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No-Man - Together We're Stranger CD (album) cover

TOGETHER WE'RE STRANGER

No-Man

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.08 | 262 ratings

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TCat
4 stars It's hard to believe that with all the EP's and collections of rare music from No-man, that in total, all they released were 6 actual studio albums. It is their last three that was where they found their real sound, as the first three were more along the lines of complex dance music, even though it was still interesting music. By the time of this album, 'Together We're Stranger' that Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness were settling into their style, beautiful music with a huge degree of lushness and this was also the style that fit Tim's airy style of singing. Together, I don't know if they were stranger, but their unique sound was anything but strange with Bowness' unique and easily identified trademark voice and Wilson's dreamy and psychedelic instrumentation, they became a team whose sound any prog lover should recognize. The two of them made up the band, and they always had plenty of session musicians to help complete the sound.

The first four tracks on this album were actually a suite and took up the first half of the LP. Beginning with the title track 'Together We're Stranger' we are led slowly into the dreamy, atmospheric and beautiful electronics and instrumentation of Wilson. When Tim's voice comes in, it just blends in with the dreaminess of it all. Wilson's signature sound is really apparent when the guitar comes in, slowly strummed with a strong echo helping to fill in the sound. Just like all other guitar greats like David Gilmour, Steve Howe, Steve Hackett and so on, Steve Wilson's playing is his own signature style. This track, even at 8 minutes and with its floating sound, just flies by as you immerse yourself into it and you hardly realize that there is no percussion keeping rhythm here. A strange vocal effect ends the track and leads it into the next track.

'All the Blue Changes' has a bit more movement with a soft percussive sound, and Tim begins singing his pensive vocals much sooner. Another beautiful track, this one has a more memorable melody even if it is more pensive. Rhythm gets further established as keys help to build the beat and the intensity until it levels off, yet still creating tension, but the instrumental layers still have the dreamy and atmospheric quality to them. Later, you will hear Wilson's voice come in as harmonics. The last part of the track just floats as it calms with the spacey sound of fading instruments. This also transitions to the next track.

'The City in a Hundred Ways' begins with layered reed instruments creating harmonic sounds with some dissonance that always tends to resolve itself. This lasts for only a few minutes before it follows into the last track of the suite. 'Things I Want to Tell You' begins with chiming meandering guitar and Bowness picks out his beginning note from the thin air and the pensive feeling continues. I have no idea how he can pick out his melody from the minimal and wandering guitar, harmonium and electronics and he stays pitch-perfect. Now that is talent. Things end minimally with just a barely discernable electronic drone.

Next comes the 10 + minute 'Photographs in Black and White'. Beginning with a slow acoustic strum and atmospherics, Tim again starts singing with a much more melodic sense this time. There is minimal toned percussion in the background and other keys slowly being added in. When the clarinet comes in, its almost a surprise, but a stirring and welcome one as it penetrates through your ears into your soul. As it continues, an organ becomes apparent which helps anchor the track. Then a nice chiming guitar with keys swirl together as Bowness' vocals become manipulated. The bass clarinet gives the song a deepness and then heavy guitars are added in contributing to an amazing atmosphere that is soft and dark at the same time. The track is amazingly lovely and it begs you to pay attention to it.

'Back When You Were Beautiful' starts with a simple electric piano and vocals with strummed guitar coming in later. This track is set up more like a standard song but still continues with the lush and peaceful yet slightly dark atmosphere that has permeated the album. The lushness of this music simply speaks to my soul. And yes, that is a banjo you hear there towards the end also. 'The Break-up for Real' is a bit more upbeat, but no percussion, just vocals and a faster strummed guitar. There's a bit of minimal percussion, reverb guitar and piano added in later. Wilson adds his voice towards the end. On the newer editions of the album, there is another version of this track called 'Drum Mix' which I haven't heard, but I would assume there are drums added to the track. There is also another track, which is also added to the vinyl version called '(bluecoda)' which consists of sustained keyboard chords, a wandering clarinet and the soft vocals of Bowness for a short 2+ minute song.

This album is quite minimal for the most part, but is a very lush and lovely album that, even with it's minimal nature just seems to fly by. The melodies are lovely, the instrumentals are perfectly layered and atmospheric and the music is still dynamic. I love this music, but even so, it still isn't the masterpiece that their next album 'Schoolyard Ghosts' would be. It is close though, and if it were possible, would get 4.5 stars.

TCat | 4/5 |

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