Memories of Machines – “Warm Winter”

17 05 2011

Memories of Machines is a collaboration between no-man vocalist Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra from the Italian band NosoundMemories of Machines formed in 2006, and Warm Winter is the band’s first release.

“Stories
Come out of other stories
Lead to other stories
New memories of machines”


The album opener, New Memories of Machines sets the scene for the album, which is a mix of electronic and acoustic sounds, making an album of songs alternating between traditional and ambient / classical arrangements.  The album kicks into life with the second track, Before We Fall, with a powerful interplay between the acoustic and electric playing of Giancarlo, and backing vocals from All About Eve’s Julianne Regan.

“It’s not love how you see me
It’s not love how we touch”

Listen to Before We Fall

iPhone / iPad link: http://soundcloud.com/tim-bowness/before-we-fall

Regular Bowness listeners will already be familiar with Beautiful Songs You Should Know, which appeared on no-man’s Schoolyard Ghosts album from 2008, as well as an earlier Nosound version in 2006.  The Memories of Machines version has a more organic feel than no-man’s take, and is driven by Marianne de Chastelaine’s emotive cello lines.

There is a lot of optimism in the first set of songs on Warm Winter, almost as if the early part of the album maps out the formative stages of a relationship (playing a prospective lover the songs that have defined your life to date, moving to an unfamiliar city, “Trading the ghosts for someone new”) and as the album progresses, the songs document the cracks that appear in the relationship.

Warm Winter is a piece of rare beauty, and I’m sure will be an album highlight for a lot of people.  It’s also possibly the most uplifting song sung by Bowness to date.  I personally find that sad songs are the ones that usually affect me emotionally, but Warm Winter is a rare exception to that rule.  Whilst it is certainly not a KC and the Sunshine Band soundalike, it is uncharacteristically positive.  The track also has one of Tim’s finest vocal performances, with echoes of mid-period Bowie in the vocal phrasing and ending with a powerful guitar solo (one of the few on the album) from Giancarlo.

The optimism starts to peel away with Lucky You, Lucky Me, and the appearance of the mellotron heralds an appearance from Steven Wilson (no-man / Porcupine Tree), who also adds guitar to the track, in addition to his role in mixing the whole album.  One of the highlights of the Warm Winter album is the mix, and the man Wilson (as usual) does not disappoint.  A lot of attention has also gone into the sequencing of the album, and it deserves your full attention, sounding at it’s best played in the way the band intended you to hear it, not with the songs scattered with no care all over some random playlist.

“I take my words
And use my words
To heal the hurt and the blame.”

Change Me Once Again is a tale of control and compromise, with a haunting chorus lit up by a simple piano riff and the layered vocals of Julianne Regan.

Listen to Change Me Once Again:

iPhone / iPad link: http://soundcloud.com/memoriesofmachines/change-me-once-again-1

Something In Our Lives features an appearance from OSI / Fates Warning’s Jim Matheos, whilst Lost And Found In The Digital World is built over Robert Fripp’s soundscapes and haunting trumpet from UMA’s Aleksei Saks, giving the track a Brilliant Tree era David Sylvian feel.

“Lost and found in the digital world.
Lost and found.
It’s time for letting go.”

Schoolyard Ghosts is a solo Bowness composition that was originally destined for the last no-man album of the same name, and although the song didn’t appear on the no-man album in the end, some of the tune leaked into no-man’s Mixtaped.

Add to this the performances on the track from recent no-man live band members Michael Bearpark, Stephen Bennett, Andy Booker and long-term Bowness collaborator Peter Chilvers, and the track Schoolyard Ghosts will sound familiar to most no-man listeners.

“You and Jules down vodka shots
To hide the feelings that you’ve got.
You love her eyes, you love her mouth,
You love her put on Rock-chick pout.”

An intensely personal Bowness lyric and the only track with real progressive leanings (the keyboard solo recalls …And Then There Were Three era Genesis), Schoolyard Ghosts has some wonderful interplay between the musicians.

“The schoolyard ghosts that haunt your dreams,
Hold you back and make you feel unclean.”

As the final note fades, the album’s closing piece, the nearly 7½ minute long At The Centre Of It All slowly fades into view.  This track became my instant favourite when I first heard the album, and my opinion hasn’t changed many months later.

A mostly electronic piece, with suspended piano notes and deep cello cutting through the glacial strings, a delay-heavy Bowness vocal intones

“All the things that were meant to be,
All the love you were meant to feel,
Became too hard to reveal.”

Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin contributes double bass to the song, as Giancarlo’s restrained guitar bookends the deep synth lines, as the “Beautiful Songs You Should Know”  sadly become “Just pointless lists at the centre of it all.”

A moving end to a beautiful album.

Tracklisting:

New Memories Of Machines (1.31)
Before We Fall (5.12)
Beautiful Songs You Should Know (4.59)
Warm Winter (5.34)
Lucky You, Lucky Me (4.17)
Change Me Once Again (5.56)
Something In Our Lives (4.11)
Lost And Found In The Digital World (5.14)
Schoolyard Ghosts (5.32)
At The Centre Of It All (7.26)

Memories Of Machines is:
Tim Bowness – vocals, guitar on Schoolyard Ghosts
Giancarlo Erra – guitars, keyboards

Produced and arranged by Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra
Mixed by Steven Wilson at Nomansland
Mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge

© 2011 Mascot Records

Buy Memories of Machines at Amazon UK
Buy Memories of Machines at Amazon US
Buy Memories of Machines from The Burning Shed

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Tim Bowness – live at the Estonian Embassy, London 19th April 2010

27 04 2010

Tim Bowness and his band – Michael Bearpark (Guitars), Steve Bingham (Violin / Loops) and Peter Chilvers (Piano / Textures) played a private show at the Estonian Embassy in London at the request of the Ambassador, Dr Margus Laidre.

The 45 minute set opened with the no-man song, Only Rain, which was a similar arrangement to the version played live by no-man in 2008, with Steve Bingham adding layer upon layer of looped violin.

Only Rain sequed into the first of two new songs (or new / old songs, more later), in All These Escapes.

The first of two Bowness / Chilvers California Norfolk songs came next, in the glacial Winter With You. Possibly my favourite California Norfolk song (with Post-Its a close contender), Winter With You has always been a piece of sparse beauty, and it worked well in this beat-free set.


no-mans Wherever There Is Light (from the 2008 album Schoolyard Ghosts) lost none of its emotion in this stripped back arrangement, and was one of the songs that suited the other-worldy feel of the wood-panelled room where the concert was taking place.

“Walk in and out of rooms, fall in and out of love” 

California Norfolk’s Days Turn Into Years was a real surprise, as it was presented as an epic 10 minute re-reading, and was subsequently very different from the album version. The song was driven by plucked violin strings, and deviated from its original arrangement about three-quarters of the way through the performance, building towards a gradual, powerful crescendo.

I always associate Days Turn Into Years with the lonely squalor of a bedsit existence, so it was a little strange hearing this particular song in the safety and comfort of the Embassy.

The third and final no-man song, Flowermouth‘s Watching Over Me, has almost become a signature tune at recent no-man / Bowness concerts, and the song has not aged at all, and I’ve yet to hear a bad performance of this song.

Unprotected was the only song from the My Hotel Year era, and was a b-side (does that term still exist?) from the Sleepwalker single. It worked well, even when shorn of all the electronica of the studio version.

The set ended with the debut live performance of Towards The Shore. This song, along with All These Escapes, was a song from Tim’s pre no-man band, Plenty. Towards The Shore, though written in the mid-80’s, is thankfully free from the midi-madness of that decade, and sounds as organic and as emotive as much recent Bowness related material.

“You swim towards the shore,
just as she drowns again.” 

Towards The Shore was another song that is likely to be a staple of the set-list for a long-time to come, and featured plenty (excuse the pun) of improvisation from the band, and layers of Bowness vocal loops towards the climax of the song.

2010 is shaping up to be a promising year for Tim Bowness fans, with the Plenty sessions, the ever evolving Memories of Machines project with Nosound’s Giancarlo Erra, and the first tentative steps towards a new no-man studio album.

Only Rain
All These Escapes
Winter With You
Wherever There Is Light
Days Turn Into Years
Watching Over Me
Unprotected
Towards The Shore 

Many thanks to the Ambassador, Dr Margus Laidre, for hosting the event at the Embassy.

Lyrics quoted © Tim Bowness
Tim Bowness website
no-man website
Burning Shed Tim Bowness store
All pictures on this page by Charlotte Kinson








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