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No-Man - Flowermouth CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.91 | 190 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars It's no coincidence that TALK TALK's manager also managed NO-MAN at this stage of their career. This album has the same minimalist pop/progressive sensibility as do TALK TALK's last two albums, 'Spirit of Eden' and 'Laughing Stock'.

This is the first of two essential NO-MAN recordings. I tend to over-use adjectives, so I'll be careful and say that on this album NO-MAN find their voice - and it is one of gentle beauty, of wonder mixed with the mundane, awe at the ordinary. I can see why STEVEN WILSON would want to remain allied to someone with TIM BOWNESS's inward vision, despite all the success WILSON has experienced with other projects.

'Angel Caught in the Beauty Trap' tells us all we need to know about this band, now reduced to a twosome (COLEMAN still guests, along with a long list of prog-rock and art-rock luminaries). Liquid synth loops, BOWNESS's reflective voice, piano, trumpet, violin, sax, frippertronics, guitar all layered to create a mesmerising sound that haunts the listener like the very best minimalist music can do. The falling piano motif accompanied by BOWNESS's words 'Even now I see you fall' is melancholic and evocative. Listening to this makes my chest ache with suppressed emotion.

Devotees of NO-MAN's pre-'Flowermouth' sound were surprised to say the least by this incarnation, the opening track in particular. Here WILSON brings all the space rock skills he's honed on 'Voyage 34' and 'Up the Downstair' and recreates them with a full band and a dance beat. At this point in WILSON's career, NO-MAN got the best songs. PORCUPINE TREE was merely a solo project, a sideshow to this. More palatable, perhaps, to progressive ears, but this is, in my opinion, the better music.

'You Grow More Beautiful' reintroduces dreamy pop, but with more sophistication than on the previous year's release. 'Animal Ghost' is again minimalist, but with a big beat and lush bass underpinning the atmospherics. Synth, flute and beat provide a platform for the mind to soar. As other reviewers have noted, 'Shell of a Fighter' is outstanding, both lyrically and musically, a typical NO-MAN two-parter, minimalist dance to start with, with a quiet central section and an explosive finale with great guitar work. 'Simple' and 'Things Change' are the album's other essential tracks. 'Simple' uses a LISA GERRARD voice sample (she was commonly sampled in the early days of UK techno, by ORBITAL for example) to create its IDM atmosphere, and concludes with a gorgeous extended bass and synth melody and a minute of spacey keyboards. 'Things Change' is another two-parter, a simple organ motif opening and building to an epic guitar solo. Irresistible.

NO-MAN was part of the One Little Indian roster, well known for its techno and arty acts (BJORK in particular). It's as well to remember this when considering a purchase. But if you're broad-minded enough to consider good music from whatever source, this is an outstanding album. Anyone interested in PORCUPINE TREE's space-rock phase ought to acquire this CD, reissued in 1999 with two extra tracks from 'Flowermix' (one a remix of 'Angel').

A genuine five stars, with the caveat that at this transitional point in their career NO-MAN are not primarily a progressive act. The brave, however, are in for a treat.

russellk | 5/5 |


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