REVIEW: TIM BOWNESS – “Flowers At The Scene”
One of the more consistent of the many bands that straddle the fence between art rock and progressive rock has been no-man, a collaboration between main songwriter/vocalist Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson. The last time these two men worked together was in 2008 on the ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ album. Now Bowness is releasing ‘Flowers At The Scene,’ a solo album, produced by no-man, mixed by Wilson, and for all intents and purposes a true solo outing. Unsurprisingly given Bowness’s history, it is a very laid back and mellow affair. That being said, there is still more of an edge to it than in the last several no-man albums or his last solo album.
The album starts with “I Go Deeper” and I would say it contains all the hallmarks of his recent output; tight, well-played arrangements, crisp drumming that in many ways sounds electronic, and of course Bowness’s instantly recognizable voice, a breathy laid back style that is borderline asthmatic in its sound. For many, this vocal style will be a make or break element for this and all other releases. Either you will enjoy its qualities, or you’ll enjoy the music while wishing that the static and breathy flatness would have some variation. I’m a bit in the middle; his earlier, more dreamy no-man albums fit the vocal style better than the more recent output, where the prog element is raised and the music often takes on a heavier edge. Ultimately though, that’s simply the style he has developed over the years and had much success with. I like them with this type of music but am unsure how it would translate outside his particular niche.
The music throughout this album is heavily layered with multiple instruments. Besides the obvious rock instruments, nearly all also contain string and horns as well, never in an intrusive way, but subtlety in the background. You might not consciously think about them all the time, but you’d miss them if they were absent. Bowness also brings is a number of well-respected guest musicians, from Colin Edwin (ex-Porcupine Tree) on bass throughout, guitarist Peter Hammil (Van Der Graaf Generator), to Steven Wilson himself. The third track, “Rainmark,” has some especially effective electric guitar work courtesy of Fates Warning’s Jim Matheos, and is easily one of the early highlights of the album.
At the halfway point of the album, we come across the title track. The song is more jazz in nature than the art rock of the rest and features another lovely solo by Matheos. It is immediately followed by “It’s The World,” the heaviest and darkest song on the album. Dealing with the multitude of miseries that we find in our everyday lives, the lines ‘it’s the world that isn’t fair’ are repeated often. And can be taken as literally saying that the world is no longer a fair, or lovely place, or as being unfair. Both takes are more than a little accurate in their own way.
The album closes with the fairly quiet and electronic driven “What Lies Here,” which brings in the mellow, dreamlike guitar loops and synth work that no-man has primarily been known for. And while not being a terribly exciting or memorable closer, it is rich in melancholy and atmosphere and ends things in a fully appropriate fashion.
Tim Bowness has with this co-production with no-man crafted an art rock album that is unique to himself. I can honestly not think of another project in the progressive and art rock world that reminds me of the type of work and vocals that he provides. And making it a no-man project with Steven Wilson adds an extra element to the proceedings. This feels more of a successor to earlier albums than more recent truly solo outputs. Fans of the earlier work of these two men will find plenty to enjoy here, and someone looking for a mellow and laid back art rock album that is carefully produced and performed will find plenty to enjoy as well.