Sunday, 29 June 2014

Tim Bowness - Abandoned Dancehall Dreams


We all have heroes. People we admire from a distance, who's music, films, books or whatever makes a difference to our lives in some way. I have them. Some have been with me nearly all my life. Tim Bowness is one, who's voice has been with me ever since I heard him sing " Days in the Trees" back in the early 90's. That defining moment was the start of a love affair with that voice. Probably more than love! His voice reaches places that other voices just don't even begin to make a dent. Together with Steven Wilson as no-man that voice has taken me through my emotional highs and lows of my life since first being heard. The voice has popped up all over the place, with nosound, Henry Fool, Samuel Smiles, Peter Chilvers, Richard Barbieri, Nick Magnus, Slow Electric to name a few.

But here he is with his first solo album in 10 years. In fact this album is probably his first real defining statement as a man alone. It's extraordinary of course. That voice never let's me down. There are elements of no-man as expected. In fact the album started out as a potential no-man album, but Wilson was busy. Doing what? A good thing I think as his absence allowed Tim to take the album into new territories. Aided by a host of empathic contributors such as Pat Mastelotto, Michael Bearpark, Andrew Keeling and Anna Phoebe it's all a joy to behold. The opening track "The Warm-Up Man Forever" is the most jaunty track on here, which reminds me somehow of Pulp (in a good way) and includes a killer chorus together with an inspired guitar solo by Bearpark. In fact Bearparks guitar playing is a standout on this album. Just listen to the wonderful, Bill Frisell like soloing on "Dancing for You"! Another favourite is "Waterfoot" which is almost a two way collaboration with Andrew Keeling as he co-wrote, arranged the strings and plays guitar, bass, organ and percussion. The result is a homage to Nick Drake, with those strings evoking Robert Kirby and the whole thing bringing long lost summer days in the English countryside to life. The whole album is a homage to days gone by! The people, places and emotions of those days of our youth. Tim feels it and makes you feel it too.

This is a special album. Well, to me anyway. That voice has been with me for years and will be for many more, soundtracking the good times and the bad times. But oh my, he has produced something here that is much more than I could have ever imagined!


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Anathema - Distant Satellites


Anathema have over their last two albums developed quite a reputation within prog circles. They are now at the position that even the Guardian newspaper reviews this latest album and gives them a 5 star rating. For me, I don't really consider Anathema progressive rock. They may be signed to Kscope which does promote itself as a post-prog label, but for me that's where the connection ends. Why not prog? Well, the music is conventionally structured, they don't really push boundaries in terms of time signatures, instrumentation embodying different types of musical styles. But in saying all that I really do like them. So forget genre pigeonholes and just enjoy the music I say!

This latest album may be my favourite. It further develops the style set down by their previous two albums. Highly emotionally charged, atmospheric and epic songs. But they have added a significant new element. By applying "beats" to their arrangements. This has added a completely new dimension to their sonic tapestry and actually doesn't sound as contrived or out of place as you may think. If anything the use of synthetic rhythms gives the songs an added emotional depth, if that is possible for this band. I am reminded of the band Lamb who similarly produced emotive music backed by strong trip-hop rhythms. Apart from that, all the usual Anathema trademarks are here intact; Daniel Cavanagh's post-shoegazing guitar, the depth of Vincent Cavanaghs's emotional vocals and Lee Douglas, simply one of the best female vocalists around. Anathema are actually one of those bands where you just forget where in the scheme of things they belong. They transcend categorisation. You just accept that they offer a truly life affirming experience.


Friday, 13 June 2014

Richard Pinhas


Well here are the latest releases by Richard Pinhas. Busy man! He is best known as guitarist with Heldon who mixed Fripp styled rock and synthesiser soundscapes. Even his solo material has followed the Fripp principal of frippertronic looping and soundscaping. But whereas Fripp takes his soundscaping into more languid, thoughtful and introverted areas, Pinhas is more aggressive, organic and uncompromising. But these two new releases see the man having lost none of his fire or power. Previous releases have seen him take a more experimental approach, in someways directed by his collaborators. Though the same can be said here, there is a more structured feel to the proceedings, which gives them a sound harking back to the Heldon days. That is no bad thing.

Today we have young musicians like Matt Stevens pushing the boundaries of rock electric guitar, but an elder statesman like Pinhas is still capable of showing us a trick or two.