Tim Bowness -
Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

(CD 2014, 43.00, Inside Out Music)

The tracks:
  1- The Warm-Up Man Forever(4:06)
  2- Smiler At 50(8:19)
  3- Songs Of Distant Summers(5:02)
  4- Waterfoot(4:14)
  5- Dancing For You(5:59)
  6- Smiler At 52(4:05)
  7- I Fought Against The South(8:51)
  8- Beaten By Love(3:28)

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Born and bred in the North-West of England, Tim Bowness started his musical career on the Probe Plus, One Little Indian and Sony/ Epic 550 labels in the early 1990s, and is primarily known as vocalist/ co-writer of the band No-Man, a long-running collaboration with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree). 

In addition to releasing six studio albums and a documentary DVD with No-Man, Tim has worked with popular Italian artist Alice, as well as Robert Fripp, Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine), OSI and Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera, and is a member of the bands Henry Fool, Memories Of Machines and Slow Electric.  Tim recorded the album Flame (1994) with Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree/ ex-Japan), co-produced/co-wrote the acclaimed Talking With Strangers (2009, see review) for Judy Dyble (ex- Fairport Convention), and continues to collaborate with Peter Chilvers (Brian Eno/ Karl Hyde).  Since 2001, Tim has co-ran the specialist online label/ store Burning Shed in collaboration with Pete Morgan.  

Now, 21 years after No-Man's debut and 10 years after Bowness's previous solo release My Hotel Year, Tim Bowness returns on the Inside Out label with his ambitious, second solo album, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams. Produced by Bowness and mixed by his No-Man band partner Steven Wilson, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, features performances from Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Anna Phoebe (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and members of the No-Man live-band (consisting of Stephen Bennett, Michael Bearpark, Pete Morgan, Steven Wilson, Andrew Booker and Steve Bingham). Classical composer Andrew Keeling, best known for his work with The Hilliard Ensemble, Evelyn Glennie and his orchestrations of Robert Fripp's Soundscapes, provides string arrangements on four of the album's eight tracks.

Now, what about the album itself then? I discovered that amazing silence can be extremely beautiful. The album sounds like a soundtrack for an Antartica documentary, mixed with flashbacks from 8-mm amateur film footage of the 70s Blackpool promenade evenings, all shown in slow motion.

The first track, The Warm-Up Man Forever, opens with tribal rhythms and Bowness's token whispers... In contrast, the next track, Smiler At 50, sounds sorrowful and reserved, complete with haunting harmonies, mournful piano and a Steven Wilson-like orchestral conclusion. I'ts followed by Songs Of Distant Summers,  which takes an intimate approach, using a subtle echo on the instrumentation. The next piece, Waterfoot, starts with acoustic guitar, melting into earthly percussion, while the following Dancing For You brings you all the way back to a just starting-out Genesis.

Abandoned Dancehall Dreams excites, binds and inspires me from beginning to end. Bowness's sensitivity and elegance breathes through all the 8 majestic songs. This album is of such a high standard, that I can only rank it with the maximum 5-star score. Let me finish by taking a deep bow.

***** Gert Bruins (edited by Esther Ladiges)

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