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Bowness, Tim: Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

If the name Tim Bowness sounds familiar, then there's a good chance that you either purchase your CDs from the man's online outlet, Burning Shed, or you know he's half of the duo no-man alongside Porcupine Tree mastermind Steven Wilson. However with Abandoned Dancehall Dreams – an album initially intended to further the no-man canon – Bowness has dismissed any notion that he might be the "silent" partner in that collaboration, with the results of this beautiful album easily sitting alongside what he and the ever busy – hence this is a solo album – Wilson conjure. Not exactly a concept piece, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams instead takes inspiration from the decrepit, neglected buildings that used to be the hub of Friday and Saturday night socialising, focusing in on the characters who used to frequent these places, whether revelling in their joys, or a behind the scener who made it all happen. The themes however run much farther than that, loneliness, insecurity and envy running alongside the emotions, both good and bad, that change and nostalgia can bring. It's powerful stuff in need of powerful music to make it come to life and while the lyrics Bowness creates are captivating, they are possibly topped by the beauty and poignancy of the sounds he chooses to present them through.

"The Warm Up Man Forever" opens proceedings, almost tribal like drums surprising to begin with as they signify the bustle, hustle and sweat of the thriving Dancehall, yet the story's protagonist is already broken and in crises, caught between the lure of the stage and the curse of being the opening act instead of the main event. Sharp stabs of strings grate against Bowness's yearning vocals and the beautiful keyboard layers, setting the scene for an album capable of contradicting through its brutish fragility and warming the heart through a sensitive melancholy. The character Smiler takes us through a number of the tales, offering a sense of what was, what it all became and of hopes longed for but unachieved, turning what could be depressing tales into captivating insights into what happens between the ears when the doors are closed and others can't see the true person. It's daring, difficult, yet oddly celebratory and instead of dragging you down, the beautiful string work and patient layers of keyboard moods of the likes of "Smiler At 50", or the lone, wistful voice and acoustic guitars of "Dancing For You" captivate and leave you spellbound.

It's a testament to Bowness and the collective of musicians he's assembled here (including the no-man live band of Stephen Bennet, Michael Bearpark, Pete Morgan, Andrew Booker and Steve Bingham, while Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and Anna Phoebe (Trans Siberian Orchestra) also appear – Steven Wilson mixed the results) that each and every song demands and gains your attention from start to finish, even when introspection and melancholy are the order of the day.

"Beaten By Love" ends the journey, a similar but less forceful and complete drum barrage signalling that the Dancehall's heyday has faded and that the paint peeling facades and crumbling edifices are all that remain, the jagged guitars, unsettling rhythms and the wonderfully edgy but flowingly poignant (as they have been throughout) vocals from Bowness signalling that life moves on, whether we want it to or not.

I have to admit as a follower of the varied work of Steven Wilson that when it was announced that Abandoned Dancehall Dreams was to be a Bowness solo effort and not a full blown no-man effort, I was more than a little disappointed. How wrong was I? For this is a wonderful, captivating, beautiful, engaging album that demands every inch of your attention from start to end, both making you think and lose yourself completely as it does so.

The full physical version of ADD comes with a bonus disc of mixes and outtakes and while I haven't heard it yet, I aim to put that right very soon indeed. You should too.

Track Listing
1. The Warm-Up Man Forever
2. Smiler At 50
3. Songs Of Distant Summers
4. Waterfoot
5. Dancing For You
6. Smiler At 52
7. I Fought Against The South
8. Beaten By Love

Bonus Disc
1. There Were Days (Smiler At 52, Grasscut Mix)
2. Sounds Of Distant Summers (Songs Of Distant Summers, Richard Barbieri Mix)
3. Singing For You (Dancing For You, UXB Mix)
4. Abandoned Dancehall Dream
5. The Sweetest Bitter Pill
6. The Warm-Up Man Forever (Band Version)
7. Songs Of Distant Summers Part 1 (Band Version)
8. Songs Of Distant Summers Part 2 (Band Version)

Added: July 7th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Tim Bowness online
Hits: 2750
Language: english

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Bowness, Tim: Abandoned Dancehall Dreams
Posted by Mark Johnson, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-07-28 18:48:42
My Score:

Tim Bowness is one of my favorite singers. News that he was about to release another solo album was welcomed. When I read about the album title in my e-mail, I was coincidentally listening to The Kinks, State of Confusion. Of course, that is the album with "Come Dancing" and "Don't Forget to Dance", and all of its images and sounds from Britain's dance hall days. Expectations were high. Well, this album is not at all like State of Confusion.

Steve Reid did a great job providing a solid overview of the album. So as a fan I will put in my two cents and keep it much shorter than I am sure anyone expected.

"The Warm-Up Man Forever" is a solid song, but lacks the emotional power that Tim can bring to bear on a song.

He makes up for it quickly in the second track, "Smiler at 50". This track is one of the most powerful on the album. Those gut wrenching strings and the sad sound of missed opportunities and desire that only Bowness can do…this well. The dramatic electric guitar, drums bass, and keys on this one bring the climax to a point that only maybe Peter Gabriel achieved on "Here Comes the Flood" or "Down the Dolce Vida".

"Songs of Distant Summers" is another collector's item for Tim Bowness' fans. The classic slow jazzy piano and Bowness' soft vocal delivery is as perfect as always. The rain of keys that falls around soft plucked strings and guitar fills the air around Bowness as he delivers all those memories in words and song.

"Waterfoot" brings more soft memories delivered this time to warm acoustic guitar with supporting strings and keys. The melodies will allow you to join in the process of remembering your own best days. "How long can she pretend?" Excellent question we all must ask someday.

"Dancing for You" is a classic tear jerk-er that Tim Bowness is famous for creating. Tim sings, "Somebody died. Somebody you used to love and hold". Deep and emotional, as only Tim Bowness knows how to take you there and then safely back. It is full of deep diving lead electric guitar, powerful bass, supporting female vocals, with soft drum and keys.

"Smiler at 52" sounds similar to "Smiler at 50". The picture of how we age from innocence to maturity is captured well with lyrical imagery and slow plodding keys and drum beats.

"I Fought Against the South" is the track with the best title on the album. The slow bass and grinding electric guitar strings matched with the keys and the soft poetic background strings is irresistible. Bowness lays out the story with powerful lyrics and slow delivery…as he always does. Providing drama with cold precision and emotion, note after note. The instrumental section which makes up the second half of the song is amazing. Deep, powerful keys and guitar work that carries with it powerful imagery.

Then, the album takes a turn for the worst with "Beaten By Love". This one almost destroyed the album for me. It opens like a Trent Reznor, NIN, or Depeche Mode track. Uncharacteristic of Tim's latest efforts with NoMan, NoSound, and the many solo tracks included on other band's albums. But I guess as an artist you must expand your horizons. As the Beatles said so well, I will just "Let it Be".

This is a good album for Tim Bowness. Unfortunately it is not the massive epic I hoped for and expected. I can only hope the next record will create the inner mind and memory journeys I know his music can take you on.

Bowness, Tim: Abandoned Dancehall Dreams
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-07-07 17:06:03
My Score:

If for any reason you're reminded of No-Man while listening to Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, this is absolutely normal, given Tim Bowness wrote the majority of the album with No-Man in mind. This disc was originally supposed to be the follow-up to 2008's Schoolyard Ghosts. Unfortunately, when Steven Wilson had to back out of the project due to other commitments, Bowness decided to turn it into a solo effort, and the attentive listener is more than likely to pick up on some subtle differences between this one and No-Man releases.

This is a concept album loosely based around similar lyrical ideas: Bowness writes separate stories about different people exploring themes like aging, growing apart, the idea of change and how individuals may resist (or accept) it, and escaping one's predicaments in life. That said, there is no set storyline that runs throughout the album, and one can enjoy the songs individually as well as within context. Musically, much like Schoolyard Ghosts, whose foundation was set by Bowness before Wilson added his touch to the material, the songs on this disc rarely adhere to strictly defined sound structures; instrumentation seems simplistic at face value, but a close listen reveals a beautiful sonic expanse. The compositions are imbued with a cinematic vibe to them, characterized by spectral keyboards lurking around the edges of the instruments. There is a great string arrangement seamlessly woven into the mix, but, as expected from Bowness' songwriting genius, it never becomes overpowering or distracting. When there's a need for solo instrumentation, it's mostly Anna Phoebe's violin gracing the most pivotal moments on the album. This is a welcome addition to Bowness' craft, as Phoebe's playing reminds me of the violin work on older No-Man discs.

The first track "The Warm-up Man Forever," documents the disappointment of an artist, possibly a rock musician, but musically it goes back to the experimental nature of No-Man's Wild Opera. Themes are developed gradually until a sense of despair and tension becomes almost palpable. Bowness delivers the vocals in his typical talk-sing style, leaving plenty of room and space for unsettling ambient noises, arbitrarily inserted drum loops that become increasingly more noticeable, odd piano lines disappearing as quickly as they emerge, and reams of electronic effects distorting the instruments and giving the music an uninviting, frustrating edge. Yet, it is this type of tension that will make you come back to the album, as with No-Man's more experimental works like Flowermouth and Together We're Stranger. The atmosphere created is very consistent from start to finish, and you'll only start paying attention to Colin Edwin's intricate fretless bass contribution or Pat Mastelloto's focused, tension-rising drumming once you have a grasp of Bowness' expansive songwriting vision. The bonus disc also features Porcupine Tree's Richard Barbieri on the title track, which was left out to preserve the consistency of the main disc.

To the average progressive rock fan who is only familiar with Porcupine Tree's more recent output and Steven Wilson's solo material, songs like "Similar at 52" may be a challenging listen in the way that seemingly disparate elements are thrown into the compositional framework with no melody, instrument, or vocal line being given any priority. It's a mixture of mumbled vocals, buried electronic glitches occasionally tearing apart the fabric of the tunes before dissolving under the string arrangement that hovers over the entire track. In a sense, Bowness' writing is more sound-focused than song-focused, where he explores the parameters of experimentation without ever losing focus or writing overtly drawn-out instrumental passages.

I picked up Abandoned Dancehall Dreams along with Steven Wilson's Cover Version and play both discs back to back. Though very different musically, they strangely complement each other. I recommend you do the same.

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