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no-man: Returning Jesus (expanded remaster)
It's an interesting time to look back on no-man, the side project of then Porcupine Tree lynchpin and Burning Shed founder Tim Bowness suggesting many things, but not necessarily what happened next. Wilson would chop down the Tree and eventually bow out of no-man, before going on to become the unwitting torch bearer for the new prog world, with all the reward and disdain that title bestows. Bowness on the other hand would surprise by becoming the custodian of the sound and atmosphere the pair created together, confirming that he had a far stronger part to play in its initial birth than many gave him credit for. However, back in 2001 the duo were releasing their fourth album, Returning Jesus, here lovingly remastered by Wilson himself, while Bowness contributes to liner notes that suggest bringing this album into the world was no easy task; the second disc of rarities and out takes added to this reissue, proving an interesting insight into that process.
The formula of the band remained the same throughout, patience at all cost as languid themes take aim in the most considered of manners and not the scantest thought for frills or fashion employed anywhere. I know many find the approach an arduous one with little end reward, yet for those who can see the world through the decidedly downbeat manner no-man specialised in, the excitement that is derived through this fragile, spartan world is boundless. As you'd expect from the master remaster Wilson has done a glorious job of revealing every nook and cranny of atmosphere, while never stripping things bare, or removing its remote heart. Making "Close Your Eyes" - which can almost be considered a sing along moment here - "Lighthouse" and the album's title track the captivating journeys through other worlds that they undoubtedly are. And crucially, while this album feels like a cohesive unbreakable voice in terms of attitude and execution, these are voyages into many worlds and many ways of thinking, all linked by the music's ability to pass the onus of thought onto the listener as "Slow It All Down" offers a pensive viewpoint and "Outside The Machine" the remoteness and isolation the song's title refers to.
Unlike many reissues carrying bonus content, not only does Returning Jesus benefit from not simply tacking a couple of unrelated tracks at the album's tail, but also from genuinely offering something different but intrinsically linked to the main event. With fifteen tracks in total no-man followers are treated to different versions of some album tracks, whether they be 'EP versions', 'Lo-Fi mixes', or demos. The chance, for example, to follow the track "Lighthouse" through two demo incarnations and then onto the album itself a journey few retrospectives reveal. Add in "Chelsea Cap", "Something Falls" and "Darkroom", which never made the album itself (there's also an alternate mix of "Chelsea Cap") and anyone who has lived with this album since its release will find new ways to look at it after hearing these extra pieces – even if some are more successful than others.
Arguably the three albums that came before Returning Jesus found no-man in even more experimental surrounds, while the two that came after are possibly more accomplished, and yet this expanded reissue still finds a duo in proud, defiant pose. It also finds them having made music that's set to stand the test of time and that still sounds individual and immediately recognisable to this day.
CD 1 - Returning Jesus (2001)
1. Only Rain
2. No Defence
3. Close Your Eyes
4. Carolina Skeletons
5. Outside The Machine
6. Returning Jesus
7. Slow It All Down
9. All That You Are
CD 2 - EP Tracks/Demos/Alternate Versions (1994-2003)
1. Something Falls
2. Close Your Eyes - 1998 EP version
3. Carolina Reprise
4. Until Tomorrow - Hi-Fi
5. Chelsea Cap
7. Until Tomorrow - Lo-Fi
8. Song About The Heart
9. Lighthouse - First Demo
10. Darkroom - Alternate Version
11. Like A Child
12. Chelsea Cap - Alternate Version
13. Lighthouse - Second Demo
14. Slow It All Down - Long Version
15. All That You Are - Demo
Added: December 26th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: no-man online
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