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5 stars This is for far the best no man,s album. May be the best atmospheric prog rock album of all times. Sometimes,with some songs, i feel chicken skin. Melodies are beautiful,Bowness vocals drive you to the deepest thoughts. Steven Wilson instrumentation create an atmosphere between heaven and hell.

Fantastic work 5 stars

Report this review (#169948)
Posted Monday, May 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The art of nostalgic melancholia as practiced by BOWNESS and WILSON.

Looking back at childhood is a common thread in the creative arts: from music to art to literature, there's a fascination with what we've left behind on becoming adults. 'Schoolyard Ghosts' is a compelling addition to this genre.

It's fascinating to compare BOWNESS' lyrics to those of WILSON, his collaborator in NO-MAN, on PORCUPINE TREE's album 'Fear of a Blank Planet'. Here we reflect on 'loving arms and cowboy guns/mothers holding wayward sons', and are told to 'take a taxi through the snow/tell them you love them/Don't let go'. On 'Fear of a Blank Planet', however, parents are held up to ridicule: 'My mother is a bitch/My father gave up ever trying to talk to me', and 'When my mother and father/gave me their problems/I accepted them all'. Here 'kids shout in summer rain', while there '[kids are] stoned in the mall again'. Thus BOWNESS offers a less nihilistic and more positive view of childhood than does WILSON. In fact, the pills WILSON bemoans on PORCUPINE TREE's recent release are in BOWNESS' world reserved for adults: 'The schoolyard ghosts, the playtime fears/You take your pills, they disappear.'

However, what resonates with the listener to this NO-MAN album is, as with all their albums, the atmosphere. Be it a discordant bell in 'Pigeon Drummer' or a simple upward tone by tone progression in 'All Sweet Things', the placement of sound - the mix, the arrangements - is all-important. Stripped of their adornment, these are simple BOWNESS ballads. However, the essence of NO-MAN is STEVEN WILSON's arrangements, evoking an atmosphere of contemplation, of reflection and nostalgia, a bitter-sweet looking back to a past fondly remembered but full of mistakes and regret.

That said, these compositions and arrangements are a step back from the sensational 'Together We're Stranger', NO-MAN's previous album. At their best (Flowermouth, Together We're Stranger) NO-MAN produce some of the most heart-achingly beautiful music on the planet. This album - by design, I'm certain - draws back from the delicious electronic ambience of those albums, using instead strings, acoustic guitars, flutes, and a variety of other analogue instruments. The effect is less blissfully dreamy and more organic, but perhaps a little less satisfying.

There are oddly contrary moments here: the strange samples in the opening track that cut across the atmosphere of perhaps the album's outstanding track (and the way the track comes to an abrupt end a la DREAM THEATER's 'Pull Me Under'), and PAT MASTOLETTO's savage drums on 'Pigeon Drummer' are but two examples. But there are moments of pure NO-MAN exaltation: part 3 of the epic 'Truenorth' is float-away glorious, as is the culmination of 'All Sweet Things'. 'Wherever There is Light' offers an achingly beautiful insight into Jane, a woman on the outside looking in: 'wherever there is light/she follows.' I cannot stop myself crying as the mellotron and flute combine to create such sadness. The theme is continued in 'Song of the Surf', WILSON's trademark desolate aural landscapes dovetailing with BOWNESS' bleak lyrics. No man does it as good as this. The album concludes with the ultimate look back: 'You'd kill for that feeling once again'.

The bonus material is excellent: a DVD with a surround sound version of the album and videos of three songs, and a bonus CD with alternate takes of some of the tracks.

Though without the full progressive feel of their previous album, this record's shimmering beauty is yet another landmark, perhaps the most satisfying nostalgia trip since BOARDS OF CANADA's 'Music Has the Right to Children'. Connoisseurs of beauty and ambience (of the sort latter-day TALK TALK offered) ought to acquire this, and much of NO-MAN's back catalogue, forthwith.

Report this review (#170277)
Posted Thursday, May 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars An interesting, atmospheric, even ambient album, but by no means the masterpiece some believe it to be. Bowness's voice is fragile and wistful, but he tends to sing all on the one level, with no highs or lows. The songs likewise also seem to be on one level, not much variation here. The sort of music you have to be in the mood for. Late at night, with the lights low, or off, if you're in contemplative mood, this is ideal. If you're thinking of playing something on a bright, sunny, summer's day, this isn't for you. Feeling optimistic? Happy? Go and listen to something else. Feeling depressed? This is for you! I'm not knocking it. the production is up to the usual Wilson standards, and his stamp is all over it. I much prefer his 'proper' band though, PT. This has its niche, its place however, in people's collections. Certainly not the worse thing I've ever heard, nor the best. Enjoyable in small doses.
Report this review (#170618)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Although admittedly this album is not for everyone. It is for me! Schoolyard Ghosts is an album of Lush Sonic landscapes, evocative lyrics, and a haunting beauty that is not often found in much of todays music. To listen to this album one must be in a certain mindset, a proper mood for listening might be to sit back and listen letting it wash over you like the waves on a moonlit beach.

Perhaps put this in your car stereo and drive through the countryside on a full moon night. Letting go of all the past, knowing that everything will be alright and moving towards the future without worry or care. Tim Bowness has a certain style that is soft filled with passion and grace. You survived yourself. You survived inside the lost world. The dreams of love repeat. Tim's lyrics from Truenorth paired with Steven Wilson's sound paintings live together in perfect harmony in a timeless space.

Steven has once again demonstrated that he is a master at mixing in 5.1 surround. You can tell the man takes his love for music and minute details to the hilt in this album. There are beautiful string arrangements, mixed with texturing of crackles and pops but all in the right places and at the right times. This album is haunting but in a beautiful way. The duo of Wilson and Bowness once again create a timeless masterpiece.

This is a beautiful work of art! I found myself looking at the packaging, reading the liner notes, and dissecting the lyrics. I felt as if I were back in my childhood days when you would buy an LP and do all the things mentioned above. Although we have all been in the schoolyard and some of those memories are haunting, we have all moved on and found that we have survived. Do yourself a favor, listen to this album and let it take you back, wash over you like a warm blanket of sand, and let it wash back out to sea without holding on.

I think that you will find the beauty in this if you just stop your world for an hour or so and let all your cares drift out the window and melt away into the ether.

Report this review (#170815)
Posted Monday, May 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion, this is not the easiest No Man's album for a start with the band (I personally would advise for Returning Jesus). But the quality of composition and interpretation is once again impressive, as usual it fits well with lyrics (these guys work together for a long time). It all deals with atmospheres of nostalgia and melancholy, in a very soft and contemplative way (no surprise here, but it still evolve this way since last album...). More important use of strings and acoustic instruments for the arrangements: a distinctive point with its predecessors. The 5.1 DVD-Audio version has an excellent mix and sound quality (as usual...). (But I also appreciate the stereo version.) In conclusion, if you like to listen to albums entirely, doing nothing else than listening and enjoy the work of artists, this one may please you as it pleased me.
Report this review (#171959)
Posted Thursday, May 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Steven Wilson must be a busy man. Following on shortly from recent Porcupine Tree and Blackfield releases, this is another product of his partnership with Tim Bowness. It's certainly a beautifully packaged CD, the grey cover fitting in nicely with the title of the CD and the melancholy feel of the music inside. Those of you looking for PT-style guitar epics will be disappointed here, this is quiet, atmospheric music in the vein of David Sylvian or later Talk Talk. It is music that demands to be listened to, preferably on headphones. It is not the sort of music to play in the background, or on your iPod whilst walking down the high street but set aside the best part of an hour, sit down in a quiet room without interruptions and prepare to be hugely rewarded by this CD.

Wilson himself contributes much of the instrumentation, along with other prog luminaries such as Theo Travis (who seems to be taking over from Jimmy Hastings as the prog wind player of choice) and Pat Mastelotto. Fellow PT-ers Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrison also feature. The special edition has a DVD with a 5.1 mix of the CD and 3 videos, shot in cover matching black, white and grey. Wonderful stuff.

Report this review (#172401)
Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well, the man's name circulates more every year and I have attempted to enjoy his work in various projects and collaborations, but, well... more Wilson, more middle-of-the-road atmospheric rock with arch lyrics. Go on, tell me I'm wrong. ;P

Schoolyard Ghosts is epic where epic is a synonym for slow, emotional where emotional is a synonym for predictable, formulaic, suffuse with a constant numb echo and, over all, crushingly dull. When the mist parts to reveal songs with a little thrust and power to them (Pigeon Drummer has a stomping bridge) they are almost misleadingly effective, no matter if you actually *like* them, since both enjoyment and repulsion are valid and valuable experiences compared to listening to the first two sleepwalking songs all the way through.

The scary thing is that No-Man must have enjoyed assembling this CD since most songs on it have the signs of being played with passion and conviction but, at least for me, this just doesn't translate into either a positive or a negative. I don't think the lyrics are all that successful in plying the emotions either - perhaps I am simply too guarded against their style but I don't think they've attempted to reach me. This is a long way from absolute music yet it is too self-absorbed to contain much with which you can identify.

Look into this CD if your collection is missing a set of lullabies for the musically unexperimental or if you need to anaesthetise someone at short notice and lack the drugs. If, however, you'd rather load your shelves with albums of worthwhile music, then skip this album.

Report this review (#174148)
Posted Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Nice atmospheric 'ambient rock', but nothing to rave about. Even more, some tracks scream 'late TALK TALK!', at least they wish to be treated that way, but no. While TALKies were making Pop music using extraordinary harmonies and chord progressions, NO-MAN makes extraordinary Pop music by using pretty simple and predictable hooks. Good for Pop, nothing for Prog. OK, leave alone 'Prog-not Prog' sentiment; I just didn't like the whole album. It flows moody and may bore you to sleep - yes, this is me, a Post-Rock Collab, saying this! Guys tried hard to free their music from any rough edges and finally shape it in a some kind of a sphere, without any kind of detail to stick to. You like it while it's playing - you forget it the very next second you turned it off. Prog for supermarkets; Ambient for elevators; background Rock. 2 stars, because of 'Truenorth' mainly, where mr.Wilson's hand is felt the most
Report this review (#179894)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I haven't known before this duo featuring the PORCUPINE TREE frontman Steven Wilson and singer Tim Bowness, nor have I really listened to their other projects. So I probably was freer from expectations than the previous reviewers, many of whom clearly were somehow disappointed, while several others rave about this album. I'm somewhere in between. This is peaceful, nearly-narcotic, ambient-ish rock nothing to rave about, but who says it should be raved about? I was gladly surprised about the beauty of this music. I would compare it to DAVID SYLVIAN in its elegant melancholia, only perhaps slightly more unmemorable in compositions, and of course Bowness, a very nice voice himself, can't beat Sylvian's vocals.

I had a copy including a bonus DVD. For most part it's a so called audio-DVD playing the same music accompanied with a still photograph, but it also features three videos. 'All Sweet Things' and an abbreviation of 'Truenorth' are black-and-white arthouse videos with a pleasant slow pace, showing the playing and nightly views of the streets etc. What I instantly was charmed by was the colour video of 'Wherever There Is Light'. It shows only nature (trees, plants, sky) in a wonderful hazy sunlight and sunset. It is really far from a typical pop music video, and for that very reason it is one of the loveliest I've ever seen. The album is enjoyable (well, 'Pigeon Drummer' has more experimental playing which I'm not fond of) but perhaps a bit too monotonous for the 53 minutes. I like it enough for 3½ stars.

Report this review (#180209)
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars Handsomely crafted, emotive, and lush with genuine beauty, Schoolyard Ghosts encapsulates everything No-Man fans should expect from this rare duo in a package eager for discovery by new listeners.

Songs here are mostly mid-length with much variety, but all drift with gentle ease and ambiance. Browness' smooth voice croons out a few memorable melodies, but in general sticks to melancholy serenades. His voice isn't for everyone, but for those seeking something relaxing will be greatly rewarded. Similar to the excellent Together We're Stranger, Schoolyard Ghosts abandons pop-sensibilities seen in the group's early work for more mature, thoughtful compositions. Somewhat repetitive, but rewarding after multiple listens simply for the sake of discovering the many layers of music hidden in the ambiance. Returning fans will notice lots of new sounds and experimentation as well.

For No-Man neophytes looking this way via interest in Steven Wilson, then this album is a good starting place. His instrumental work shines throughout as well-- for me exceeding the artistry he's been demonstrating lately with Porcupine Tree (just don't expect any solos).

As a fan of the heavy-stuff, music like is essential to round out my musical palette. It's perfect for relaxing, thinking, romancing, etc., and a good place to investigate the group. Expect plenty of gentle, smooth sounds.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#207272)
Posted Sunday, March 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars First, I'll break order of review by bringing third song here. Switching between noise and calm parts can be good sometimes. But as shown in Pigeon Drummer, I'm almost afraid of these loud passages, because it's acceleration from 0-100 in half of a second. It's simply too sudden, too unnatural and one don't have time to prepare for it. OK, let's get back.

As I understand this, it's some kind concept album about childhood memories, some of them are bad and that there's Steven Wilson involved (big three of "involving names in prog, Portnoy, Wilson and Stolt) and of course, I was interested. This is my first No-Man album, so I can't compare (except few similarities with PT), but I don't like it. It's more like feeling. But fortunately, the terrible experience of Pigeon doesn't happen again. Except this one, this album contains only calm songs. Really calm, like almost totally dead. Some may call it atmospheric and indeed, it has some kind of feeling shining from it (can sound actually shine?), but it's really not my cup of tea. I want more, or at least anything going on.

Very slow music, playing with sounds, because even I was able to overcome evil Drummer, I found nothing on other side, or almost nothing, except few good ideas (such as in Truenorth). Which is sad, because first two songs are quite good.

So 4(-), one strange suggestion, try to play games like F.E.A.R. 2 or Condemned the Criminal Origins, where abandoned school at night, full of (let's say) demons location appears. And guess what, I get the same feeling when listening this. It's story about past and yes, "Pigeon Drummer" is terrible song with "evil" sound, but it's all part of the play. I have to say that it took me long, long time to overcome this and enjoy this album

Report this review (#208460)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars It's hard to believe it's been 5 years since their last album "Together We're Stranger". Of course Steven Wilson is a very busy man isn't he. As usual you can expect lots of atmosphere and melancholic moods.The lyrics are significant on this album (Tim Bowness wrote them all), they are a big reason why I like this record so much. Even the albums title and the picture on the cover made me think back. I have some good memories and bad during the 12 or so years of school, i'm mostly just glad that part of my life is over, although I wish I was as alive now as I was back then.

"All Sweet Things" is really typical NO-MAN if there is such a thing. Piano and those reserved vocals from Tim early before acoustic guitar joins in. Check out the mellotron choirs before 2 1/2 minutes and later after 3 minutes. Such a sad song though about a person who takes pills to forget the past and also the present. "Beautiful Songs You Should Know" opens with strummed guitar,fretless bass from Colin Edwin, vocals and those guitar soundscapes. Cello 1 1/2 minutes in. Listen to Tim's passion as he sings "I want to give you all the beautiful dreams you can bear". A song about wanting the best for our children. "Pigeon Drummer" is the only let down for me. The bombast that is so loud it really ruins the song in my opinion. Even if it's mean't as a contrast I think they went to far. "Truenorth" is a top three track for me. The first part of it depicts someone who's life and future seem so futile and meaningless. Comparing their life to winter when nothing grows, you just try to survive and endure. The next stanza is so moving as Tim encourages this same person "Take a taxi through the snow, tell them you love them, don't let go". That line about taking the taxi through the snow is so meaningful when compared to the opening stanza. Even the music changes before the second stanza to a more spacey and calming soundscape. Flute from Travis joins in. Acoustic guitar joins in as it's building then Tim sings those powerful words I already mentioned about driving through the snow. Mellotron follows as he sings "You survived yourself, you survived inside the lost world". There is a hopeful and bright ending to this song.

"Wherever There Is Light" is pastoral with pedal steel guitar and acoustic guitar. More emotional lyrics on this track. Flute 1 1/2 minutes in, mellotron follows. Pure emotion after 2 1/2 minutes. A top three track. "Song Of The Surf" is the other top three song for me. I like the PT feel to open with those electric guitar sounds. They are contrasted with a spacey FLOYD vibe before 1 1/2 minutes. The contrast continues. Brilliant track. Lyrically this is painful for me to read. "Hopes drowning in the hurt". "Streaming" is another sad song about the summer days being almost over, of course there is more to these lyrics then the season. Beautiful song. "Mixtaped" is the final track. More fantstic lyrics. Of course it's melancholic. I like the guitar soundscapes before 3 1/2 minutes. It's spacey as vocals almost whisper 5 minutes in "You'd kill for that feeling once again (remember), afloat on the ocean, beyond the pain".

Despite some minor flaws there's way too much here that I like to give it less than 4 stars.

Report this review (#219893)
Posted Friday, June 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Spreading the depression, one note at a time.

This is what this album really is: the attempt by two talented guys to make us feel forced empathy for them, to make us stand in their shoes and get as depressed as they probably are. I don't know much about Bowness but I have heard pretty much every major release by Steven Wilson's main band (PORCUPINE TREE) and side projects (BLACKFIELD) to understand that his music will never be happy or optimistic.

But at least (and most importantly) his music has always been good, sometimes extremely good. Combining his moods and feelings with energy and passion, Wilson has given me enough good experiences to consider him one of my favorite prog artists. That's why I can't help feeling disappointed about this album.

The mood of the music is always sad, melancholic, nostalgic; most of the time I get the idea of longing, of a person trying to capture something that's gone forever. This wouldn't be bad just by itself, as there are countless examples of absolutely majestic sad music (I have always preferred works written in minor keys, as a matter of fact.) But on this release, what we get is a series of repetitive, ultra-simple, lazy pessimistic songs that only appeal to the weak side of us listeners, but without finesse. The album tries to get us by the brute force of its sadness, without any interesting music to back it up. The melodies, usually a strength of any Wilson-created opus, lack beauty and sad music without beauty is just food for the stomach, not for the soul. The complete absence of energy throughout the album brings it one step closer to boredom. The harmonic work is so run-of-the-mill it sounds mundane, trivial. The atmosphere and magic that Wilson always generates are just turned into aural representations of the pathetic.

I was so excited to hear this generally-praised album that the disappointment was stronger than usual for prog records. I know Steven Wilson is a sure bet for me in his other projects, but NO-MAN is NO-MORE for me.

Report this review (#220624)
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ahh No-Man, they're kind of like Morrissey, in the fact they need to cheer up.

Tim Bowness is a very sombre person. His lyrics detect a bit of irony sometimes, but to be honest, he does say some colloquila phrases now and then to grab the listener's attention (I think he mentions pub quiz a few times)

No-Man have kind of faded in and out of everyones lives, with their early trip hop days and early pop melodies thrown in to the creative fire. They've now become a little more Prog, with the fact that Tim's own personal musician (or slave as i like to call him) Steven Wilson own amazing band Porcupine Tree (if you haven't heard of them...get out of town) had seen their own sucess, ever since they started to move away from their crazy psychadellic days.

This album was a great album. It was full of beauty, eeire atomsphere & the work of a genius behind the instruments (Steven Wilson). There was some things that I would have arranged better (like the odd vocal harmony every once in a while, have Steven sing a few songs, cause to be honest, I prefer him as a vocalist, and mabye a more prominent rythym section.) Although, with trip hop and post rock, it's more about the atmosphere of the music, rather than the personal individuality of the songs. (No one ever sings a Godspeed You Black Emperor song, except for psychiatric patients)

1. All Sweet Things - This is a very beautiful song, that reminds me of Pink Floyd & The Velvet Underground. It's very melancholic in a Smashing Pumpkins sort of way. The added ambience adds to the mood. The ending is very abrupt as well...

2. Beautiful Songs You Should Know - I love the title of this song. It reminds me of a slower Smashing Pumpkins song, with an eerie twist. Still a great song.

3. Pigeon Drummer - WTF!!! What is up with the massive heavy bit. I know Steven had flirted with metal, but with No-Man it seemed a bit out of place. But I wasn't expecting it, so cuodos. The rest of the song is incredibly eerie and the ambience adds to the horror.

4. Truenorth - A very weird song. A chimy piano part over a lovely string section is prominant and rememerable. The middle section has a Van Der Graaf Generator vibe to it, and some ideas taken from The Incredible String Band. The end parts reminds me of a sinister version of Pink Floyd. The strings accompanying the music box is very beautiful and well crafted. The end reminds me of Eels. (Not the fish, the band)

5. Wherever There Is Light - Reminds me of the Porcupine Tree song Feel So Low. The strings and flute sections are very beautiful. The music reminds me of Final Fantasy.

6. Song Of The Surf - The slide guitar in this song is quite cool. Again, another Velvet Underground sounding song.

7. Streaming - Imagine Eels, jamming with Massive Attack...then this is the song for you.

8. Mixtaped - A very laid back song. Very experimental and more ambience than an actual song.

CONCLUSION - This wouldn't be the best No-Man album, but it's still a great buy for anyone who has money...

Report this review (#261990)
Posted Friday, January 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Nice songs are presented here, but they are largely dull, bland, and without any progressive tendencies whatsoever. Tim Bowness isn't as good a singer as Steven Wilson, and so that's a negative right off that bat. Most of the music is pleasant- good for a rainy day, I suppose- but this is not progressive rock in the least (one shouldn't be fooled by the personnel or the track times). It is decent music, but often flavorless, and sometimes very terrible. It hints in the direction Wilson would take Porcupine Tree with The Incident.

"All Sweet Things" Sweet piano and acoustic guitar offers a beautifully strong foundation for a breathy, unsure vocal. The choral Mellotron that eases out of the backdrop is a somberly handsome touch.

"Beautiful Songs You Should Know" Acoustic and tremolo electric guitars continue this gentle trek. Light hand percussion and an obtrusive fretless bass add simple textures. However, the title may as well be, "Beautiful Songs You Won't Remember."

"Pigeon Drummer" Following a minimalistic, eerie introduction, the album takes on a completely different costume, this one menacing and loud initially, but haunting throughout. That heaviness returns in full, however, and it's one of the nastiest things to pour forth from my speakers- a wall of distorted noise. Come to think of it, this all could have been on the dreadfulness that is Insurgentes.

"Truenorth" Light piano begins this lengthy, sleepy track that drags on longer than it reasonably should. One of the melodies and the use of the choral Mellotron are practically the same has that of the opening track. Electronic drums and some other instrumentation enter in toward the end, but by then, this piece has worn out its welcome and sent me to sleep.

"Wherever There Is Light" Gentle clean electric guitar and soft vocals make up this lovely song, with the steel guitar and flute adding so much to the piece in their own subtle ways. Along with the first song, this is one of the more powerful parts of the album.

"Song Of the Surf" Gritty yet soft electric guitar introduce more breathy vocals. In all honesty, both the guitar sound and chord progression sound borrowed from The Mars Volta's "Televators."

"Streaming" More sleep-inducing music, this has electronic percussion and the always breathy, overly-dramatic lead vocal.

"Mixtaped" More tremolo guitar, light static, and soft vocals make up this final track. The grainy electric guitar and pointless drumming is no good. It has a dark jazzy feel, but ultimately goes nowhere.

Report this review (#269962)
Posted Saturday, March 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars If there is one Wilson-related album that sounds like a band on auto-pilot it must be No-man's Schoolyard Ghosts. The band continues the sparse atmospheric style of the preceding Together We're Stranger, and even though they delivered an album that is almost equally beautiful and touching, the 'almost' is the key-word here.

All Sweet Things is a fairly standard pop ballad, reminiscent of Nick Drake, David Sylvian and a dozen other No-man songs. The choral mellotron provides sonic pleasure and beautiful dreamy sadness. As usual with Bowness' vocals, he either fully touches me or entirely misses me. On this album he largely misses me with his affected Sylvian stylings. His vocals never offer the tension and turmoil they evoked on Together We're Stranger. The music is fine but routine.

Beautiful Songs You Should Know is a let-down. Boring guitar strumming with hardly noticeable vocal inflection. Pigeon Drummer offers some entirely out of place industrial noise beats. At least something unexpected happens. They last for about a minute and have little ado with the rest of the song, which is a fairly enjoyable atmospheric ballad with a strong closing section. Truenorth sounds like a song that ran away from Talk Talk's last album. Very melancholic post-rock with delicate Nick Drake vocals. Nice but not overtly original or inspired.

Off we go for more cliché balladry on Wherever There Is Light. The arrangement again resorts to choral mellotrons and spacey post-rock violins. The flute tune is short but long enough to irritate with its easy sentimentalism. More Talk Talk on Song of the Surf. the guitar parts work quite well and lay down a thick spacey ambience. Streaming is another unremarkable post-rock-pop song suffering from the increasing weariness that Bowness' vocals have on me on this album. Mixtaped tries to be more Talk Talk then Talk Talk themselves.

Not a bad album but too derivative, easy and predictable. Sounds like Wilson with the cruise-control on. Nevertheless it's still pretty good, but not amongst No-man's best work.

Report this review (#287293)
Posted Saturday, June 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
2 stars Schoolyard tunes

Pleasant (at times), sophisticated ambient pop-rock by Wilson and Bowness. Excluding the experimental electro-influenced Pigeon Drummer, the rest of the album flows in an extremely slow and hypotonic tempo and filled with simple (simpler, simplistic...) tunes.

Acoustic guitars, melodic pianos, keyboards and electronic samples are the main elements of this work. Bowness sings in a constant melancholic (but often indifferent) way through the whole album. If you are looking for diverse compositions and experimentation, you will not find it here. However, there are a few moments where the melodies are strong and can be memorable (e.g. at the end of the opening track) or where the inclusion of instruments like flute can make the difference, at least for a while (Truenorth).

Overall, not an album that would be among my priorities, mainly because of the absence of variety and diversity. Surely, an album to which you can listen and relax. A few good melodies can not make amends for the dominating dull atmosphere and the length of the album (~53min) does not help towards this direction. Fans of Blackfield or bands-alike or slow, melodic, ambient rock might find some interest here, while others are more likely to pass... 2.5 stars.

Report this review (#290598)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Beautiful Songs You Should Know?

After waiting 5 years for the boys from Britain to follow up their 2003 gem of music, Schoolyard Ghosts delivers what fans were waiting for on many fronts. First and foremost, new no-man material is here, and as expected, this marks another stylistic change for no-man, opting for darker, piano led ballads with a much more song based structure. The music here is, as mentioned, darker and less optimistic than many previous no-man releases, although one the fans (and newcomers, as I was when I grabbed this album) might just like.

The album is incredibly slow moving and has an an air of hopelesness and depression surrounding each composition. The combination is surprisingly different, combining the noise elements of their previous releases like Wild Opera, the piano/vocal intimacy of Returning Jesus, and the instrumental array of Together We're Stranger. As a unique mixture, this works quite well in many places, such as the killer track on the album Truenorth, a 12 minute movement featuring several mini-compositions of raw beauty, and the small poppy ballad Wherever There Is Light, although is less successful on some of the other tracks, namely Song Of The Surf and Beautiful Songs You Should Know. The real winner on this album, in this reviewer's humble opinion, is the array of other instrumentation used. The tribal drums, the string sections, the flute solos, the violin fills - they all make this album what it is, beautiful modern music.

The music can create a dense range of atmosphere - the pounding Pigeon Drummer immediately brings up a sense of fear, horror and uneasiness, Wherever There Is Light creates a lonely nostalgia and hopelessly in love feel, Mixtape can make the most positive of moods drop into a pessimistic pit. Regardless of the emotion, this album can almost definitely make you feel it.

As with the other no-man albums, this is best enjoyed alone, appropriately loud and with full focus. The 5.1 master is brilliant here, and as many other albums do, best works in surround.

4/5 for this one; incredibly excited for what no-man put out next, and if past behaviour is any indication of the future, it will continue to be filled with wonderful, melancholic works of dream-pop, trip hop and ambient.

Report this review (#302761)
Posted Friday, October 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fog is a beautiful thing.

Tim Bowness vocal style is closer to reading poetry than singing as you might typically know it, but you have to admire what a prolific lyricist he is. Sometimes reminds me of Pete Sinfield.

One of the songs that made the biggest impression on me is Pigeon Drummer. Almost out of context for this album. They really went heavy on that one and I guess if you take 'Schoolyard Ghosts' as a theme, this is the bully. The rest of the album is a more mellow affair.

Some beautiful songs you might want to get to know.

Report this review (#427073)
Posted Sunday, April 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's one of my favorite album of the band, the 5.1 mix is great. The highlights: True north 5/5, Song of the surf 4.5/5 solid songs: All sweet things, Pigeon drummer and wherever ther is light 4/5 medium: beautiful song and mixtaped(chich could have been a good song if there would have been more energy or a solo guitar in the first bridge where clearly nothing happens, a good sond live though) 3/5 letdown: streaming 1/5 (the music is ok but the way bowens sings and the lyrics doesn't fit with the rest of the album, and well I would not like that song on its own anyway)

So I'll give a final rating of 4/5 to this album.

Report this review (#555827)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is probably the lowest-keyed No-Man album; and considering these guys that is saying too much. Everyone that went to school; any school; has its own memories; of fears and hopes; and living them among equally fearful and hopeful peers. A lot of "School Memories" snap-shots have been well documented. From Alice Cooper, the "Floyd", Kinks, Marillion and lots and lots of people. So No-Man is no exception. In my opinion this " Schoolyard Ghosts" project; is more inclined towards Tim Bowness aesthetics than Steven Wilsons´s. Of course Steven ripps-off his electric guitar guts; but "it" in a "whole" is darker, intimate (as usual), and yes! "Macabre"; which for Mr. Bowness is like a "kid in a candystore" project. This "macabre" element covers the whole environment of this work. Macabre also; as "School Memories"; we all hold on to;....yet we dont know why we hold them so close. As of course reffered in this "Ghosts" project. Ghosts as in plural as they still appear in the most unexpected and private inner reflections and actions. As if opened-up bruises; that hurt when we remember them. And still; we hold them dearly as if "precious". Someone like Tim can turn this "voyage" in time; into an expandable and solitary experience; as he can only do. Intelligent, provocative lyrics in a vast and empty "Gothic" musical background. That here and there shines some dark gray "sarcastic" lights of hope;.. but not faith. ****4 "Macabre; a rarely visited by NO-MAN land; in a true to life musical conceptual experience" Stars PD: DARK very DARK
Report this review (#972887)
Posted Friday, June 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars What can I say about No Man's last album 'Schoolyard Ghosts'? I prefer to indicate a description of the words evoked in the album: melancholia, sadness, aggresivity (Pigeon Drummer), jazz, introspective, cloudy days, beautiful flute arrangements, excellent guitar riffs, happiness, love, thoughtful moments, wonderful orchestration, cello, slight drums, hard drums (Pat Mastelotto), soft voice (Tim Bowness), lovely choirs, great compositions, and last but not least, Steven Wilson. All the songs create a special feeling that is enjoyable during almost one hour of music. My favorite tracks are definitely: Truenorth (an epic divided in three lovely parts); Wherever there Is Light; All Sweet Things; Beautiful Songs You Should Know; Pigeon Drummer. And the one I don't listen much is 'Mixtaped' not because it is a bad song, but I think it's a little bit longer than necessary, but it is a really good song.
Report this review (#1027549)
Posted Monday, September 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars The duo of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson (known as No-Man) is an interesting one. Together they have created some unexpected styles with their combination of dance music or atmospheric music that still can easily find itself in a progressive music lovers library because of its uniqueness. No other artist really sounds like this. The problem is, it doesn't always work. But when it does, it is very powerful. 'Schoolyard Ghosts' (released in 2008) is a case where it works quite well in an ambience sense (for the most part). Talk about the melding of beauty and power, this is where it works for the best as the result has generated some extremely emotional and soul-wrenching music that will most likely touch even the hardest of hearts.

It took 5 years for Bowness and Wilson to bring this masterpiece of minimalist beauty together. Their two previous albums, 'Returning Jesus' (2001) and 'Together We're Stranger' (2003), both of which are quite excellent, pretty much paved the way as they hinted towards the sound that would culminate in 'Schoolyard Ghosts'. As soon as you put on this album, you are instantly touched by the extreme beauty of 'All Sweet Things'. It's as if Bowness' airy and unique vocals were made for this style of music, and the instrumentation headed over by Wilson (and several guests in the case of this album) reach straight for the heart of the listener and they don't let go. Lush and heartbreaking, it is an emotional ride that pierces the soul and one of the highlights of the album. This is followed by 'Beautiful Songs You Should Know' which sums up the purpose of the album.

The odd duck in this album is actually a pigeon, 'Pigeon Drummer', that is. This one goes to extremes, literally, and almost makes it sound out of place when it gets loud and distorted. But, Wilson is always one to throw in surprises that will catch you off guard as followers of his other, more unknown projects like 'Bass Communion' and 'I.E.M' will testify. This one will probably not sit well with many listeners as it can go from ambient to extreme without any notice, so be prepared.

The center of this album is made up of two extremely amazing tracks of beauty and emotion; the 12-minute masterpiece 'Truenorth' and what I consider the most beautiful song ever written, 'Wherever There is Light'. Both of these are masterpieces also with the more exploratory track and the heart-rending following track which makes me well up with emotion every time I hear that pedal steel guitar played by guest Bruce Kaphan. That song to me is just beauty beyond words.

The album will continue to stay with the sweet and ambient style as it goes on with 3 more excellent tracks including the more experimental and exploratory 'Mixtaped', and altogether, this makes up one of my most favorite albums ever. The power behind this album is simply beyond description for me, so it is probably best for you to judge for yourself. It might be too laid back for some people or the one strange track might be too abrasive of others, but overall, you can't deny the beauty of the 3 mentioned highlights of the album. To me, this is an absolute masterpiece, and I can't do anything but rate it as such. 5 stars.

Unfortunately, I haven't heard the bonus disc of material on the 2014 deluxe edition, so I don't know how it weighs in with the rest of the album, but for me, the 8 tracks of the original edition give a strong enough statement to merit the perfect rating.

Report this review (#2348055)
Posted Monday, April 6, 2020 | Review Permalink

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