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No-Man - Wild Opera CD (album) cover

WILD OPERA

No-Man

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.61 | 98 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Wild Opera is No-man's 3rd official full length LP. It was released in 1996, 2 years after the critically acclaimed 'Flowermouth'. It was also released on a new label than previously, the same label used by 'Spacemen 3' and 'Bark Psychosis'. The album is full of tracks that are still reminiscent of their previous album, but this time the songs are more improvised than they were previously. The dubs and loops used in this album are taken from sessions that were improvised, not written out and planned as previously. The songs are also deal more with dark subjects, and the tone of the songs also reflect that.

Even though the songs are composed on an improvised basis, they are mostly short, and with one exception, stay around the 5 minute mark. In my opinion, this actually makes them not only more accessible, but more enjoyable. Previously, No-man's songs reminded me of more dance floor music, while this album approaches the art rock style and is an important stepping stone towards the bands more progressive style.

Of course you still get Tim's lush vocals, but the influence of Steven Wilson is so much more apparent on this album. There are many times throughout the album when you can detect snippets of ideas that are similar in sound to Porcupine Tree's 'Voyage 34' or 'The Sky Moves Sideways' and also Wilson's early electronic music. For example, the flute in the trip-hop song 'Pretty Genius' is very reminiscent of Wilson's early sound. The turn from a distinct hard beat to psychedelic guitar meanderings in 'Radiant City' is an obvious Wilson trick.

There are a lot of jazz leanings in the feel of the music also. 'Sinister Jazz' and 'Taste My Dream' are great examples of this on the album, among other tracks. For the most part, the music is lush, dark and above all, very interesting. The trip hop aspects are there too, along with plenty of art rock aspects. You can feel the move the band is making towards the more sophisticated atmosphere and sound of what their future albums will sound like. 'Portishead' fans will appreciate this sound, as it is in the same vein as their music, maybe a little more lush, but many times just as experimental.

There are a few less interesting songs here, namely 'Infant Phenomenon' and 'Libertine Libretto', but other than these slightly mediocre tracks, there is plenty of originality and inventiveness to keep the listener satisfied. There is a slight tendancy towards ambience and the dance beat feeling is still there, but the music is a huge step forward throughout the album. Another great track here is 'Dry Cleaning Ray' which features an amazing and unique guitar solo. Steely Dan fans will appreciate 'Sheeploop' and some of the other tracks that lean a bit jazz-ward. Prog fans will appreciate that Mel Collins, Richard Barbieri and Robert Fripp provide much of the sample material on this album, and you will hear their influence on the album (for example; 'Radiant City', 'My Rival Trevor' and 'Time Travel in Texas') including some Frippertronic aspects. This turn more experimental and louder, with more guitar influence, on the last half of the album.

This album holds something for everyone. If you are not sure whether you like trip hop and dub/loop influences in Progressive Rock, then you should hear this album. Even though the lyrics at times get a little repetitive, everything else going on here will hold your attention and guarantee your returning to this album and this band many more times. The album is not their best, but it is still great, but the best is yet to come, and this album is a giant step towards that. Not only that, but it gets better everytime you listen to it. That is always a great indication of an excellent album. My favorites are always the one that have to grow on you. And there is plenty here to keep your intelligence challenged and your tastes appeased. Great addition to your collection.

TCat | 4/5 |

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