth bands.

Lost in the Ghostlight is a close cousin of Peter Gabriel’s The Rhythm of the Heat, but is more satisfying as it is shorter. New vocalist John Wilkinson sneers “is it pure or is it art”, a question we have all asked ourselves at some point. Mike Garson-esque piano lines offer solace from the anger in this perky prog-piece. “Is there moooore?” – yes there is, we are only at the mid-point of this compilation. Well sequenced Mr Bowness.

Fans of Phil Collin’s early solo material will love the Roland CR-78 driven bleak as midwinter Nowhere Good to Go. Apparently the lyrics are an apology to Moonshot fans for the many off-key performances and gigs cut-short during the band’s darkest period, when the album sales slowed to a trickle and Eastern Europe became their new playground. Heartbreaking but long overdue, its one of the album highlights.

Many reviewers, on first hearing The Great Electric Teenage Dream, thought Steve Hackett was the guitarist on the song that lit up Moonshot’s later period. This was never confirmed, denied or mentioned again. Prog magazine wrote a lengthy piece on this pastoral beauty, which was sadly dropped and replaced by news of the reformation of Gandalf’s Hoof in 2016. Out-of-time and out of luck once more, the Moonshot madness continued. Fact fans – the mention of “a faceless tweet” in the lyric does not refer to twitter but to Jeff’s love of Owls.

Before That Before became the band’s biggest hit single in the Netherlands. A stripped back power-ballad, with a heavy use of tambourine and reverb-drenched piano, it should have propelled Harrison and co into a Stadium sized orbit, but alas alimony soaked up the proceeds of Moonshot’s final tilt at immortality. Tears are guaranteed to flow when you hear the mournful guitar lines that preface the chorus.

At the time of release, the backing vocals on Before That Before‘s outro were rumoured to be performed by Kate Bush, but they were not.

The album skips towards its end with the prog as your elbow village-fete romp that is The Sweetest Bitter Pill. The original video (look for it on Youtube) featured Harrison stuck on a merry-go-round, that spun for eternity and made him very, very sick. Listening to this new version of the Moonshot classic, it’s clear the song has become a template for many bands, all of whom went onto great success. It would be nice if they gave a little love back, but we know who they are, and the invoice will be in the post.

The vinyl album ends on Distant Summers, a new version of one of the band’s best-loved songs. Welcome back my friends, and get out your lighters, it’s the show that never ends. Stripped of the need to sell records (because, who buys records anymore?), this is Moonshot at its purest. Heavy organs propel the love, longing and a lifetime of regret into a 4.59 progressive rock masterpiece. Listen young pretenders and weep. I’m looking at you Mr White Willow, Jacob Holm-Lupo.

Oh, and the CD version of the album (it won’t be available on streaming platforms as Jeff Harrison did not understand streaming – “if you can’t touch it, how can you hear it”) includes two bonus tracks. The World-Music inspiring You’ll Be The Silence and the theme medley Moonshot Shadows. Can anyone else hear the theme tune to Hill Street Blues in the opening? Nope, just me then. Craftily cutting out recognisable hooks from their lengthy back-catalogue, Moonshot are able to pay themselves extra-royalties, as Jeff Harrison is not listed as co-writer of this track. Resourceful.

So for anyone new to Moonshot, this is a very satisfying introduction to the band. Fans of Genesis, Yes, Barclay James Harvest, The Buggles, The Alan Parsons Project, Argent, Baccara, Genesis, Genesis, BruteBeard, Big Big Train, Caravan, Cloop, Genesis, Christopher Cross, Genesis, Earth and Fire (but not Wind), Egg, ELP, Marillion, Damp, Frost*, Gabriel (Peter), Genesis, Steve Hackett, John Hackett, Henry Hackett, Hackett and the North, I, Genesis, Rodeo and the Trapeze Boy, Grifter, Genesis, Schnod, Flute and many more from the heady progressive era will find much to love in this purposeful masterpiece.

Don’t be surprised if Worlds of Yesterday is crowned Prog album of the year 2020. You have got 12 months to listen, digest and vote! Look into my eyes – vote you will.

Tracklisting:

Moonshot Manchild
Stupid Things That mean The World
World of Yesterday
Lost in the Ghostlight
Nowhere Good to Go
The Great Electric Teenage Dream
Before That Before
The Sweetest Bitter Pill
Distant Summers

Bonus Tracks on CD Album
You’ll Be The Silence
Moonshot Shadows

Buy the album (CD and vinyl) from Burning Shed

* Most of the anecdotes in this review are not true. If you are a fan of classic 70s and 80s progressive rock, I urge you to investigate this album. You know you will love it!





no-man – love you to bits album review

4 10 2019

no-man have released love you to bits, the duo’s first studio album for eleven years. 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

Stream the album (and then buy it!)

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





Tim Bowness – Flowers At The Scene

13 02 2019

Tim Bowness’ fifth solo album Flowers At The Scene is released on InsideOutMusic/Sony on the 1st March 2019. Described as being “produced by no-man and Brian Hulse”, there is definitely the spirit of no-man in the DNA of some of the songs, whilst there is also a feeling of renewal with the wide-ranging guests and new musicians, who have breathed new life into this run of solo albums.

Flowers At The Scene has its own very clear musical identity and a cohesive sound, but still with plenty of variety in tones and mood. Album opener I Go Deeper features powerful (treated) drums from Bowness newbie Tom Atherton, and a great Mick Karn-like bassline from Colin Edwin. The edgy kitchen-sink drama lyrics perfectly suit the musical ebb and flow of the track.

“Wild, desperate kisses, fire escapes, near misses.”

The Train That Pulled Away feels somewhat like a distant relation of Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting, before exploding into a more powerful outro section (drummer Tom Atherton is a real find by the way).

Rainmark is the first track that really channels the spirit of no-man, dressed to impress, wearing a lovely Flowermouth outfit. One of several tracks to feature the trumpet playing of Ian Dixon and also home to a fine guitar solo from Jim Matheos (Fates Warning / OSI / contributor to Memories of Machines).

Not Married Anymore is the first song to feature Dylan Howe, and probably the albums saddest track. Which of course, makes it one of my favourites. Building on the recent Plenty album (and featuring Brian Hulse and David K Jones from the band), Not Married Anymore is simple, uncluttered but devastatingly melancholic. An early album highlight.

The title track dials in further sadness and regret, over a mesmerising drum and double bass pattern (the bass reminds me of Danny Thompson). A tale of visible signs of a painful loss (we have all seen wilting flowers at the scene of someones passing), Flowers At The Scene is achingly beautiful.

It’s The World is a musical oddity on the album. Metal guitar (along with Comsat Angel-like harmonics) from Jim Matheos, plus guitar and backing vocals from Peter Hammill and a synth coda from Steven Wilson, leads to the most startling / jarring piece on the album. It is uneasy listening.

Things calm down a little with Borderline, which features a vocal (and flute plus melodica) appearance from Big Big Train’s David Longdon. The organ and interplay between the flute and trumpet lift this song to a higher plane, and over the past few months this song has become one of my favourites from the album.

“Friends keeping tabs – You just say that you’re fine,
They’re watching you slip, across the fragile borderline.”

Ghostlike features instrumentation and a mix of styles that on paper simply should not work. A post-punk, seemingly (Banshees) Budgie inspired drum pattern underpins a Drive / LA synth soundtrack, topped off with some wonderful guitar tones. The haunting mood is deepened by the voyeuristic lyrics, heavily treated lead and backing vocal lines and frenzied guitar. If you were a fan of Thomas Dolby’s The Flat Earth album from the mid 80s (particularly Screen Kiss), you will love Ghostlike.

The War On Me strips the arrangement back to the electronic textures, whilst channelling no-man’s My Revenge on Seattle and Heaven’s Break for good measure. The War On Me is my favourite Bowness vocal performance on the album. Like Tony Visconti with David Bowie, Steven Wilson knows how to add that extra sheen to the production of Tim’s vocals.

The most uplifting song on the album is Killing To Survive, with its inventive, constantly evolving vocal arrangements, and it’s Plenty on steriods musical palette.

The album ends on one of its strongest pieces, and what I consider to be a Bowness career highlight with What Lies Here. With Returning Jesus recalling treated electronics, What Lies Here features Andy Partridge (XTC) delivering an emotive guitar line and Kevin Godley (10CC / Godley & Creme) supplying a rare guest vocal. With both guests shimmering in and out of the mix, it is an inspired collaboration.

Godley’s vocals are sadly missing from the current musical landscape. I personally think that the first four Godley & Creme albums are some of the most interesting and influential releases of the late 70s, early 80s, and its great to hear his voice again. The abrupt end to What Lies Here catches me out every time.

“You, you’ll never make your way back home”

Flowers At The Scene is perfectly sequenced, and whilst it is not as obviously musically framed as Lost In The Ghost Light, the variety of moods and stylistic twists and turns makes this the most satisfying solo release to date from Tim. Lost In The Ghost Light also only really worked as a complete listening experience for me (which suited the theme), whereas a lot of the songs on Flowers At The Scene stand up in isolation.

Tracklisting
I Go Deeper (4.16)
The Train That Pulled Away (4.04)
Rainmark (4.15)
Not Married Anymore (3.31)
Flowers At The Scene (3.05)
It’s The World (3.04)
Borderline (3.46)
Ghostlike (5.09)
The War On Me (3.48)
Killing To Survive (4.00)
What Lies Here (4.01)

produced by no-man and Brian Hulse
mixed by Steven Wilson, mastered by Steve Kitch
no-man is Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson

Flowers At The Scene is available as a CD in deluxe digipak, 180g black vinyl in gatefold cover with insert and CD, and a Burning Shed only 180g red vinyl edition in gatefold cover with insert and CD. All pre-orders from Burning Shed come with an exclusive signed greeting card and an mp3 EP of alternate versions.

Pre-order (CD / vinyl) from Burning Shed
Pre-order the CD from Amazon
Pre-order the vinyl from Amazon





Big Big Train – Merchants of Light

24 07 2018

PrintMerchants of Light is the new live album from three times Progressive Music Award winning band Big Big Train. The album features the best performance of each song played at the band’s three sold out shows at Cadogan Hall, London, in the autumn of 2017.

The title track from their 2016 album Folklore ushers in the 16 track live album. The brass / strings and Shaft like rhythm guitar lines snuggle up together better than they should on this powerful opening track. Brave Captain from Folklore‘s companion album Grimspound works equally well in its live setting. As I mentioned in my original review, from the half way section of the song, there are shades of Dire Straits Private Investigations in the piano lines and the breakdown.

Last Train was originally on the 6th Big Big Train album The Underfall Yard from 2009. The song tells the story of a station masters last day at work. One of the more progressive songs on this live album, the harmonies are a pure joy to hear.

London Plane is built on a solid foundation of an intricate vocal arrangement, and serves up an adventurous mixture of jazz and prog flowing through the instrumental sections.

Meadowland is a gentle pastoral sounding track, with subtle brush drums, violin and restrained piano. A Mead Hall in Winter is one of this live album’s highlights. Synths and strings jostle with jaunty organ, throwing musical nods to 70s giants Genesis and Yes, with a sprinkle of early Steely Dan thrown in for good measure.

Swan Hunter from English Electric Part Two and its tale of a long-lost shipping industry has become one of the band’s standards. The use of brass always evokes a feeling of the early 1970s to me, and this fine version of Swan Hunter is no exceptionDavid Longdon’s vocals are in fine form here and throughout the album.

Big Big Train live by Simon Hogg

My favourite Big Big Train song is The Transit of Venus Across the Sun. It’s the brass again! The arrangement is so light and gentle, with no bombast used in getting the emotion across. There is real beauty in both the arrangement and performances from all the musicians.

East Coast Racer gets a fantastic reception from the crowd, and is the longest track on the album. The song charts the history of Mallard, the worlds fasted locomotive.  East Coast Racer is the band at their most progressive and highlights some of their finest melodies and harmonies.

A great version of  the mid 70s pop / rock influenced Telling The Bees is followed by one of the oldest songs on this album in Victorian Brickwork. This track is one that will appeal to fans of the first progressive era of the early 70s. The twists, turns and swells will lift the darkest of moods, and is modern progressive music at its finest.

Drums and Brass is an instrumental interlude that leads into the albums final track, Wassail.

It is easy to get lost in the music of Big Big Train – from the fascinating stories told through the lyrics, to the varied musical styles. If you have not heard the band before, Merchants of Light would be a great starting point, and it is highly likely that you will set off on a voyage of discovery to take in all of the bands recent albums.

Tracklist:

Folklore Overture
Folklore
Brave Captain
Last Train
London Plane
Meadowland
A Mead Hall in Winter
Experimental Gentlemen part two
Swan Hunter
Judas Unrepentant
The Transit of Venus Across the Sun
East Coast Racer
Telling the Bees
Victorian Brickwork
Drums and Brass
Wassail


Buy the Merchants of Light double CD from Amazon

 

Also available now is the Swan Hunter EP, that includes 3 versions of Swan Hunter (a radio edit, a 2018 remix of the album version and a live version), plus a new recording of English Electric: Full Power‘s Seen Better Days (an emotional duet with no-man’s Tim Bowness) and a 2017 live at Real World Studio version of Summer’s Lease (originally on 2007’s The Difference Machine album).








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