ARTIST:

NO MAN

(UNITED KINGDOM)
TITLE:

SCHOOLYARD GHOSTS

(2008)
LABEL:

SNAPPER

GENRE:

ATMOSPHERIC ROCK

TAGS:
Experimental, Hovering, Hovering, Intimist, Melancholic
""Schoolyard Ghosts" is aimed at all those who know how to appreciate muffled atmospheres, both hovering and intimate, misty but also unexpected sound textures."
MARC M (15.05.2008)  
4/5
(0) opinions from our readers (0) comment(s)

It took 5 years to release the 6th album of No-Man, the duo formed by Steven Wilson, long before Porcupine Tree, with singer Tim Bowness. And to think that it was No-Man who seemed to be the band destined to be the most commercially successful, while PT was a kind of side project to explore the more experimental aspects of his inspiration! 

Nevertheless, it's true that since the first singles and EP of 1991, the music has changed a lot. Gone are the dancing and technoid elements that contrasted with the sound experimentation and dark and melancholic pop that Bowness is fond of. The music has taken a rather ambient / post rock turn since the previous CD, the very melancholic and beautiful "Together We're Strangers". 

"Schoolyard Ghosts" starts with a very beautiful melancholic ballad, "All Sweet Things", led mainly by the piano with acoustic guitar, mellotron and other superb synthetic textures, then an electric guitar with ethereal sounds. Here is a long track of almost 7 minutes, sung with a lot of emotion and tenderness by a Tim Bowness more inspired than ever.

The album contains other gems but each one in a slightly different genre.  This is the case of "Truenorth" which is almost 13 minutes long and is divided into 3 parts. The first one, mostly played on the piano whose echoes resound endlessly with a beautiful orchestration of strings and synths, the second one uses guitars in addition, but the angelic strings are more hovering while the mellotron choirs, added to Tim Bowness' inhabited vocals, make us see a little corner of Paradise. This is before Theo Travis decorates the track with vaguely jazzy flute volutes, which contrast smoothly with the more classical orchestration, while an electronic drum set or a drum machine makes its entrance for the last instrumental part, hypnotic and melancholic at the same time. 

As usual with No-Man, the Bowness/Wilson duo is joined by many guests (Theo Travis comes back on two other tracks, on flute) but the rhythmic parts are very restricted, and most of the time it's on keyboards, guitars (acoustic and electric) and vocals that the arrangements are based, with a bit of flute, trumpet, cello or some string orchestrations.

After the very long "Truenorth", we were expecting a slightly more upbeat piece. And yet, the intimate "Wherever There Is The Light" comes to seize us with its moving synthesizer orchestrations, completed by an aerial pedal steel guitar that stands out, with the flute, against the background of angelic synthetic choirs. "Beautiful Songs You Should Know" (with Colin Edwin on bass) and "Streaming" are compacted tracks, more acoustic for the first one, mixing orchestral textures and electronic percussions with "scratches" for the second one. Two pieces a little less striking than the above-mentioned highlights but nevertheless very successful.

Two of the last three tracks of the album use more electric guitars, without taking off rhythmically, except towards the luminous end of "Song Of The Surf". It's actually a weak point that not having ed another song can be a bit more dynamic or let's say more contrasted. "Mixtaped", which lasts more than 8 minutes and serves as a finale, is less melodically inspired, static, hypnotic, with an electric guitar that sounds rather squeaky at times and a drum set that seems improvised, a bit erratic.

We're waiting for a real take-off that will never come. A not unpleasant but long and somewhat disappointing conclusion for an album otherwise very inspired on the melodic level, remarkable of sensitivity and whose arrangements are falsely simple, changing and kneaded with sound discoveries and finesse. A record thus essential for all those who know how to appreciate the muffled ambiences, both hovering and intimate, the misty but also unexpected sound textures.


More informations on https://www.facebook.com/nomanofficial/





TRACK LISTING:
01. All Sweet Things (6.47)
02. Beautiful Songs You Should Know (4.26)
03. Pigeon Drummer (6.18)
04. Truenorth (12.48)
05. Wherever There Is Light (4.21)
06. Song Of The Surf (6.12)
07. Streaming (3.32)

LINEUP:
Andy Booker: percussion électronique
Bruce Kaphan: pedal steel guitar
Colin Edwin: Basse / basse acoustique fretless
Fabrice Lefebvre: Yang t'chin
Gavin Harrison: Batterie
Marianne de Chastelaine : violoncelle
Pat Mastelotto: Batterie / percussion
Peter Morgan: Basse
Steven Wilson: Guitares / Basse / Claviers / glockenspiel, harpe, programmation rythmes
Theo Travis: flûte, sax soprano
Tim Bowness: Chant / Claviers
   
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