The Progarchy Interview: Tim Bowness, Part 2

In Part 1 of Tim Bowness’ latest Progarchy interview, Tim discussed his previous solo albums, working again with his first band Plenty, reuniting with Steven Wilson for new No-Man music, and how all this feeds into his new album Flowers At The Scene (released March 1 on Inside Out Music).   We dig into the new album in depth below!  Note that [brackets] below indicate editorial insertions.

Pulling it back to Flowers At The Scene, it’s interesting what you said about how really, there are some [pieces] that you’re producing, there’s some that you and Brian [Hulse] are working on, there’s some that you and Brian and Steven [Wilson] are working on.   It all feels like a unity when I listen to it.  Despite the variety of colors, it’s, as you say, it feeds on what you’ve done before, but it goes in really interesting, different directions.  Are there any particular songs that you feel are at the core of the album?

I would say you’re right, it does feel like an album.  One thing that’s important to me is, I know in this age of streaming and Spotify it’s not particularly fashionable, but I love the album.  I’ve always loved the album as a statement.  And in some ways, although this album is different from the other albums – I mean, the previous three albums had themes to a degree.  Lost In The Ghost Light was a narrative concept album. Stupid Things That Mean The World and Abandoned Dancehall Dreams had linking lyrical themes in a way.  This is different in the sense that it’s eleven very separate moods, very separate lyrics, very separate songs.  And yet it fits together, I think, in a kind of classic 43-minute album format.  And in some ways, I think it’s the album that flows best of all four.  There’s something about it that it kind of moves from one mood to another.  And yet it holds together.

I suppose the key songs would have been when “Flowers At The Scene” and “Not Married Anymore” were written.  And I just felt that Brian and I had been coming up with material that had its own distinct identity.  And I also had a certain idea of how I wanted them to sound – and suddenly that was it!  And I guess that there’s this [Robert] Fripp line, he would always say that a new direction presented itself.  And I think that it’s true, because I’d continued writing material on my own, and I’d continued writing material with Stephen Bennett while I was recording the Plenty album.  And although the material was good, it felt like it was gonna be a continuation of Lost In The Ghost Light or Stupid Things That Mean The World.

And I think that it was when I’d written the fifth song with no purpose really – Brian and I just kept on writing together because we were excited by what we were doing.  And I think it would have been “Flowers At The Scene”, the title track itself, and I thought, “this is the new direction; it’s presented itself.” And from that moment on, it became a very exciting and immersive project and I said to Brian, “I think this is the basis of a new solo album. And it feels like a fresh direction after the other albums.”  And you’re right that, what’s kind of interesting for me is it’s fresh, it’s a reset, but perhaps because of the mood of some of the music and because of my voice, there’s also a sense of continuation.

And certainly one of the things that contributes to it being fresh is this cast of musicians that you gathered, which is really genuinely impressive.  So many great names with great work that have fed into this.  I was wondering if I could just toss out names and, in a few words, you could try to describe what each of these guys have brought to the music for the album.  Starting with Jim Matheos.

Well, Jim’s somebody I’ve known for a few years.  He asked me to guest on an OSI album [Blood], probably about nine years ago now.  And I really enjoyed it.  So the track, which is called “No Celebrations”, felt very different for me; it was very much in that OSI art-metal style, but it accommodated my singing as well.  And after that, we carried on communicating together.  So occasionally he’s asked me for advice about things, and also we had co-written a couple of tracks that had never been released.

And when I was doing this album, I thought I’d love to get him involved.  Because one of the tracks I’d been developing had him on anyway, and he’s an incredibly versatile guitarist.  Very, very nice guy, but what people I don’t think are aware of is how versatile his talent is.  So his own music can be anything from sort of ambient experimental to metal to classical acoustic guitar.  And I knew how good he was as a soloist, and so I got him – really, he was my stunt guitarist on the album on a few tracks.  And he did some fantastic work on it.

Peter Hammill.  What a legend!

Yeah!  Well, Peter’s somebody who when I was growing up, when I was in my teens, he was one of my favorite singers.  And as I’ve said to people, what’s interesting with this album is that, probably my five favorite singers when I was 13 would have been David Bowie, Peter Hammill, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Kevin Godley.  And I’ve two of them on the album, and it’s an incredible thrill to have that!

Over the years, Peter’s become a friend.  We ended up playing on lots of the same albums in Italy, and we got to know one another.  And over the years, he’s guested on my work; and we even live in the same small town in England!  And so he’s probably my sort of coffee and chat companion, where we’ve put the political and the musical world to rights once a month.  And as I always say about Peter, he’s as nice, generous and decent as his music is frightening!

[Laughs] Oh, that’s a great summary!

[Laughs] Absolutely!  Cause, you know, you wouldn’t want him to be as frightening as [Van der Graaf Generator’s] Pawn Hearts really, would you?

[Laughs] No, not in the slightest!

It is true; you’d be coughing your coffee up.  It’s not good!  [Both laugh] So yeah, lovely guy, and we’ve worked on a few things.  And the thing about Peter is he is very honest about his opinion.  So interestingly enough, I’d asked him to work on Lost in the Ghost Light, but he wasn’t as much a fan of that material.  So basically, he works on what he likes.  And he’d worked on the Stupid Things That Mean the World album, and I’d played him this album in progress.  He’d mixed an album for me as well.  There’s a Bowness/[Peter] Chilvers album that’s been unreleased that Peter’s mixed, which is quite an interesting project in itself.

And while I was making the new album I said, “ah, you know, a couple of Hammill-shaped holes here!”  And he heard it, and he heard exactly what I wanted, and he really liked the material.  One of the tracks he put a great deal into it, there’s a track on it called “It’s The World”.  I’d played it to him, and initially I wanted his bite – there’s a real sort of bite in his voice, I wanted this in the chorus.  And he said, “Yep, I know exactly what you want; I’ll get it to you.  But I tell you what else I’ll give you; I’ll give you guitars, because the guitars on this aren’t working!”  And so he completely re-recorded the chorus guitars, and almost went into sort of Rikki Nadir [from Hammill’s proto-punk solo album Nadir’s Big Chance] mode, and did a fantastic job.

So on the track “It’s The World” he’s on kind of backing and lead vocals, and also adds some really ferocious guitar parts.  And he made the piece work.  So that was an interesting case, where the piece I think was pretty good as it was, but he gave it an extra edge and an extra looseness.

Got it!  One of the newer singers on the album is David Longdon.  I know you collaborated with Big Big Train on a b-side [“Seen Better Days (the brass band’s last piece)”].  What did David bring?

Well, I suppose I asked him to be on the piece [“Borderline”] and I’d suggested a particular approach to backing vocal which he used.   I almost wanted this kind of rich, Michael McDonald/Steely Dan approach.  That’s something I wanted: a comfortable bed of David Longdon voice, really, and he gave that.  And then he added some flute as a means of contrasting with the trumpet.  And he did a beautiful job in both cases, really.  So I suppose what he gave was himself, so he kind of knew the places where I wanted him to play, and where I wanted him to be, and with the backing vocal he was effectively re-singing the melody that I’d already sung on the demo.

But with the flute, he performed a really beautiful solo, and it was great!  Because although the trumpet was recorded in the outback in Australia – I used a jazz musician, a guy called Ian Dixon, who’s worked with No-Man, he was on Returning Jesus, several tracks on that, and he’s a wonderful sort of jazz trumpet player.  And his studio is a tin shack in the outback in Australia!  And he said when he recorded it, it was in the middle of the rainy season.  So he’s recording that with crashing rain on the tin roof – which I thought was very romantic!  And David really beautifully worked with Ian’s trumpet.  And to me, it sounds as if the two could be in the room together playing!  So they worked very nicely together, and I suppose in that case, I knew what I wanted, and I got what I wanted.  But it was still different, the playing, the expression that the two of them had given was entirely their own.

Continue reading “The Progarchy Interview: Tim Bowness, Part 2”

ARMONITE Sign With Cleopatra Records

Armonite_Library

Armonite, the instrumental rock collective led by composer Paolo Fosso and violinist Jacopo Bigi, signed with LA-based indie label Cleopatra Records for the release of their new album, And the Stars Above.

Armonite‘s instrumental music is perfectly in line with the spirit of the label, especially now that Cleopatra expanded in the movie industry.

With the film division Cleopatra Entertainment, the company has distributed, developed, and produced several films most of which have a strong horror and/or music component, including The Devil’s Domain(starring Michael Madsen), The Black Room (starring Lin Shaye), Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill! (featuring the voice of Dave Mustainefrom Megadeth), The 27 Club (featuring Todd Rundgren), England Is Mine (Steven Morrissey bio-pic), A Street Cat Named Bob.

Continue reading “ARMONITE Sign With Cleopatra Records”

iamthemorning’s Lighthouse: Neoclassical Beauty

lighthouse_cover

Imagine, if you will, a world where Aerial-era Kate Bush, Dumbarton Oaks-era Igor Stravinsky, and Sketches of Spain-era Miles Davis got together to compose a song cycle. They might come up with something to rival iamthemorning’s new album, Lighthouse, but it’s doubtful.

A work of astonishing beauty, Lighthouse is also deeply moving. The songs chronicle a young woman’s struggle to overcome mental illness, and her ultimate surrender to it. Heavy stuff, but fortunately the gorgeous musical arrangements make Lighthouse a work worth returning to again and again. iamthemorning takes the listener on this journey through the use of neoclassical music, prog, and classic jazz. Most of the songs feature a full chamber orchestra, while others are buttressed by the talents of Gavin Harrison and Colin Edwin – Porcupine Tree’s rhythm section. Mariusz Duda, of Riverside and Lunatic Soul fame, lends his distinctive vocals to the album’s centerpiece, “Lighthouse”.

Of course, the true stars of Lighthouse are the members of iamthemorning, vocalist Marjana Semkina, and pianist Gleb Kolyadin. Semkina’s vocals are heartbreakingly beautiful, moving from peak to peak as the songs unfold. Kolyadin’s piano work is perfectly simpatico with Semkina’s singing, providing graceful accompaniment. On “Harmony”, he takes center stage, leading a sextet through a swinging instrumental.

The mood of the album flows from the somber overture of “I Came Before the Water, Pt. 1” through the melodic “Clear Clearer”, to the relatively upbeat “Harmony” and “Matches”, before descending again with “Belighted”. “Chalk and Coal”, in the words of Semkina, “represents the final twist of the album story-line, the final breakdown”. The first half of “Chalk and Coal” features the most straight-ahead rock of the album before the band seamlessly shifts into chamber jazz for the second half. “I Came Before the Water” returns, with Semkina, unaccompanied, singing of accepting defeat while a gradually swelling string chorus provides solace. The tender and brief “Post Scriptum” is a final elegy, and Lighthouse is over.

Even though the album is almost entirely acoustic, it packs an enormous punch. It is a work that is best experienced by listening to it in its entirety. Everything, from the cover art to the extraordinarily high level of musicianship, combine to create a tasteful and sophisticated work. This is music that transcends categorization; it is music that is timeless and evocative. iamthemorning have come up with an album that is destined to be a classic of modern music, regardless of the genre.

 

RochaNews: Burnt Belief

BURNT BELIEF OFFERING FREE “ETYMOLOGY” BONUS TRACKS WITH FIRST 200 ALBUM PRE-ORDERS THROUGH BURNING SHED AND JONDURANT.COM

Instrumental collaboration between U.K. bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and U.S. guitarist Jon Durant out October 21 on Alchemy Records

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COHASSET, MA – World-renowned bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree, Metallic Taste of Blood, Ex-Wise Heads) and guitarist/composer Jon Durant have once again teamed up under the moniker Burnt Belief for the release of a new album of progressive ethno-ambient fusion instrumentals, titled Etymology. Etymology, due out on October 21 via Alchemy Records, can be pre-ordered now through Burning Shed at: https://www.burningshed.com/store/exwiseheads/collection/19/ and JonDurant.com at: http://jondurant-com.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/burnt-belief-etymology in addition to Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/Etymology-Burnt-Belief/dp/B00NAZX8BA/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1410294068&sr=1-1&keywords=burnt+belief. The first 200 pre-orders through Burning Shed and JonDurant.com exclusively will receive a download code to receive five Etymology bonus tracks, including unreleased music from the two musicians’ individual libraries and collaborative works.

Come release day, Etymology will also be available at CD Baby, iTunes and other digital outlets.

For a taste of the new, 11- track offering, an Etymology teaser video can be seen on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/aa0yLjSHr3Q.

“We feel like we’ve progressed within our shared approach, including some new harmonic, rhythmic and melodic elements,” commented Jon Durant.

“Much of our compositional approach remains consistent from the first Burnt Belief record,” he added. “For instance, a number of the pieces began as ambient cloud guitar atmospheres, which Colin would then explore and find rhythmic grooves to play over or with the clouds. Then, I would maybe re-arrange, construct melodic ideas, and send back to Colin for further input from him. In this way, the pieces evolve, sometimes very far from their original state.”

The compositions which unfold across Etymology‘s 70 minutes showcase the duo’s fruitful symbiosis and clear developmental path across their shared musical landscape. Assimilating diverse elements ranging from polyrhythms, deep ECM styled atmospherics and even angular nu-jazz abstraction, the result is an immersive, multi-layered and engrossing documentation of a remarkably sympathetic musical connection.

Etymology is further enhanced by sensitive, deep electric violin performances from highly regarded classical musician Steve Bingham, also known for his evocative work with U.K. art-rock band No-Man.

The album’s title is a metaphor for the pair’s working methodology, in which compositions evolve from an initial germ of an idea into a fully realized piece. The resulting work is often very different from its original concept yet still maintains the initial elements at its core.

1. Chromatique

2. Dissemble

3. Précis

4. Hraunfossar

5. Convergence

6. Rivulet

7. White Keys

8. Not Indifferent

9. Hover

10. Chimera

11. Squall

Edwin and Durant first teamed up for Durant’s 2011 album Dance of the Shadow Planets, a wholly live in the studio documentation of their nascent musical chemistry centered around Durant’s atmospheric compositions and featuring also the talents of violinist Caryn Lin and multi-percussionist Jerry Leake.

The follow-up to Dance of the Shadow Planets, 2012’s eponymously titled Burnt Belief, was distance recorded, but a fully collaborative compositional affair with Edwin taking equal responsibility for the writing process. Having confidently cemented their working methods and musical connection with the well-received Burnt Belief, the duo undertook some live dates in the U.K. and Ukraine with Kiev-based female vocal duo Astarta (as Astarta/Edwin), a project Colin has been working on for some time, but presently on ice due to the current instability in the country.

Energized by working together in a live environment again in late 2013, Edwin and Durant reconvened to create the present album, Etymology. Whilst still retaining the strong sonic identity laid down on Burnt Belief, Etymology represents a considerable expansion and natural evolution of their sound, not least because of the additional input of three marvelous drummers (Vinny Sabatino, Dean McCormick and Jose Duque) to complement and reinforce the programmed electronic rhythms.

“Colin and I both felt that after two records utilizing hand drums exclusively, it was time to change it up and go with a live drum kit to augment Colin’s rhythm programming. It ended up giving the pieces a much harder edge to them, and this in turn allowed me to push my guitars a little more over the top.”

Follow Burnt Belief on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/BurntBelief and Twitter at: @BurntBelief3 for more information on Etymology.

Burnt Belief online…

www.facebook.com/burntbelief

www.twitter.com/BurntBelief3

www.alchemyrecords.com

www.colinedwin.blogspot.com

www.jondurant.com

About Jon Durant…

Guitarist Jon Durant brings a unique sense of texture and melody to his instrument. His distinctive “cloud guitar” soundscapes and engaging lead work have graced numerous CD recordings and film soundtracks. As executive producer of Alchemy Records, he produces recordings for internationally acclaimed artists in his small Massachusetts studio. Along with longtime collaborators Tony Levin (bassist with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel), percussionist Vinny Sabatino, pianist Michael Whalen, and guitar/synth master Randy Roos, Jon has recorded with electric violinist Caryn Lin, percussionist Jerry Leake, singer/songwriter Porter Smith, soul singer Ray Greene (Tower of Power) and many others. Etymology is Jon’s third recording with Colin Edwin.

About Colin Edwin…

Colin Edwin is best known as a founder member and bass player of the internationally successful progressive rock band Porcupine Tree. In addition, he has a long running collaboration as Ex-Wise Heads with avant multi-instrumentalist Geoff Leigh (Henry Cow/Hatfield and the North) with six albums blending ethnic, world music, improvisation and ambient and experimental influences. Colin is also a member of Metallic Taste of Blood, a genre-defying group whose intense and cinematic music draws from dub, metal, progressive, free jazz and ambient music. In 2013 Colin recorded the critically acclaimed bass duo album Twinscapes with Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati.

An Edwardian Trip through Hades: CAPACITOR by COSMOGRAF

Stunning album cover.  A progged-out version of Dolby's GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS.  Brilliant.
Stunning album cover by the wonderful Graeme Bell. A progged-out version of Dolby’s GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS. Brilliant.

Cosmograf’s CAPACITOR is everything a rock album should be.  And, I do mean EVERYTHING.  EVERY.  SINGLE. THING.  It is wholesome, fractured, creepy, uplifting, contemplative, mythic, existentialist, moving, intense, wired, dramatic, contemplative, Stoic, mystifying, weird, satisfying, honed, nuanced, dark, and light.

 

The Meaning of It All

If I could capture the album in one sentence, comparing it to other forms of art, I would and will put it this way: CAPACITOR is an Edwardian journey into the Hades of the Ancient Greeks but emerging in BIOSHOCK.

Then, think about the artists involved.  Andy Tillison plays keyboards on it.  Matt Stevens plays guitar on it.  Nick Beggs and Colin Edwin play bass on it. NVD plays all of the drums. Our modern master of sound, Rob Aubrey, the Phill Brown of our day, engineered it.

[Correction: from Rob Aubrey.  My apologies for getting the credits and terms mixed up.  “Hi All, Actually I didn’t ENGINEER it as such…. I recorded the Drums with NDV and then everything else was Produced and Engineered by Robin… He Mixed the album at home and I was here in an advisory role, just giving a hand when he ran into problems or I felt things needed more work. Robin and I mastered the album together just a few Months ago on my studio system here (Pro Tools) using all of his original sessions so Robin could make adjustments to the overall dynamic and “tweak” individual sounds if necessary. I cannot take credit for much as Robin really is the genius here!”]

Then, of course, there’s the artist supreme, the writer, director, and producer of it all, Robin Armstrong. English wit, critic, musician, lyricist, father, husband, entrepreneur, and demigod of chronometry, Armstrong is one of the most interesting persons of our day and age. He’s already proven everything an artist should in his previous albums, especially in The Man Left in Space.

Armstrong is a driven man, and it’s impossible to think of him without thinking not only of perfectionism, but also of his insatiable desire to perfect a thing even more so. In terms of constitution, he is probably incapable of doing otherwise. We all benefit from his unrelenting drive.

On the latest album, CAPACITOR, Armstrong explores the Edwardian fascination with spiritualism, giving us not “steam punk” but what should be called “vacuum tube punk,” something quite different from that of either H.G. Wells or Bruce Sterling.

The statement “energy cannot be created or destroyed” appears in print, in word, and in song multiple times on CAPACITOR. If this is true, Armstrong asks through his characters and story, where does our energy—our soul—go after the body fails us? We are everywhere and in every time, he notes, surrounded by the ghosts of the dead. Even if we don’t personally believe in an afterlife, we see “what they left with us.”

Ghosts appear frequently on the album, as does a vaudevillian preacher and a spiritual medium. In the end, though, especially by the final two tracks, Armstrong is critiquing the rise and predominance of “the machine,” any gadget that mechanizes us, makes us less than human, and distracts or captures our very soul and very essence, thus diminishing our humanity.

The person, it seems, can never be fully an individual without body and soul, not in war with one another, but in healthy tension.

 

The Meaning of It All, Continued

Musically, CAPACITOR immerses us into perfection itself. See above for the musicians Armstrong has brought together. He’s obviously a creator of community and a leavenor of talent. He’s also within the prog tradition, with musical passages inspired by, indirectly, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Big Big Train, and The Tangent and, directly, The Beatles. Indeed, one of the most rousing moments musically comes in “The Reaper’s Song,” a song that, in large part, pays homage to THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR by the Beatles (1967).

The white car.  Original photography by Dan Armstrong.  Booklet art by Robin Armstrong.
The white car. Original photography by Dan Armstrong. Booklet art by Robin Armstrong.

Sitting in a station, waiting for a train to come

Frighten all the people, standing on the platform

Trying not to push them over

Trains are gonna crush them

Stupid little people

Stupid little people

Another track, “White Car,” has absolutely nothing to do with the unfinished fragment of the Yes song from DRAMA (1980). Yes’s song will have to continue in my soul as an unresolved enigma until the end of time.

 

A Masterpiece

It goes without stating (though, I will state it anyway!), the last several years have been not only amazing when it comes to rock, but they have also been, probably, the best years in the history of progressive rock.

2014 has been no different.

Please, however, don’t think of Cosmograf’s CAPACITOR as merely another Cosmograf release or as merely another prog rock release.

Of course, there is no such thing as “just another Cosmograf release,” though we might become a bit jaded when it comes to another “prog rock release.” There’s so much coming out at the moment, it would be understandable—if not forgivable—to take the historic moment for granted. Even with the somewhat overwhelming number of music cds appearing over the last several years, CAPACITOR is truly something special and, dare I use a word overused and misused for its sappiness, precious.

From my way of thinking, CAPACITOR is the best cd of 2014 and one of the best prog rock releases of all time. It is, at least this year, the one for all others to surpass. I very much look forward to those who embrace the challenge.

 

To pre-order for the June 2, 2014, release, please go here.

Progarchist and quasi-Kiwi Russell Clarke receives his copy and is quite elated.
Progarchist and quasi-Kiwi Russell Clarke receives his copy and is quite elated.