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No-Man - Flowermouth CD (album) cover

FLOWERMOUTH

No-Man

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.82 | 112 ratings

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JLocke
Prog Reviewer
4 stars No-Man is a strange one for me. At times I find myself getting in the mood to hear their music, but at other times the music itself ends up being such a mixed bag that I lose that high rather quickly. I think the more recent releases from the band are more-or- less 'not my cup of tea', but Flowermouth is really quite good, if not a little unexpected.

So, obviously I am interested in this project because Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree initially intended this to be his main project, but PT's success turned those tables for him rather quickly, and now No-Man takes a backseat to almost every other project the man works on. He isn't the singer, here, which is a little disappointing, but you get used to it. As far as I know, he isn't the main lyricist, either, which would account for the excessively corny subjects most of these songs seem to be surrounded by.

I'm warning you now: if you expect No-Man to be anything at all like Porcupine Tree, you're going to be sorely disappointed. In a way, it's ironic, because the early days of PT saw some truly brilliant modern Space-Rock to come from wilson, and since No-Man is very spacey and psychedelic itself, one would assume that early PT and No-Man have a good deal in common musically. That couldn't be any further from the truth. While the Space-Rock era of Porcupine Tree was full of interesting, fairly fast-paced trippy Rock beats, No-Man is in many ways a Pop group with psychedelic trimmings. The majority of the music is soft, ballad-esque and straightforward melodically and structurally, and yet through the actual presentation courtesy of Wilson, it feels more experimental than perhaps it actually is.

Much of the instrumentation is Steven Wilson all the way, and his Prog Rock influence fill the bars of the music with airy grace; undertones of the more experimental side of his compositional skills are present, but those elements never raise much above a whisper. You'll hear a lot of unusual sounds and ambience cushioning the live instruments, and you'll find yourself escaping into the soundscapes much like you would on an Ozric Tentacles record, and yet at the end of the day, this is still heavily rooted in Pop when it really counts, and that is why many may not find this band (or even this particular album) to their liking.

I mentioned the Ozrics for a specific reason; the opening riff on the first song, ''Angel Gets Caught in the Beauty Trap'' (what an incredibly cheesy title), sounds like it could have literally been lifted out of an Ozric Tentacles album. Yet, as I said, despite the close brushes this music has with Space-Rock, and despite how often that may occur, it doesn't make this band's music 'Prog' in and of itself. I think it progressive in that it pushes traditional music into braver territory, and successfully blends the genres together, but don't jump into Flowermouth thinking it's going to be the second coming, because it just isn't that kind of a record, and No-Man simply isn't that kind of a band.

The definitions and expectations aside, this is very strong music. I think it's certainly better than what Wilson release that year under the Porcupine Tree banner (the Staircase Infinites EP), and musically, it is clearly the spiritual successor to PT's Up The Downstair, which was released the previous year. The same musical tendencies are present here that were rampant on that release, yet much more subtle and buried underneath the more traditional music. Having said that, nothing else about the two albums are the same. At all. Up The Downstair had a lot more going on than this one, and in terms of mood, they are almost polar opposites.No-Man is mellowed out alot of the time, while Porcupine Tree is much more aggressive, and always has been, even during the early days.

The personnel on the album other than WIlson and Bowness are quite impressive, and it makes for good quality performances, yet I do feel that singer Tim Bowness struggles a bit with his own voice; often straining when hitting higher ranges, and whispering tunelessly when the notes in the melody drop below a certain point. I'm not sure if this was all done intentionally as a way of acting out the romantic attitude presented in the words themselves, or if is truly because Bowness isn't a very capable lead vocalist. I haven't heard all of this band's work yet, but I have heard enough to make a fairly educated guess that it's the latter possibility that rings truest. That's the biggest shame of it all, because we all know Steven Wilson has a very mellow, lovely singing voice, and he could have pulled it off much better. Then again, Bowness isn't credit as playing any instruments on this, so I suppose he wouldn't have had anything else to do if he didn't sing, here.

Regardless of whether or not the singer was the right choice, or not, Flowermouth is still a very well-done album, but one mustn't expect the wrong thing when diving into this music for the first time. It's mellow, beautiful and almost completely different from anything Wilson's other, more popular project has done. If you can accept that, I think you'll have a fun time. It's exceptional by No-Man standards, and as an entry point for the band, you can't really beat it.

So go, listen and enjoy. Just don't expect anything more than what it is: Fun, relaxing, slightly-corny (from a lyrical standpoint!) Space-Pop.

Happy, mellow listening.

JLocke | 4/5 |

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