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VLYis an international project brought to light by the opportunities afforded by the technology of today… a disparate and loosely connected group of musicians brought together by a series of thought processes and online links, covering the US, Britain, Italy and Sweden. The brainchild of Karl Demata (Crippled Black Pheonix), the digital airwaves brought his ideas to the ears, and subsequently voice, of Keith Gladysz and I / (TIME) (Lazers Edge) began to pull its threads together and weave the dreamcatcher of ideas that would form their debut.
With serene progressive rock as the spine, the ribs of the Frankenstein’s monster cover classic rock, lush textures, psychedelia, and singer-songwriter pop, as well as, on a track like ‘Hypnotic’, building swathes of vocal repetition to mirror the song title, while touches of Americana decorate ‘Dark Days’. The musicianship is exemplary as Italian keyswoman Elisa Montaldo steps from background adornments to the forefront and back again, with the delicate piano touches of ‘Time Remembered’ setting up the meandering ‘Silver Beeches’, or the wall of sound that accompanies the rockier and more substantial ‘Out Of The Maze’ filling and encompassing, her use of organ and synth sounds reminiscent of Richard Wright with some beautiful minor key selections and enhancements; indeed ‘Perfect Place’ is an eight minute tribute to Pink Floyd.
Playing in the same child’s playground of the heart as Tim Bowness, both lyrically and musically, VLY have found a way to marry progressive with emotive and to prove that collaboration can be successful and effective, even if carried out remotely, with individuals trusted to bring their own emotive footprint. While there are variants of style, in the main, clean guitars shimmer, Montaldo and Mattias Olsen create soundscapes to guide and Gladysz, vocally pitching somewhere between Geddy Lee and Papa Emeritus, is the hand to hold to walk us benignly through.
While several of the songs blur into one progressive post-rock psych-flecked confluence, at its best I / (TIME) is a varied and successful experiment. To truly capture the heart, perhaps emotions need to be played with more earnestly, but Demata and Gladysz should continue their experiment, for VLY should be viewed as nothing other than a success.
There is a modest earnestness to much of Tim Bowness’ third solo album Stupid Things That Mean The World (InsideOut), as the singer-songwriter continues to explore the direction and timbre of his more recent works. Openly stating that Stupid Things… is a continuation of its’ predecessor, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams (InsideOut), Bowness confirms the premise that practice makes (near) perfect, with an eclectic and wistful selection of songs whose charm isn’t just in the pleasant ear candy they first appear to be, but in the reflection and layers that unfurl with repeated listens.
With a warm, friendly production courtesy of The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, who also adds moments of lilting guitar and acoustic quality much like he did to Katatonia’s Sanctitude (KScope), on the surface Bowness’ solo work is centred around building a song that sounds simple, often flowering out of an acoustic guitar and unpretentious vocal combination, expanding to contain several strata of multiple, and very appropriate, instrumentation, such as the delicate pedal guitar that enhances ‘Know That You Were Loved’, or the swelling strings and keys that dance in and out of several of the tracks.
Bowness conveys honest emotion and reflection in his words throughout, each line delivered with grace and feeling. He doesn’t push the vocals, staying in a comfortable mid-range, but allows the fine touches of the many players (a veritable who’s who of progressive rocks’ illuminati) to add colour to his ideas and push the dynamics of this most excellently and carefully arranged album, with standout song ‘Sing For Me’ the most well-crafted of songs, rising to a fulfilling and emotive conclusion.
While being far from a melancholy album, indeed the overall sense is one that uplifts, most songs display tinges of regret, sorrow and introspective. Yet where Strange Things… is at its best is in the more experimental songs; the burnt caramel to the honeyed touch of the dream pop surroundings. ‘Press Reset’ is dark rock, ‘The Great Teenage Electric Dream’ shows its temper and the title track is slinky pop, all which adds up to show Strange Things That Mean The World is a welcome addition to the canon of a man who is No-Man no more, but stands as a valued solo artist in his own right.
The album is a follow-up to 2014’s acclaimed Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and features Bowness’ live band (including Porcupine Tree‘s Colin Edwin), alongside Anna Phoebe, Peter Hammill, Andrew Keeling and other guests (to be announced shortly).
Tim had this to say:
“If Abandoned Dancehall Dreams was something of a bolder and more dynamic extension of No-Man’s ‘Schoolyard Ghosts,’ I’d say that the new album is something of a bolder and more dynamic extension of ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams.’ A logical step forward with some surprises, I hope. It’s been really exciting working with the band on most of the pieces and getting some special contributions from the likes of Anna Phoebe, Peter Hammill and Andrew Keeling.”
Tim Bowness is primarily known as vocalist/co-writer with 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, Robert Fripp, Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine), OSI and Roxy Music‘s Phil Manzanera, amongst many others, and is a member of the bands Henry Fool and Memories Of Machines.
Stream the music video for “The Warm-Up Man Forever” from Abandoned Dancehall Dreamshere.