Diary

Read Tim's diary entries here

Nov 20th

By | Diary | No Comments

The usual workload plus two house moves and the release and promotion of Abandoned Dancehall Dreams has meant finding gaps to write or record hasn’t been particularly easy since the early part of the year.

Luckily, things have finally settled down and I’ve recently started work on a follow up album to Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and continued to write with Peter Chilvers for our long-delayed successor to California, Norfolk.

Being able to realise ideas or find myself somewhere I wasn’t expecting creatively remains something I never tire of and after what seems like an age of inactivity, it’s felt great to be immersed in the process of making music once more.

———

Writing and recording again has led to the usual questioning of what it is I produce and why it is that I make the music I do. Despite eclectic tastes and a world of possibilities, a lot of artists find somewhere that feels comfortable to them and end up staying in that place. Although I do go off into some seemingly out of character directions – Henry Fool, Darkroom, Wild Opera etc – my ‘territory’ is still mostly that of the ballad (intimate or epic), the atmospheric experiment and the moodier than Ron Moody sentiment. Judging by what’s recently been coming out of my mouth and guitar, a shift towards Macarena-style euphoria or mid-period Robin Thicke isn’t looking very likely, but as with ADD it feels like the new material (and the refining of old material) represent a confident summation of previous approaches, which are also taking the music somewhere fresh.

The two albums currently in progress subtly reflect different aspects of what I do and what I’m instinctively drawn to. As with no-man and ADD, ADD 2.0 has a bolder, more dynamic approach, while the new Bowness/Chilvers songs develop further the narrative-based material on California, Norfolk (though the sadness may be even sadder than before!).

————

ADD 2.0 got off to a very special and quite unexpected start in late October when I recorded a song in the studio of one of my long-term musical inspirations, Peter Hammill. Peter provided guitars and backing vocals for one of my songs (and its bizarre, spontaneously conceived coda) and was an encouraging and accommodating presence throughout the process. I was very aware that the teenage me – in awe of Over and Pawn Hearts – would have been delighted to be a part of this experience (the adult me was rather pleased too!).

The next stage of ADD 2.0 will comprise several days of full band recording, plus overdubs aplenty (including the return of Andrew Keeling’s very fine string arranging and Anna Phoebe’s superb violin playing), all followed by the time-consuming process of editing and mixing. At this early stage, the material assembled feels like a logical advancement from ADD and I’m really excited to see where it goes.

After writing what I regard as four of our best ever collaborative pieces in a burst of activity late last year, Peter Chilvers and I resumed ‘the follow-up that’s taking forever’ a fortnight ago. Straight off, we came up with a stark piano, oboe and voice piece that developed into something we weren’t expecting. Lyrically, the song tells a very specific story unlike any I’ve written before. Overall, the new lyrics have something of the narrative flavour of Post-Its and Smiler At 50, and as with California, Norfolk there’s a strong ‘album’ coherence emerging with themes exploring the contrast between youthful optimism and mature reflection. Musically, the pieces vary from being heavily electronic to incredibly spartan and organic, and show how Lord Chilvers’ abilities have impressively evolved as a result of his ongoing work with Brian Eno and Karl Hyde.

————

If writing and studio recording remain things that excite me, the ’solo’ live experience is something that I still feel needs work before it fully satisfies me.

The recent shows were all enjoyable in different ways and I particularly liked the dynamic shifts in the music and the fact that Smiler At 50 and Dancing For You seemed to come off as well in performance as in the studio. Additionally, the relentless grind of Mixtaped continued to be a pleasure to play.

Myke Clifford was as good as I’ve ever heard him and his temporary replacement for the final gig, Theo Travis, was equally inspired. Doctor Bearpark and Baron Bennett showed their range as soloists/texturalists and the Booker/Edwin rhythm section were tough and flexible giving the band a real scope. The merger of no-man, Tim Bowness and Henry Fool identities was perhaps less effective than the band as a unit, though.

For me, as they all represent aspects of music I’ve made, the fusion made sense, but I could see that rather than present a united creative front, for some people, the combination of styles only served to emphasise the differences between them. My decision not to play guitar (which I did in rehearsal) undoubtedly played a part as it left me physically adrift from the Henry Fool instrumentals that I’d played a major role in writing/creating.

Next time, with another solo album to draw from, I suspect that the live approach will be a very different one.

————

In very different ways, the 2014 releases by David Bowie, Scott Walker, Peter Hammill and Pink Floyd have been inspiring to me, and have shown that it’s still very possible to make great music well into long-established and seemingly defined careers.

Perhaps the most radical of the releases has been the Bowie double whammy of Sue (or In A Season Of Crime) and ‘Tis Pity She Was A Whore. Experimental Jazz-inflected songs with little relationship to previous Bowie work (or anything really), they’d make for a remarkable statement at any stage in a career. I genuinely enjoyed The Next Day (which seemed to me a logical continuation of Heathen and Reality), but these two pieces have surprised and thrilled me in a way that Low, Lodger, Scary Monsters, and 1.Outside did when I first heard them.

Walker and Hammill have both continued their bold late career adventures with passion and enthusiasm. Both are in superb voice and both are creating some impressively unique textures. Along with Bowie, it feels as if there’s an urgent sense of forward motion propelling these careers that are approaching 50 years ‘in the business’.

By way of contrast, the Pink Floyd release is a gentle elegy that reflects many aspects of the band’s past. Fusing elements of Echoes, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, The Division Bell and even the tribal drumming and textures of Saucerful Of Secrets, it’s an affectionate tribute to the strengths of the band’s more atmospheric identity, and a touching farewell to Richard Wright. Possessing a dreamy timelessness, the album lacks the edge of The Wall and the seductive melodies of Dark Side Of The Moon, but it wasn’t intended to have either and works well on its own terms. To do what you once did as effectively as you ever did, is also an achievement I think, and Gilmour’s voice and guitar tone seem as rare and accomplished as ever (ditto Robert Fripp, who seems truly energised by the recent King Crimson activity).

In the under 65 department, 26 year old Keaton Henson’s Romantic Works has been generating quite a bit of play on my iPod of late. It’s a beautiful, grainy, ‘lo-fi Classical’ collection that sits somewhere between Arvo Part’s transcendent Alina, Max Richter’s soundtracks and Virginia Astley’s underrated 1980s gem From Gardens Where We Feel Secure. At once familiar, but also strange in its eerie intimacy.

————

Listening:

Craig Armstrong – It’s Nearly Tomorrow (2014)
Colin Blunstone – Collected (2014)
David BowieSue (or In A Period Of Crime) / ‘Tis Pity She Was A Whore (2014)
Jack Bruce – Harmony Row (1971)
John Coltrane – Infinity (1972)
Francis Dunnery – The Gulley Flat Boys (2005)
Peter Hammill – All That Might Have Been (2014)
Keaton Henson – Romantic Works (2014)
King Crimson – The Elements Of King Crimson (2014)
Pink Floyd – The Endless River (2014)
Steve Reich – Radio Rewrite (2014)
Rotary Connection – Hey, Love (1971)
Stravinsky – The Rite Of Spring (1913)
Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – Soused (2014)
Wings – At The Speed Of Sound (1976)

Watching:

American Hustle (2013)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2013)
Le Weekend (2013)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)

Reading:

Simon Gray – The Year Of The Jouncer (2005)
Marcus O’Dair – Different Every Time – The Authorised Biography Of Robert Wyatt

7 July

By | Diary | No Comments

I’ve been really grateful for all the positive comments about ADD. Thanks to everyone who’s bought the album and left feedback about it.

After such a long time living with the music and obsessively trying to make it what I wanted it to be, objectivity had long since departed. As such, I suffered plenty of trepidation regarding the potential reactions to what had become a year long labour of love for me.

The making of the album was a great experience and although the starting points and final say were mine, the likes of Steven Wilson, Stephen Bennett, Andrew Keeling, Colin Edwin, Pat Mastelotto, the no-man live band and others also deserve credit for making the finished material work as well as it did.

I hope that what came out was an honest summation of what I’ve done previously, but with occasional surprises that hinted at fresh possibilities ahead.

As I’ve said many times before, albums seem to have their own defining qualities and their own sense of momentum. They often become what they become in spite of artist intervention and this was very true of ADD. The album always seemed to possess a level of confidence and coherence whatever the circumstances involved in putting it together were. Generally speaking, things went right even when the situations suggested that failure was a more likely outcome.

The critical response, both from journalists and those who have bought the album, has been as good as I could have hoped for. One of my favourite emails regarding the album amusingly stated, “I got the Abandoned Dancehall that I ordered. It has the required melancholy. Thank you.” In response to that and other messages of goodwill, I can only say, my pleasure!

————

ADD reaching #18 in the official UK Rock chart was also genuinely pleasing.

Seeing my name improbably wedged between Linkin Park and Green Day felt a bit like coming across a photo of Emma Thompson out on the town with Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, but it also felt like the original spirit of Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show was accurately being honoured.

For those of outside the UK (or too young to know), The Friday Rock Show was a popular BBC radio programme that started in the late 1970s. On an average show, Jefferson Airplane might be followed by a Kate Bush ballad, or a new Rush single would be preceded by Elvis Costello, or a knotty Robert Fripp instrumental. The incidental music came from the likes of Van Der Graaf Generator, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Stanley Clarke, there were innumerable Genesis and Pink Floyd specials (always a good thing!), and Folk, New Wave and Jazz Rock artists were played alongside emerging talents in the Metal and Progressive scenes. In retrospect, I realise that it was via Vance that I was introduced to enduring favourites of mine such as Sandy Denny, The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and Neil Young. I’ve never been a great radio listener, but in my early to late teens, along with John Peel’s equally eclectic show, the early episodes of The Friday Rock Show were an invaluable source of musical knowledge for me.

Holy procrastination Batman, I digress….

————

… and talking of digression, I’ve probably done more interviews over the last month than I’ve done in the last five years.

As always, I very quickly got to the stage where I felt I had little to say of any substance and that my rambling was in some way betraying the music (or at the very least had nothing to do with it). A melodramatic response perhaps, but I feel the best of me creatively is found in the music and lyrics and that most of my attempts to describe them are superfluous/nonsensical.

Email interviews (and Album Notes) are preferable to me as at least my thoughts are ordered and more succinct. The tendency to go off on meaningless tangents in real-time conversations constantly gets the better of me.

Despite that, there have been some good interviews published (Anil Prasad’s Innerviews epic, for example) and many of the conversations with journalists have been genuinely enjoyable. As it stands though, I am seriously considering not doing interviews for whatever I release next. My theory is that getting a cardboard cut-out of myself or randomly picking a stranger off the streets to answer the questions might produce equally satisfying results.

————

The rehearsals for the forthcoming shows went well.

As with no-man live, we’ve been playing to the strengths of the band rather than working on creating replicas of existing recordings.

The no-man material has developed in a way that echoes the 2012 live approach, while the ADD songs have translated into a live setting far better than I was expecting.

Colin Edwin and Myke Clifford’s involvement has given the material a looser feel compared with the Pete Morgan / Maestro Bingham combination (which worked really well in a more disciplined Minimalist Classical meets Post-Punk kind of way). Myke Clifford’s ‘Jazz hat’ may have provided an early clue as to his personal contribution!

The final rehearsal took place at Real World Studios and a day later we played a ‘secret gig’ as part of the Eppyfest in Stroud. All the band were relishing the prospect of seeing how the music worked with an audience rather than a solitary DAT machine in attendance and, luckily, the very nice and receptive crowd in Stroud made the hours spent in darkened rooms seem worthwhile. It was particularly good to see how the new tracks came alive in front of an audience. With two of the crowd doing a ballroom dance to the song section and the ’noise’ finale working as we’d hoped, Smiler At 50 generated the most positive response of an enjoyable evening.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the forthcoming shows. An experience awaits!

————

Listening:

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots (2014)
Art Blakey – A Night In Tunisia (1960)
Kevin Coyne – Blame It On The Night (1974)
Eno / Hyde – High Life (2014)
King Crimson – Starless And Bible Black (1974)
Funkadelic – The Electric Spanking Of War Babies (1981)
Jon Hassell – City: Works Of Fiction (1990)
The Knells – The Knells (2013)
Joni Mitchell – For The Roses (1972)
Propaganda – A Secret Wish (1985)

Reading:

JG Ballard – The Atrocity Exhibition (1969)
Simon Gray – The Smoking Diaries (2004)

6th May

By | Diary | No Comments

To honour its recent completion, I’ve written a 4000 word ‘album notes’ account of the making of my new album Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and its individual songs (to be given away free with pre-orders of the album).

The notes chronicle a very exciting time for me and what has been an exceptionally hands-on process for the last six months or so.

While ADD may well have provided the basis of a strong no-man follow-up to Schoolyard Ghosts (as originally intended), I think it’s become a coherent release in itself and not only represents a far more genuinely solo recording than My Hotel Year, but also a more powerful band-style statement than most things I’ve done.

As I say in the album notes, ‘although I have a strong affinity with intimate approaches to making music, ‘big and bold’ is as much a part of my taste and musical identity as ‘small and stark’. In terms of what I enjoy and what I aspire to create, the ‘grand statement’ is as personal to me and as great an interest as the stripped-down song. I like Apocalypse Now as much I do Kes, Pink Floyd as much as Pink Moon, The Wasteland as much as Not Waving But Drowning, and so on.’

While not an extreme departure, I’d like to think that the music possesses a scope closer to no-man’s work than my other projects. I’d also like to think that it’s taken what I do into some unexpected areas.

Aided and abetted by some very talented people, it’s been a delight hearing the material evolve in the way it has. The likes of ‘Hurricane’ Pat Mastelotto, Colin Edwin, Anna Phoebe and the no-man live band have added a great deal to the songs, and along with some superb string arrangments by Andrew Keeling and typically wonderful mixing from Steven Wilson, given ADD a strong character of its own. ADD may be something I’ve produced and co-ordinated, but like a lot of solo albums it owes a tremendous amount to the collaborators who helped develop the material and wouldn’t be the same (or as good) without the contributions of others.

Outside of the main album, I’ve compiled a bonus disc containing outtakes, alternate versions (including recordings the no-man live band made in a studio recently vacated by Motorhead!) and three very different mixes. One mix is courtesy of Grasscut (one of my favourite bands of the last few years), one is by UXB (one of my favourite business partners of all-time!) and one has been done by Richard Barbieri. Richard’s mix features his vision of the piece and his inimitable atmospheric musical contributions. 20 years after our last major collaboration Flame, beyond his mix being special, it was nice to reunite with Richard for what felt like unfinished business.

Jarrod Gosling has provided the artwork and, as with his imagery for Henry Fool, has managed to create a distinctive visual universe that encapsulates (and defines) the feel of the songs on Abandoned Dancehall Dreams.

With less than two months to go to its release, my nerves and anticipation surrounding the prospective response are greater than usual. A good sign perhaps in that it shows I still care! :-)

——–

The release of ADD will be commemorated with what will be my first two ‘proper’ live performances since the no-man mini-tour of 2012. Playing with what is effectively a fusion of the no-man and Henry Fool live bands, I’m really looking forward to hearing how the album’s material works in a live context.

My hope is that what we produce will be a logical progression from what was suggested by the 2012 performances. Colin Edwin and Myke Clifford offer a Jazzier perspective than Steve Bingham and Pete Morgan‘s root Minimalist classical/Post-Punk influences, so the band’s balance has subtly shifted.

As noodling comes with a punishment of broken fingers, the difference in musical flavour will be an interesting one, I think.

——–

The result of my collaboration with Nick Magnus has now been released on his very fine Esoteric label album N’Monix.

The session was very different from any that I’ve done before and Nick and his collaborative partner Dick Foster acted as much like theatrical directors as music producers. The episodic nature of the recording and the performance / stage instructions weren’t remotely typical of my previous recording experiences, but definitely brought out something new and more dramatic than usual from my vocal delivery. Whereas normally I’d write lyrics and melodies, this time I submitted to somebody else’s idea of what my voice should do and could be. Resulting in an emotional 8 minute ballad about Alzheimer’s, the track also featured Steve Hackett and the wonderful sax playing of
Rob Townshend
.

All in all, it was incredibly enjoyable to be a part of and it was something my teenage self would have been very pleased with*.

* I first saw Steve Hackett in the early 1980s with Nick on keyboards. The live versions of the likes of Clocks and The Steppes were incredibly powerful and highlighted Nick and Steve’s rare abilities, as well as the phenomenal ‘presence’ of the Taurus Bass Pedal (and, yes, I still want one!).

——–

Coinciding with the recording of Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, I’ve moved cross-country from Norwich to the Bristol / Bath area (with no disruption to my Burning Shed commitments), and signed a contract with Inside Out Music.

In all cases, interesting new beginnings, I hope.

——–

listening:

The Kate Bush back catalogue (1978-2012)
Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wake Up Ghost (2013)
Elvis Costello – Blood And Chocolate (1986)
Mark Eitzel – Glory (2014)
Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything (2014)
Eno / Hyde – Someday World (2014)
Steve Hackett - Wild Orchids (2006)
IQ – The Road Of Bones (2014)
Sun Kil Moon – Benjie (2014)
The War Against Drugs – Lost In The Dream (2014)

reading:

Julian Barnes – Levels Of Life (2013)
Wendy Cope – Family Values (2011)
Jeanette Winterston – Weight (2006)

25th September

By | Diary | No Comments

Thanks for all the supportive emails about my last online diary post.

To clarify some things, I didn’t mean to say that no-man is over. The band has had protracted periods of silence in the past and I genuinely believe that at some point in the future, Steven and I will make more music together as no-man. Steven and I still get on well personally and as he’ll be mixing my new songs (and probably adding some musical parts), our creative relationship is ongoing.

I’m disappointed by what’s happened, but I completely accept it. Steven is in great demand and has too many possible options at any given time to deal with. It isn’t realistic for him to do everything he’d like to and in order to do what he chooses to do well, focus is required.

I’ve also held back projects and potential collaborations due to just not having enough time, or feeling that ‘it’ isn’t right for ‘now’. The combination of making music, co-running Burning Shed and fatherhood/life in general sometimes just gets in the way of what I’d like to be doing. Multiply that by five and you have Steven’s situation.

When I talked of flux and uncertainty in terms of recording the new ‘solo’ album, I meant that I still wasn’t sure what material to choose, which directions to highlight and what name to use for the project. There’s always a remote possiblilty that this could still become a no-man album (after all, Schoolyard Ghosts started out in similar circumstances to this).

The issue is that I don’t have a particularly stong idea about what to present as a solo artist as the possibilities are less restricted than developing an established band identity further.

Three examples:

1) Peter Chilvers and I completed a piece four days ago that I think is one of the most moving things I’ve done. As I think it’s strong, do I use that on the new album, or leave it for Slow Electric?

2) Of the material recorded with the no-man live band (minus Steven), I’d say that 20 minutes of it I definitely want to release. It’s a logical continuation of the music no-man made on the 2012 tour and although I wrote the songs, I wrote them with the band in mind and the recordings possess a strong group identity. Is that Tim Bowness solo, or something else?

3) Last week, Stephen Bennett played me an instrumental I’d written years ago. Sounding very ECM (Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner etc), I’d completely forgotten it existed. Do I use that to show that I have more scope than some of my releases suggest, or do I keep it on my ‘hard drive of doom’ forever? One weird highlight of the ‘hard drive of doom’ is a piece I wrote using a Jim Matheos Metal riff and a lyrical Aleksei Saks trumpet line. Again, Slow Electric, Tim Bowness, or something/nothing else?

Questions, questions!

One harsh reality is that names matter. The exact same album released as no-man will sell 7 to 10 times the amount a Tim Bowness solo album will sell (released as Pink Floyd, it’d sell even better!). The only concern for me is that when you really believe in the music you’re making, you want as many people to hear it as possible. For me, the act of creativity is selfish and is driven by ideas, emotions and catharsis, but (pathetically/egotistically?) knowing that something I’ve done has touched other people in the same way that certain books and music have affected me almost equals the significance of the creative process itself.

Ultimately I’d be doing what I do even if there was no audience, but reading reviews such as the recent Echoes And Dust one on Together We’re Stranger (and the comment beneath) and knowing that some people are sad that there may be no new no-man album is humbling and makes ‘the selfish act’ seem more worthwhile.

22nd September

By | Diary | No Comments

2013 has simultaneously been an inspiring and frustrating year. Creatively it’s arguably been the best since 2006, with a lot of (what I consider to be) strong new material being written and a personal sense of anticipation and excitement surrounding the writing and recording. The frustration has come in the slow progress involved in getting definitive versions of the songs and subsequently assembling what’s been written into more substantial (album) contexts.

I’ve rarely had so many songs and instrumentals in states of near completion and the current list of things that may be ‘on the way’ includes:

Postcards From Space - This project with Alistair Murphy started in 2006 and around two album’s worth of songs were written by 2008. Progress was halted by no-man’s Schoolyard Ghosts, MoM’s Warm Winter, Alistair’s solo work, and our joint production of Judy Dyble’s 2009 album Talking With Strangers. Earlier this year, track listings were agreed upon and Pat Mastelotto and Steve Bingham added some excellent parts.

In some ways, the project is the most ‘difficult’ of any I’m involved with. The proposed album consists of one very long, atmospheric piece – awash with analogue synths, unexpected deviations and multi-layered vocal dissonances – and five shorter songs, which are more conventional in their singer-songwriter structures, but less so in terms of their arrangements. Outside of this, there’s an EP’s worth of more abrasive tracks, which have a distinct Post-Punk/King Crimson/Swans-esque ‘toughess’ about them.

The truth is that I’m the one holding this project back. As much as I like the music and feel it represents something different for me, it never seems quite right to release. As with my unreleased vocal loops, it’s at the minority end of what I do (which isn’t at the majority end of anything!), and some other project always seems to take precedence. A pity in some ways as Postcards have produced some genuinely interesting and surprising music.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Henry Fool - The March 2013 release of Men Singing was a relief. 12 years of writing had left us with a lot of material that wasn’t quite complete, or just didn’t work as a whole. The decision to concentrate solely on the instrumental aspect of the band resulted in something both coherent and significantly different from anything we’d put out before. Once a course was agreed on, things happened quickly and the last minute additions of Phil Manzanera and Jarrod Gosling proved inspired.

Outside of this, there remains 50 minutes of songs – some of which I rate amongst the best I’ve been involved with – and another 50 minutes of instrumentals. The songs in themselves work well, but put together as a sequence, don’t quite gel. The issue might be with pacing, or the fact that they currently sound too alike, but a further problem lies in that they represent a polar opposite to Men Singing. The songs  - compositionally detailed in a way the songs on HF’s debut weren’t – feature a stellar rhythm section of Colin Edwin and Huxflux Nettermalm, but are at odds with the current feeling that the directions hinted at on Men Singing should be developed further using the Henry Fool live band.

The reaction to Men Singing was far better than Stephen and I expected. Releasing a wholly instrumental ‘Jazz Rock’ album in 2013 was hardly a recipe for success based either on the uncompromising nature of the music itself or the fact that I’m known as a singer working in completely different genres. Overall, it picked up some of the best reviews I’ve ever had, which was truly gratifying.

The one live performance in support of the album – at the Kscope 5th anniversary event – was horrible on a personal level, but worked artistically. Suffering from a bad cold, I was unable to talk (or sing) and felt ill throughout the day. Playing in blazing heat a half hour before we were scheduled to go on didn’t help matters, nor did having to drop songs we’d rehearsed at the last minute. In complete contrast to my openly emotional performances on the 2012 no-man dates, I was in full, hunched ‘back to the audience’ Miles Davis mode (very Jazz Rock!). Regardless, the live Henry Fool had a real bite and a fizzing fuzz-box energy that we felt brought something fresh to the band’s approach. As well as the ongoing work on the songs – which may be released under a different project name – the live band will be recording some instrumentals in the studio in December. Expect noise and tricky time signatures galore.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Slow Electric / Bowness/Chilvers - Partly as a result of the reissue of California, Norfolk, I’ve recently been writing with Peter in the most concentrated way since the early 2000s. My feeling is that C, N was as coherent as it was mainly due to us working more closely together than ever before (and for a longer period of time). For me, proximity can give a focus to creative work that working by sending files alone can rarely equal. Discussing and executing ideas in real time can often be more intense, more fun and produce more immediate results.

Re-listening to California, Norfolk I could hear its clear links to the surrounding no-man albums (Returning Jesus and Together We’re Stranger). Like Returning Jesus and Together We’re Stranger, California, Norfolk seems a very complete album experience both musically and lyrically. By contrast, the likes of Centrozoon‘s Never Trust The Way You Are, Henry Fool’s debut, Wild Opera, Postcards From Space and My Hotel Year seem much more episodic and restless (not necessarily bad things, but less satisfying to me personally).

Prior to this year, we had four Bowness/Chilvers co-compositions, a whole host of Plenty pieces, and a couple of my solo songs to work with. 2013 has brought two songs co-written with Colin Edwin (who’s joined Slow Electric) and four new Bowness/Chilvers pieces, three of which we both feel rank amongst the finest things we’ve done. A logical (contemporary) extension of California, Norfolk (in terms of the lyric as short story and the cinematic/electronic musical elements), it’s been a thrill to see the duo enthusiastically rekindle its creative spark. One of the new pieces is surprisingly beat driven, while another sprung from a wonderfully evocative Lord Chilvers piano progression that lent itself perfectly to an emotional, fx-drenched ode to loss. The question now is, what’s Bowness/Chilvers and what’s Slow Electric?

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

no-man - Perhaps the most frustrating and disappointing thing of all this year has been putting no-man on indefinite hold due to Steven’s work committments.

The band and its music still means a lot to me and it felt like the 2012 tour was a breakthrough that suggested many possibilities for future no-man music. Over the last couple of years I’ve been writing material with a new no-man album in mind and during the Summer recorded around 30 minutes of music with the no-man live band (minus Steven). The results were mostly good and combined with various solo demos and co-writes meant that I had more (and more consistent) material to play Steven than I had during the Schoolyard Ghosts listening sessions. One late Summer encounter with Steven later and the feeling was that the new material had promise and a follow-up to Schoolyard Ghosts was on. One week after that, it wasn’t.

Mainly due to ongoing solo work and a whole slew of other projects, Steven understandably felt he couldn’t provide the time the album deserved if it were to become an official no-man release (neither of us would want to release anything sub-standard under the band name). His suggestion was that I put together the strongest songs for him to mix (and possibly add to) and that I release the result as my second solo album.

At the moment, this is the plan we’re working towards. My only real problem with this is that the material was written with no-man in mind. Weirdly, I have a very strong idea of what no-man can be and is (ditto Slow Electric and Henry Fool etc), but I don’t have a particular vision of what a Tim Bowness solo identity should be. In some ways, I express what I want to express more effectively and more completely within a band context. My Hotel Year did have a character, but it featured less of my own music than most of the albums I’m involved with and represented an aspect of my work I don’t feel like taking further. My wholly solo demos generally sound nothing like any of the bands I’m in, but again they operate in an area I’m not interested in developing. In general, I prefer collaboration and like what I do being creatively filtered through others (rather than just through me). The main issue is whether I create my idea of what a new no-man album should sound like, or I branch off and create something entirely different.

At least three of the band pieces work well for me and will be pursued. Outside of this, a couple of more intimate electronic pieces, a couple of acoustic songs (including one recorded with Phil Manzanera) and a couple of mini-epics are being developed. Colin Edwin has added fretless bass to two of the tracks, and composer Andrew Keeling has written string quartet arrangements for three of the pieces. Elsewhere, Baron Bennett is working on a choral part for a song that features one of the best Michael Bearpark guitar solos I’ve heard. Other than the debate over what (or who) this is, I’m really happy with the material and the ongoing recording. As such, things are exciting and progressing, but somewhat in flux and clouded in uncertainty.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

The box set - Outside of the above, amongst other things, I’ve recorded material with Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, The Opium Cartel), Nick Magnus (Steve Hackett Band) and Jim Matheos (Fates Warning, OSI). Alongside the unreleased Plenty album, the abandoned Nick Drake covers album and various odds, sods and collaborations, there’s probably enough for a multi-disc box set (replete with a signed certificate with an authentic teardrop stain!). However, my reluctance to release things for the sake of it may well get in the way of this ever happening.

‘Expect a 2014 update on all the above with nothing new to promote!

listening:

David Bowie – The Next Day (2013)
The Clash – Sandinista! (1980)
John Coltrane – Africa/Brass (1961)
The Flaming Lips – The Terror (2013)
Heirlooms Of August – Down At The 5 Star (2013)
Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle – Perils From The Sea (2013)
Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Sings Newman (1970)
Laura Nyro – Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat (1970)
Robert Palmer – Clues (1980)
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)
Todd Rundgren – Todd (1974) / State (2013)
Patti Smith – Wave (1979) / Banga (2012)
Dave Stapleton – Catching Sunlight (2008)
Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good (1988)

reading:

William Hjortsberg – Jubilee Hitchhiker -
The Life And Times Of Richard Brautigan

William Hjortsberg – Symbiography
Michel Houellebecq - Lanzarote
Andrew Kaufman – The Tiny Wife
Paul Myers - A Wizard , a True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio