Tag: No-Man (Page 1 of 2)

NO-MAN Housekeeping: The OLI Years 1990 – 1994

NO-MAN, the long-term musical collaboration between Tim Bowness and the musical juggernaut that is Steven Wilson is now amazingly well into its fourth decade and this retrospective boxset takes us way back to the beginning to cover the early output on the OLI label.

Featuring the band’s first two studio albums, ‘Loveblows & Lovecries’ and ‘Flowermouth’ alongside with the singles compilation ‘Lovesighs – An Entertainment’, the deluxe 5CD collection is rounded off with outtakes, alternate versions and the sessions for radio from the period.

Taking things chronologically, we come first to the ‘Lovesighs’ mini album which includes the band’s debut two singles with additional material from that era. This is where I came in having heard the cover of the Donovan hit ‘Colours’ in my local record shop (remember those?) one rainy afternoon and being taken by the spin on a song which I was all too familiar with.

Also featured here is the wonderful ‘Days in the Trees’ in various guises. A staple of Tim’s solo shows to this day, this is still one of Bowness’s finest vocal recordings and includes some wonderful early guitar work from Wilson. ‘Heartcheat Pop’ and ‘Kiss Me Stupid’ are also on this disc, both great slices of pop with a darker edge and even at this point, interesting instrumentation to make them stand out. That instrumentation is further augmented by Ben Coleman’s violin which at times is driving on these songs and at other points haunting as a counterpoint to the upfront beats offered.

Disc 2 is an expanded version of the full debut album ‘Loveblows & Lovecries’. In this remastered state, the album is returned to, I feel, its rightful place as not only a evergreen NO-MAN release but also an essential 1993 cut, acting as counterpoint to the grunge overload of the part of the decade. Coleman instrumental workout ‘Loveblow’ segues into the single ‘Only Baby’ which gives more than a passing nod to the Moroder produced Donna Summer who Wilson is such a fan of. This really is a great slice of pop which deserved so much more exposure than it received back in the day.

Casual readers of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK will have their interest piqued by the track ‘Sweetheart Raw’ featuring as it does JAPAN members Mick Karn on bass, future Wilson bandmate Richard Barbieri on keys and drum programming by Steve Jansen. Once again presented in remastered form which has breathed new life into this whole album, it allows the listener to be immersed in the true depth of the soundscape offered by the musicians here and is a piece you will find yourself returning to again and again as Bowness flexes those wistful vocal chords to fabulous effect.

There is so much to enjoy on this album, from the beautiful ‘Housekeeping’ to ‘Break Heaven’ and ‘Babyship Blue’ from the ‘Heaven Taste’ compilation alongside songs like ‘Tulip’ and ‘Painting Paradise’. This album in reworked form would be worth the price of admission alone but there is more to savour in this set and savour we must.

Disc 3 entitled simply ‘Singles’ pulls together the orphaned tracks not featured thus far and, as a collection works well as a standalone album in its own right, which is a testament to the writing and performing of the core members of the band and their invited guests. ‘Swirl’, an early NO-MAN track, features at its close a sample from the 1971 movie ‘Klute’ which starred Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda so elevates this already great track to essential listening in my eyes / ears. This sample augments a building evolving arrangement that rewards repeat listening.

Also included is the aching ‘Long Day Fall’ and the 20 minute plus closer ‘Heaven Taste’. Once again featuring the trio of JAPAN alumni mentioned above, this is a piece full of twists and turns that demands a listen with headphones. ‘Heaven Taste’ also acts as a suitable off ramp to the next part of this set, a remaster of ‘Flowermouth’.

‘Flowermouth’ has been an album I have returned to over and over since I specially ordered it from that local record shop more years ago now than I care to mention on its original release. The musical ideas, execution and production on ‘Flowermouth’ make it one of those long players I tell folk who will listen that they should have in their collections and I make no apology for evangelising as such.

Is this new remaster worth the time to listen? The answer is a resounding yes. Opening with the ambitious ‘Angels Get Caught in the Beauty Trap’, this is perhaps what listeners of later NO-MAN albums will find more familiar ground. The track rises and falls, leaving you emotionally drained and there’s more to come!

The funky workout that follows in the shape of ‘You Grow More Beautiful’ once again showcases one of no-man’s biggest strengths and that is the vocal of Tim Bowness. Alongside TALK TALK mainman Mark Hollis and Paul Buchanan of THE BLUE NILE, he is one of the few singers with the ability to emotionally charge the seemingly simplest of songs. Every track on this album highlights this wonderfully.

There is so much here to revel in, from the treated rhythms of ‘Soft Shoulders’ to ‘Shell of a Fighter’ with yet another wonderful violin performance to the driving programming on ‘Teardrops Fall’. Closing this disc is perennial favourite ‘Things Change’ which is one of a number of tracks that has not only benefitted from a remaster polish but also a slightly revised mix. ‘Flowermouth’ is a classic and in this guise cements that claim with a sparkling remaster that sounds fresh and vital.

The fifth and final disc in the set fills out an already bursting at the seams collection with a number of Radio Sessions from 1992-1994. Like much of the output from Bowness and Wilson, these songs really come alive when performed live. Augmented across the various sessions by guest musicians, the most interesting cuts are from BBC Radio’s Hit the North featuring as they do those pesky JAPAN chaps that have popped up time and again on this set. The version of ‘Days in the Trees’ from this session in particular is wonderful with the tightest of tight Jansen drumming allowing the much missed Mick Karn to duck and weave around Tim’s vocal. A taste of what might have been…

Other tracks here feature PORCUPINE TREE alumni Chris Maitland and Colin Edwin to offer sufficiently different spins on familiar tracks to command repeat listening. This disc elevates an already great set above a mere quick buck compilation, proving this has been properly curated, something many could learn from. To underscore this even more, the set is rounded out by the inclusion of a hardback book designed by Carl Glover featuring essays from NO-MAN All The Blue Changes blog author Matt Hammers, Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson along with rare photos and memorabilia.

The importance Tim Bowness has had on independent music distribution with Burning Shed cannot be overstated, giving many acts that would struggle to find a route to market exactly that, a true outlet run by artists for artists. That is before we consider his excellent body of solo work.

In turn the impact that Steven Wilson has had across the musical landscape in the last decade plus cannot be underestimated from PORCUPINE TREE to solo work through the remasters of acts as diverse as KING CRIMSON, XTC, TEARS FOR FEARS and ULTRAVOX, oh and tours, further no-man releases and production work, the man clearly never sleeps… that’s before we take into account their always listenable and enjoyable podcast ‘The Album Years’. True music fans.

And all of the above had its seeds in these early NO-MAN releases. Whether you are new to this early work, revisiting after a few decades break or a long-term fan, there is much here to recommend ‘Housekeeping’, the first indispensable release of 2024.

Tim, if you are reading this can we please get the rest of the back catalogue given the same treatment?

‘Housekeeping: The OLI Years 1990 – 1994’ is released as a boxed set on 26 January 2024 via One Little Independent Records, available from https://burningshed.com/store/noman/







Text by Ian Ferguson
19 January 2024

TIM BOWNESS Live at Kings Cross Everyman

Album launches are a weird and wonderful thing. Usually consisting of either a payback of the latest release in a club to an invited audience where the band sit around disinterested waiting for the bar to open or a gig used to guilt folk into buying the new opus neither are really a celebration of the hard work and effort put into getting the product out.

The approach taken by Tim Bowness for the release of ‘Butterfly Mind’ was, as usual for this most singular of artists, to beat his own path. The Everyman 4, venue for tonight’s performance, is a cinema  so not your usual cathedral of rock and roll excess and seats about 50, so not an excuse to shift 1000 copies of the album.

The small queue outside were given access once Tim and his band casually wandered into the venue. Once inside a taste of how tonight was to go came from the sight of Bowness having piles of CDs pushed into his hands by his longtime collaborator Steven Wilson, and this set the tone for what was less gig and more akin to going round to your mates to watch him jam in his living room. With backing consisting of Fierce and the Dead guitarist Matt Stevens and another established Bowness contributor Peter Chilvers on keys, this was not going to be a full on rock and roll show, there was just enough room for a small merch table in the venue, let alone lasers and pyro.

Bowness started the evening by acknowledging the reason for us all coming together, the new album ‘Butterfly Mind’ and then promptly told the audience he is going to ignore that and go for a wander through his own extensive back catalogue. This ‘disregard’ for the new release even extended to there being no copies of ‘Butterfly Mind’ available to buy on the night. As I say, ploughing his own furrow.

Things kicked off with a very early composition ‘Never Needing’. We were then treated, and it was a treat, to ‘Brightest Blue’, a track written with another long term musical sparring partner Richard Barbieri. This was a theme for the evening with a number of unexpected treats played, some for the first time in decades.

The most enthusiastically received tracks were from the band Bowness formed with Steven Wilson, NO-MAN. The first of these ‘Time Travel In Texas’ featured some fine playing from Stevens and apparently a hidden homage to Roobarb and Custard!

The work with Peter Chilvers was represented by the melancholy ‘Days Turn Into Years’ from the ‘California, Norfolk’ album, a holiday destination we were all encouraged to visit.

Anyone who has listened to the excellent ‘The Album Years’ podcast will know Bowness is an engaging conversationalist and this carries forward to his back and forth with the audience. The first set closed with ‘Back When You Were Beautiful’ which was introduced with a tale of shoplifting in a Norwich Thornton’s chocolate shop. As I said, not your typical gig…

The interval was a chance for the band to mingle with the audience in the evening sunshine. This included well-kent faces like John Mitchell and comedian Al Murray. Tim got so caught up in mixing with his guests, he had to be reminded by Peter Chilvers he had a second set to play.

That second set picked up where the first left off with more NO-MAN music in the shape of ‘Wherever There is Light’ and the Bowness track ‘The Warm-Up Man Forever’ which was welcome as it is a particular favourite not only of mine but also the audience.

‘Not Married Anymore’ once again highlighted how wonderful Bowness’s voice is. In an almost ‘torchsong’ setting and with minimal instrumentation, it is allowed to come to the fore. I have never hidden my regard for his vocal style and the up-close nature of this show only reinforces that. His ability to deliver the saddest of lyrical content without it seeming forced is a skill few possess.

A ukulele free ‘Rainmark’ heralded the home stretch for the set which did include one ‘Butterfly Mind track’, ‘It’s Easier To Love’ before that back catalogue was raided for a final time with an excerpt of Sweetheart Raw. This showed age has not diminished Bowness’s vocal prowess despite his worry about the song being in the original key.

There was also welcome outing for the early NO-MAN song ‘Days in the Trees’. Another run through of ‘The Warm-Up Man Forever’ as ‘voted’ for by the audience closed proceedings off.

This was an album launch unlike any I have attended before. It was more a celebration of a career which thankfully, on the evidence of that new album ‘Butterfly Mind’, shows no signs of decline. I look forward to more live outings, hopefully in the very near future.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Tim Bowness

‘Butterfly Mind’ is released by InsideOutMusic / Sony Music as a limited 2CD and vinyl LP+CD editions via https://timbowness.lnk.to/ButterflyMind





Text by Ian Ferguson
Photos by Chi Ming Lai
14th August 2022

TIM BOWNESS Butterfly Mind

Accomplished musician Tim Bowness celebrates four decades of playing in bands and working with the likes of Robert Fripp, Phil Manzanera and Richard Barbieri by presenting his seventh solo album ‘Butterfly Mind’.

Co-produced by long-time collaborator Brian Hulse and mixed by NO-MAN bandmate Steven Wilson who he began his recording career with, ‘Butterfly Mind’ has been hailed as Bowness’ most surprising release yet. Eclectic it certainly is and this is not to be unexpected given his vast knowledge of music history as articulated on ‘The Album Years’ podcast with Wilson.

The success of his Burning Shed label and online retail platform has only driven his own artistic integrity even further; Tim Bowness said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2019: “The good thing about the success of Burning Shed is that it’s meant that I’ve become even more bloody minded and idealistic concerning my own music. I only ever release what I believe in and what I believe deserves to be heard in the wider world.”

After ‘Late Night Laments’, ‘Butterfly Mind’ is not that much more cheerful and begins with ‘Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 1’, an intense art rock barrage with flute from Ian Anderson of JETHRO TULL and additional vocals from Peter Hammill of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. Meanwhile, ‘Always The Stranger’ funks up it with noted bassist Nick Beggs in tow as Bowness comes over vocally like a cross between Thomas Dolby and Paddy McAloon.

‘It’s Easier To Love’ exudes the chill of winter featuring sax from one-time David Sylvian and Harold Budd collaborator Nicola Alesini, but as ‘Lost Player’ offers a haunting atmospheric ballad, ‘Only A Fool’ surprises as a brilliantly feisty synth driven number swathed in a Cold War presence with “so much blood on our hands”.

Continuing that aesthetic theme, ‘Glitter Fades’ crosses forlorn piano with a light but dramatic synthetic rhythm construction while the lengthy ‘Dark Nevada Dream’ imagines THE BLUE NILE meeting TALK TALK with MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula working his magic on a Hammond organ and Ben Coleman providing the solemn violin.

Given the quality of its supporting cast, the musicality of ‘Butterfly Mind’ cannot be faulted while Bowness remains as intense and grumpy as ever. Despite the forlorn melancholy expressed, as with all good popular music, there is some hopefulness too.

‘Butterfly Mind’ is released 5th August 2022 by InsideOutMusic / Sony Music as a limited 2CD and vinyl LP+CD editions via https://timbowness.lnk.to/ButterflyMind

The album launch gig takes place at The Everyman On The Corner in London’s King’s Cross on Monday 8th August 2022, tickets available now from https://burningshed.com/store/timbowness/tim-bowness_chilvers_everyman-on-the-corner-kings-cross_e-ticket




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Mark Wood
15th June 2022, updated 4th August 2022

STEVEN WILSON The Future Bites

The future has arrived, and its bloody fantastic.

Delayed it may have been but the wait is well worth it. With the release of ‘The Future Bites’, his sixth solo album in just over a decade, Steven Wilson will hopefully and finally put to rest the calls to reform the dodo dead PORCUPINE TREE. Not that I wouldn’t be front of the queue for such a reunion, I would… but the confines of that band project wouldn’t have furnished us with a release as compact, assured and ‘muscular’ as TFB.

Focused on the modern twin malaise of consumerism and identity, this album clocking in at around 41 minutes is no prog rock behemoth. In keeping with the overall concept, premiere of ‘Personal Shopper’ aside, every track does what it says on the tin and gets out of your face almost as quickly as it arrives.

Opening with the just over a minute long ‘Unself’ and segueing into complimentary cut ‘Self’, this will immediately confound expectations, and not just with the briefness of running time. A distant acoustic guitar accompanies a typically melancholy Wilson vocal which reminds us “all love is self…”

‘Self’ concentrates on one of the album’s key themes, the impact of influencers and the like via social media. At a time when the new norm are the twins of self-delusion and the self-absorption, this track asks what is left when all there is the ‘Self’? The answer is very little of value.

‘King Ghost’ is one of the tracks released as a single that has caused apoplexy in certain areas of the prog rock fan fraternity. A wonderful piece of modern electronica that pivots around a marvellous vocal performance from Wilson, the comments that accompanied the release at the tail end of last year actually play into another of the TFB’s key themes, consumerism and the entitlement that comes with that in the modern age. This is the standout track on the album, beautifully produced and played.

’12 Things I Forgot’ could easily have come off of the recent album of BLACKFIELD, one of Wilson’s numerous side projects. At first, it appears to be a simple pop song that wouldn’t be out of place over the end titles of a rom-com but the lyric is way more biting and, to this listener, seems to answer some of the critics that slated the album months before it was released.

Just as you think you have a handle on the album a curve ball arrives with ‘Eminent Sleaze’. This is the kind of thing 10CC would have put out back in the day, tongue-in-cheek with loads of knowing nods to other musical genres. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who listens to Wilson and longtime collaborator Tim Bowness’ wonderful ‘Album Years’ podcast. The breadth of their musical knowledge and influences are wide and this draws on many of those, as does the whole album.

‘Man Of The People’ is a straightforward track that has another excellent vocal performance from Wilson underpinning a mostly electronic backing. This highlights the overall lightness of production in the album; it has a wonderfully wide soundstage that really does reward repeat listening on headphones. Wilson and production partner David Kosten should be commended on refusing to go down the everything louder than everything else route, which worked for MOTÖRHEAD but not many other artists.

The album’s debut single ‘Personal Shopper’ caused another shockwave through the prog world… where are the guitar solos? The ‘real’ drumming? This is idiotic, though when you work with someone like Craig Blundell who is a human drum machine; it’s easy to see how they all got confused!

And is that Elton John?!?! Some of the naysayers are still wiping the tears away with the sleeve of their ‘Selling England By The Pound’ tour T-shirts. Having well-known shopaholic Elton read a shopping list is another nod to the humour that permeates this release. The biggest joke is on those that want another album full of ‘Raider II’s… this is the longest cut on the album.

‘Follower’ delivers the drums and guitars demanded by traditionalists, but it’s more garage punk than grandiose prog. There is even a guitar solo (although it’s not ‘Regret No9’) and some 70s style arrangement in the bridge, but think SPARKS rather than CAMEL.

And with ‘Count of Unease’, we reach the end of what in places is a breathless 41 minutes. This has more than a passing nod to the likes of later TALK TALK and the Tim Bowness albums, with brass tones and a vocal that fades off as it arrived in ‘Unself’, in a wash of reverb and melancholy.

The usual Wilson special edition boxset (yes, the irony isn’t lost, no need to over egg it!) adds additional tracks including a wonderful cover of LONELY ROBOT’s ‘In Floral Green’ which originally appeared on the B Side of ‘Eminent Sleaze’. This repays LONELY ROBOT main man John Mitchell’s cover of PORCUPINE TREE’s ‘The Nostalgia Factory’… these should all be looked upon as extras, not as additions to the main album if that makes sense. Most listeners will only consume the core product…

In addition, mention should be made of ‘The Future Bites’ Sessions released on YouTube which has seen Wilson in the studio performing tracks from the album, a couple of earlier songs from his career and a quite wonderful cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’. A truly eclectic artist, it blurs the lines and keeps ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s own Chi Ming Lai happy at the same time! ?

Steven Wilson has once again with ‘The Future Bites’, demonstrated why he is held in such high regard. An artist that has the bottle to plough his own furrow and do his own thing should be commended, especially when it is as well realised as ‘The Future Bites’.

In this instance an example of self-belief we can all get behind. An album that, even this early in 2021, will be vying for top spot in many people’s end of the year lists come December.

‘The Future Bites’ is released by SW Records / Caroline Records in limited deluxe boxset, CD, red or black vinyl LP, cassette, Blu-ray and digital formats, available from https://store.thefuturebites.com/

2021 UK tour dates include:

Cardiff St David’s Hall (8th September), Sheffield City Hall (9th September), Manchester O2 Apollo (11th September), Glasgow Concert Hall (12th September), Birmingham Symphony Hall (13th September), Portsmouth Guildhall (15th September) London Hammersmith Apollo (16th September), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (17th September)







Text by Ian Ferguson
30th January 2021


“People” sang Jim Morrison, “Are Strange” and none more so than the dedicated music fan. This has been shown in the past couple of weeks with the backlash against Steven Wilson with the new single ‘King Ghost’.

This has been rumbling on for a while, in fact since ‘Permanating’ from 2017’s ‘To The Bone’, and has percolated via recent singles ‘Personal Shopper’ and ‘Eminent Sleaze’ to the fury unleashed in certain quarters against this latest release online. And the thing is, the pitchfork wielding mob who want to torch the new album ‘The Future Bites’ before it is released are wrong.

“Where are the guitars?” they moan… “It needs real drums” they cry through gnashing teeth… “Isn’t what I signed up for”, they wail as they wrap themselves in their ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ blanket. The answer to this and the pages and pages of other comments is, you haven’t been paying attention.

Despite being the leader of PORCUPINE TREE all these tears, Wilson has never hidden his love of pop music, this is made all the more clear in his excellent podcast ‘The Album Years’ which he hosts with NO-MAN band mate Tim Bowness. The pointers were there on his last release, especially with the aforementioned ‘Permanating’ and, more pertinently, the brooding electronica of ‘Song of I’.

‘King Ghost’ is a natural progression, something which a recognised progressive performer should always be looking to do. The track is the sound of the artist taking himself and by extension the listener in new directions. Wilson has stated it may be one of the best things he has ever done and I have to agree.

One comment on a recent YouTube post said “…it could never be as emotional as played by analog instruments” before suggesting adding a guitar solo or fretless bass. And here we have the crux of the issue taken by some listeners; the track is synthetic so must be lesser than a full band production.

Again these folk haven’t been listening. This is by a mile the best single of the year especially when married to the stunning Jess Cope video that accompanies the release.

I have been listening with interest and a fair bit of excitement, so can’t wait until the turn of the year to hear what the delayed full album has in store, with or without a full drum kit. The tasters we have had so far promise, it will be worth the wait.

‘King Ghost’ is from the album ‘The Future Bites’ released by SW Records / Caroline Records on 29th January 2021 in limited edition deluxe boxset, CD, red or black vinyl LP, cassette, Blu-ray and digital formats, pre-order from https://store.thefuturebites.com/





Text by Ian Ferguson
9th November 2020

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