REVIEW: Tim Bowness – Butterfly Mind

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It was approximately 2 years ago when I wrote about Tim Bowness‘ previous, aptly named album Late Night Laments,” how it was essentially late-night music, something to enjoy in the hours of twilight, maybe with a glass of fine Merlot, in solitude perhaps, being thoroughly submerged in the sound of beautiful melancholy. Now, the zen master of speaking silently through music is back with a new studio album. To be released on August 5th, 2022, via InsideOut Music, the new outing, entitled “Butterfly Mind,” continues exploring the depths of ambient melancholy in nothing short of a striking manner. If you’re feeling lost or out of place in this crazy world, this new post-prog offering could be just what the doctor ordered; like its predecessor, the new Tim Bowness full-length is headphones material par excellence, something to put on when you wish to make the outside world disappear completely for an hour or so. It is his seventh solo album and celebrates 40 years of making music. While showcasing the signature Tim Bowness hallmarks of atmospheric and plaintive, dreamy kind of prog-pop, “Butterfly Mind” might just as well be his most surprising effort yet.

Being such an insufferable prog nerd, I couldn’t help but notice that, for a post-prog album, the songs are relatively short. The only track clocking in at the standard 8+ minutes of a “proper” prog composition, “Dark Nevada Dream,” obviously caught my attention first. Traversing waist-deep in the ambient waters of NO-MAN and the sophisticated melancholy of artists such as David Sylvian, Elsiane, and Peter Gabriel, the song nicely takes on where the previous album left off. Once again, Bowness has surrounded himself with an awe-inspiring cast of collaborators, with this atmospheric epic featuring long-time NO-MAN reinforcement Ben Coleman on violin, house-music session singer Devon Dunaway on backing vocals, and post-punk-legend-come-film-composer Dave Formula on Hammond organ. The gospel-tinged organ intro leads to a haunting array of widescreen art-pop and the guitar motif popping up here and there has a distinct earworm quality to it.

Another standout track is “Only A Fool,” which was released with a lyric video already in June. The song features nothing short of a brilliant rhythm section of Richard Jupp (ex-ELBOW) and Nick Beggs, whose musical trajectory from the early-1980s new-wave synth-poppers, KAJAGOOGOO, to Steven Wilson‘s recent solo endeavors is breathtakingly unique, to say the least. Here, Bowness playfully explores sonic contradictions with this post-prog banger, gently nodding towards vintage new-wave aesthetics even. The melancholy impact of the chorus does not hit that far from, say, “I Like Chopin,” by the vintage Italo-disco outfit GAZEBO, albeit being a tad more up-tempo and simultaneously reminiscent of modern prog outfits such as LONELY ROBOT and FROST*.

The post-prog plot thickens on the track, “Always the Stranger,” which was also released as a single ahead of the album release. As the song simultaneously triggers subtle flashbacks of the experimentalism of RADIOHEAD, the sophisticated pop of TEARS FOR FEARS, and the atmospheric side of David Sylvian, you know these sonic cooks aren’t brewing their sonic concoction for the first time around. The song is absolutely haunting – Bowness sure does have a golden ear for nuance and detail.

As the album is bookended with “Say Your Goodbyes,” which is split into two individual, highly cinematic tracks, roughly 2 minutes each; I feel tempted to think that there might be some sort of an overarching narrative to the album. The track-listing may or may not hint at this as well. Then again, I guess it is up to the listeners to weave their own narrative – the music sure does tickle the imagination. For me, “Butterfly Mind” is subtly reminiscent of Peter Gabriel‘s soundtrack album “OVO,” released in 2000. The contrasts between the wide-screen ambiance of songs such as “Lost Player” and “About the Light That Hits the Floor” and the robust new-wave groove of tracks such as “After the Stranger” and “We Feel” plays out as though a selection on a movie soundtrack. It goes without saying that the album works best when listened through in one go.

Compared to “Late Night Laments,” this new selection of songs from the undisputed master of melancholy does not come off, perhaps, so plaintive despite the fact that there are plenty of quiet moments for introspection. At its most groovy, Bowness‘ new album resonates with an almost post-punkish air, proving that still, after 40 years, he is not afraid to explore new sonic terrains. “Butterfly Mind” is nothing short of a vibrant collection of haunting, cinematic songs that are layered thick with evocative detail – like poetry. It almost seems as though he has devised a way of thoroughly uniting poetry and music and, by doing so, demonstrating how intimately linked they truly are, maybe even to the point of almost becoming one and the same.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Say Your Goodbyes Pt.1
  2. Always the Stranger
  3. It’s Easier to Love
  4. We Feel
  5. Lost Player
  6. Only A Fool
  7. After the Stranger
  8. Glitter Fades
  9. About the Light that Hits the Floor
  10. Dark Nevada Dream
  11. Say Your Goodbyes Pt.2

Lineup

Tim Bowness – vocals, synths, optigan guitar, mellotron

Brian Hulse – guitars, keyboards, synths, programming

Nick Beggs – bass

Richard Jupp – drums, percussion

Label

InsideOut Music

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