One Little Indian Records, 2005
REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/19/2010
I discovered No-Man backwards. That is, I first heard their most recent work a few years back and have been working my way backwards through the catalog. One conclusion I have come to is the difficulty of labeling this band, or even encapsulating their sound into a brief description. But it's not hard to see where their creative juices flow from. The duo of multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson and vocalist Tim Bowness wear their influences on their sleeve for all to see. The obvious devotion to synth-pop, psychedelia, and trance, the nods to bands like King Crimson and Camel alongside Depeche Mode and Talk Talk, creates an invigorating and complex mixture.
The opening track, “Angel Gets Caught In the Beauty Trap,” and the bright keys that open it, are a far cry from the doleful lamentations that color much of their latter work. Not to say that Flowermouth isn't steeped in the plaintive qualities of mood and emotion that exemplify their best releases; it is. The common thread within the No-Man world is the sense of ennui exemplified nicely in the song “You Grow More Beautiful:” “I look for nothing in you / You grow more beautiful as I fade away.” This cut shifts the mood with a funky rhythm of the type that disappears off the No-Man landscape in the future, then melds during the chorus into a delicate cascading synth run that should raise chills on the neck of any fan of the late ‘80s British pop music scene.
“Shell Of A Fighter” starts off like Depeche Mode and winds up like Nine Inch Nails. “Simple” drifts from a landscape of alien electronica to a riffed up funky groove. There are really no rules here; they pull whatever moves them from where it fits in their vision. Rather than sounding hodge-podge, it's effortlessly smooth. Much of the album has a mellow, dreamy quality, but No-Man doesn't follow any clear path. Techno beats and frenetic guitar solos rear their heads in unlikely but flawlessly timed spots.
Rounding out the original nine tracks on this release are two bonus tracks. “Born Simple” is a trance soundscape that offers little, while “Angle” is an invigorating remix of “Angel Get Caught In the Beauty Trap” full of catchy drum loops and some deliciously moody sax work that rightly deserves it's place here. As always, with Wilson behind the mixing board, Flowermouth is a rich and dense sonic experience. Deeply textural and crisp, this disc is an audiophile's dream. Exploring the history of No-Man has been an extremely satisfying journey, and Flowermouth is one of my favorite stops on the way.
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