Tim Bowness presents an ethereal collection of new songs that, despite the tranquil setting, have a hard and disturbing core.
Release Date: 28th August 2020
Label: InsideOut Music
Format: CD / DL / vinyl
It’s been a busy old time for Tim Bowness in terms of his profile. Not only releasing an album with Peter Chilvers and a NoMan record with Steven Wilson, he’s kept busy with The Album Years podcasts (also with Mr Wilson) and had time to add to his solo catalogue.
For a musician who takes time to satisfy his high degree of perfectionism, Late Night Laments has evolved surprisingly quickly. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the album is relatively stripped back yet instantly recognisable Bowness. Cool and radiant arrangements hide a lyrical darkness.
Musically, there’s a predominance of the vibraphone/marimba sound marshaled by regular drummer Tom Atherton, whose day job is rendered obsolete within the musical palette. No need for the rolling and tumbling that marks The Warm Up Man Forever or the thumping intensity of The Great Electric Teenage Dream. Late Night Laments is all about delicate glissando guitar, Barbieri atmospheres and the mysterious dianatron (see our interview with Tim).
The guest book that usually reads like a who’s who is strangely quiet. Of course, Steven Wilson’s presence hangs over the mix, but the most telling contribution comes with Kavus Torabi’s spiraling solo on the dreamlike I’m Better Now. A song where the character seems to have comes to terms with their demons, quashed their inner feelings, but has clearly not.
Working with long term partner from Plenty (and more) Brian Hulse, the duo have unlocked the secret of combining lush and seductive music with a series of dark and ominous themes. Stick a pin into the lyric book and you’ll find “no tenderness at all, like Paradise after the Fall,” no place in the line for you, “I hated how I feel, so I struck the only deal I could,” lapsed behaviour and troubled souls.
Lyrically, those album themes include generational divides (yes – some of us can appreciate that…), social exclusion, and the true story of a much-loved children’s author and their descent into madness (again, Tim expands on the tale in our interview). On the other hand, The Hitman Who Missed seems almost comedic. One from the Ealing Studios maybe, housed in a cool musak.
For all the isolation, the melancholy gazing back and the sense of loss, hardly an instrument is used in anger. The intimate concoctions that leave you holding your breath are almost a throwback to what Nick Drake might be doing these days. It’s all packaged up with Jarrod Gosling’s wonderful artistic imagery of a character immersed in a bubble of reflection, uncovering the treasures of Tim Bowness’ ruminations.
He has this knack of seducing you in with a smoothness under which lies what could be both uncomfortable and intensely moving – especially if the theme has personal relevance. A reason why Porcupine Tree’s Half Light is a song that’s almost an impossible listen.
“I thought that I was empty and empty I’d remain” might be the key line in album closer One Last Call, but it’s no surprise as Late Night Laments is totally absorbing and thought-provoking. It could be the most intense easy listen you’ve had for a long time. An album made for you to settle in your comfy chair, draw the curtains and get lost in your own world.
Read our lengthy Q&A with Tim here.
Listen to Northern Rain (video by Peter Chilvers who mainly creates visuals for Brian Eno) here: