mixtaped is no-man’s first DVD, and it serves as an excellent introduction to the band once described as “Britain’s most underrated sorrowful sonic architects”, as well as offering much for the long-term fan.
The double DVD comes in two parts. DVD one is mixtaped, which is the whole recording of no-man’s London show from 2008 (the band’s first full live performance in 15 years), plus a live photo gallery.
The second DVD is titled returning, which contains an 85 minute documentary, the complete videos for several no-man songs, a no-man chronology and deleted scenes.
disc one – mixtaped
One thing that really stands out on the live DVD (as it did at the concert) is that no-man live are a very different beast to the studio incarnation.
The 2008 European shows surprised many with the power behind some of the songs. time travel in texas from this DVD is a prime example. The studio version (from 1996’s wild opera) is from the trip-hop era, and is dark and glitchy. The 2008 live version keeps the main arrangement but adds real muscle to the performance.
all the blue changes is one of the stand-out performances on this DVD. A slow-building crescendo, the song includes some wonderful interplay between guitarists Michael Bearpark and Steven Wilson.
days in the trees is a re-invention of one of the more well known no-man songs. Whilst it still keeps the spirit of the original song intact, this classic song, served up without the break-beats, and performed by this 2008 version of no-man, had a fresh new momentum.
lighthouse, from 2001’s returning jesus album, stayed faithful to the studio recording, and seemed to be a definite highlight for the audience on the night.
In fact, this performance reminded me why lighthouse is my most-played no-man track, and why the final section of the song is one of my favourite pieces of music ever. The guitar / violin interplay and subtle mood changes within in this performance are so moving.
A wonderful, slide-guitar infused take on carolina skeletons follows, and the atmospheric returning jesus is performed with a real lightness of touch.
The mixtaped DVD ends with two flowermouth tracks. things change features a guest performance from former no-man member Ben Coleman, who gives a blistering performance on electric violin. The concert ends with the beautiful watching over me.
The clarity of sound on this DVD, especially if played on a 5.1 system, is amazing. There is wonderful separation between the instruments, and tracks such as returning jesus, lighthouse and all the blue changes raise the bar on what a live DVD should sound like. The picture quality on the live disc is sharp and the colours are vibrant.
The detail is such that you can read the set-list on Stephen Bennett’s Mac that shows that the early no-man track housekeeping was to have been the last song in the set. In the end, this song was only played on the German date, and an audio only soundboard recording of this performance plays whilst the picture gallery is displayed on the mixtaped DVD.
The Director, Richard Smith, deserves special mention for the way the live disc is presented. It’s free of un-necessary quirky / gimmicky fade-ins and camera tricks. As someone who was at the concert, I feel that mixtaped serves as an honest and accurate reminder of that special evening. For those who were not lucky enough to see the live show, and are maybe new to the bands music, this DVD is a perfect introduction to the music of no-man.
only rain / time travel in texas / all sweet things / pretty genius
all the blue changes / truenorth / wherever there is light /
days in the trees (version) / lighthouse / carolina skeletons /
returning jesus / mixtaped / things change /watching over me
Oh, and before anyone pulls me up on the lack of capitals in the song titles, no-man are a band best experienced in lower-case, always.
disc two – returning
All too often, documentaries are tagged onto DVD’s merely as extras, and they often consist of a few soundbites tagged onto clips of the main feature. This is not the case with returning. Producer / Director Richard Smith has put together a feature that could have easily been issued as a standalone disc.
The 85 minute documentary features contributions from all previous members of no-man, as well as collaborators such as current live band members and the man responsible for the bands iconic artwork, designer Carl Glover.
The most revealing parts of returning come from seeing Bowness & Wilson working together in the studio and from some of the painfully honest comments about the background to certain key no-man albums.
One particularly poignant section is where the departure of Ben Coleman is discussed, from Ben’s perspective as well as from Tim & Steven’s. The wounds still seem to be raw, which make Ben’s appearance in the live show particularly touching.
The only disappointment with the documentary is that the bands’s former label One Little Indian declined to take part, and that some no-man material could not be used in the documentary (wild opera‘s music had to be replaced by demo versions).
The whole history of the band is covered, from the early days (including clips of a key 1989 gig) through to the recent schoolyard ghosts album. The collaboration with former Japan / Rain Tree Crow members Jansen, Barbieri & Karn is also covered, along with clips of videos and TV appearances from various points in the band’s history.
Disc two also includes the complete videos for several no-man songs, including a wonderful newly commissioned animated film for back when you were beautiful.
So, if you come to no-man as a curious outsider who is maybe a fan of Steven’s other band, Porcupine Tree, or as a long-time admirer, the mixtaped DVD is a must-have purchase, and one that stands up to repeated viewings.
View the mixtaped trailer:
Buy mixtaped at Amazon UK
Buy mixtaped at The Burning Shed
Visit the no-man website