“You caught the moments in the music by accident, you caught the music in the moment by chance” is one of many poignant lines on this luscious new album from the Doyen of Doomed Romance, or Tim Bowness as he is better known. That line comes from the lengthy and contemplative You’ll Be The Silence, possibly unintentionally part autobiographical and part observational, it forms a piece of the grand concept of Lost In The Ghost Light, which takes a wistful look at the game of chance that is a career in music, and the consequences, both professional and personal, for an aging rock star at the end of his career, struggling for relevance in an age where music becomes increasingly marginalised and disposable.
Tim Bowness has been around a long time now and has built up a solid reputation among his peers, and so in addition to his usual band, we find guest appearances from Ian Anderson, Bruce Soord and others. This is Tim’s fourth solo album and the third since Steven Wilson’s burgeoning solo career led to the stalling of his and Tim’s long-running vehicle for Tim’s soul-searchingly poetic lyrics, the shamefully underrated no-man. Will we ever see anything more from that particular combo? I hope so!
Lost In The Ghost Light seems to show evidence of a progression (ha!) into fulsome arrangements and a bigger production than on previous albums, with symphonic flourishes and subtle but unmistakable orchestral grandiosity being the order of the day on Nowhere Good To Go. It seems that this, dare I say it, elevated “prog” feel is down to the more conventional guitar and arrangement contributions of The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, who replaces Tim’s regular guitarist, the more edgy and experimental Michael Bearpark, on this album, although Michael continues with his role in the live band.
Tim likes to prowl a stage like a caged animal and this feral side to his nature is amplified by his occasional penchant for incursions of noisy guitar angularity, normally courtesy of his trusty man with the axe, here replaced by Soord, who obliges on Kill The Pain That’s Killing You with several bursts of scourging, effects-laden and acidic six-string action. It’ll scratch yer eyes out, but these nails are faultlessly manicured and polished, unlike the chipped, broken and bitten variety that Michael Bearpark often employs.
“The temperature is rising, but you’re still feeling cold”… ah, that’s more like the Tim we know, lost in the alienation of the protagonist’s creeping cynicism. This is Moonshot Manchild, another slow-paced and vaguely symphonic song that wends its stately way downstream to the office of the divorce lawyers. I’ll even forgive the rather Genesis-like synth led section. This is certainly Tim’s most “prog” album yet, but he does it with such effortless class it thankfully does not come across in the slightest cheesy or contrived.
Another lyrical theme from the Bowness songbook is regretful nostalgia, and World Of Yesterday is from those pages. A great keyboard solo from Stephen Bennett changes the key, ascending to a flute solo and then guitar, leading the song up to a more hopeful plateau where it stays until the end. Another classy arrangement, in fact “classy” about sums up the entire album, but I find myself yearning for the bleaker minimalism of yore, contrary bugger that I am.
Lost In The Ghost Light has been in the making for a number of years, indeed half the album was written between 2009 and 2014, with the rest written last summer. There have been references to the theme of the disillusioned, disconnected and fading entertainer cropping up on previous solo albums, but this is the place where the concept is fully realised. Definitely Tim’s most ambitious work to date, and consciously or not, an irresistible beckoning to the prog fan who may not have heard or connected with much of Tim’s earlier work. If this is the album that takes Tim to the next level then I for one wish him all the success in the world, his art certainly deserves it. It may be a tad too obviously “prog” in places for me, and some instrumental sections seem to be extended just to emphasise that particular appeasement. A minor quibble, it’s still a very good album.
Mixed and mastered by Tim’s old mate Steven Wilson, the deluxe CD issue comes with Bruce Soord’s 5.1 mixes of this album and Tim’s previous album Stupid Things That Mean The World. I’ve heard the latter and can tell you it makes it worth the entry price alone.
[Thanks to James R. Turner and his interview with Tim for shining a light on various reference points, used in my review. And also, you can read Mike Ainscoe‘s interview with Tim for TPA HERE.]
01. Worlds Of Yesterday (5:41)
02. Moonshot Manchild (8:58)
03. Kill The Pain That’s Killing You (3:44)
04. Nowhere Good To Go (4:46)
05. You’ll Be The Silence (9:01)
06. Lost In The Ghost Light (1:41)
07. You Wanted To Be Seen (5:32)
08. Distant Summers (4:06)
Total time – 43:55
Tim Bowness – Vocals, Backing Vocals, Synths and Rhythm Programming (track 6)
Stephen Bennett – Keyboards & Additional Guitars (tracks 1,2,4 & 5)
Bruce Soord – Guitars (tracks 1,3,5,7 & 8), Backing Vocals (track 1)
Colin Edwin – Electric, Fretless & Acoustic Bass Guitars
Hux Nettermalm – Drums (tracks 1,2 & 5)
Andrew Booker – Drums (tracks 3,4,7 & 8)
Ian Anderson – Flute (track 8)
Steve Bingham – Violin (tracks 7 & 8)
Charlotte Dowding – Violin Ensemble (tracks 3,4 & 5)
Andrew Keeling – String Arrangements (tracks 3,4 & 5), Flute (tracks 3,4 & 5), Acoustic Guitars (track 4)
David Rhodes – Guitar (track 3)
The ‘unknown’ Pete Smith – Rickenbacker Bass (track 7)
Kit Watkins – Flute (tracks 1 & 6), Waterphone (track 6)
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Countr of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 17th February 2017