no-man Love You to Bits
After a break of 11 years, the no-man partnership of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson are finally back together under the no-man banner, after a period that has seen them both embark on highly creative and succesful careers.
Following on from working together on Flowers at the Scene, Tim’s latest album released in 2019, there was a little hint that the gang were back together, with production credited to no-man.
Love you to Bits is the first new album since the highly acclaimed last studio album, 2008’s Schoolyard Ghosts,and a lot has changed for both men, and this new album, containing two long tracks, Love You to Bits & Love You to Pieces, is no-man, but not as we know it.
Love you to Bits as a track was originally written back in the mid-nineties after Flowermouth, amid the Wild Opera sessions, and Tim and Steven were never able to complete it to their satisfaction. Fast forward to the sessions for Flowers at the Scene, which with Steven Wilsons involvement featured the first no-man production credit since 2008’s Schoolyard Ghosts.
The two decided to work together on a new no-man album, bringing Love you to Bits to life, with new companion piece Love you to Pieces.
The music is a revalation, two suites split into 5 parts, clocking in at 17.03 & 18.54, respectively this is musical brilliance over two tracks. The story the songs depict is one that flows across the entire album and there is so much going on that it’s hard to know where to start.
The entire theme of the album is two perspectives of the same failed love affair, a story as old as time, and yet no-man have weaved this into their strongest album yet. It’s the sound of a duo revisiting their past and embracing their future at the same time, recorded with Steven and Tim in the studio at the same time focussing entirely on these two pieces, it evokes earlier albums like Flowermouth or Wild Opera, whilst being unmistakenly it’s own brave, bold and beautiful piece of work.
The elements of electronic dance music that underpin this entire project, are joyous, uplifting and on first hearing had me dancing round the kitchen with a dirty great big smile on my face. The lyrics, pared back, minimalist and cyclical link both pieces, as the phrasing changes depending on the whether it’s Bits’ or Pieces’ but the core lyrical phrase ‘ I love you to bits, I love you to pieces, I love you like I don’t love you at all ‘ is pure no-man, such a simple emotional lyric, but there is so much more going on.
I guess not everyone out there is going to like the electro feel, which is their loss, as the way the beat takes the songs, and the sublime guitar shredding on Bits, and the absolute out there piano solo by Adam Holzman on Pieces see’s the band blending all their influences together into one album, jazz, dance music, shredding guitar and the driving rhythm and powerful drums, brings this suite to life.
From Carl Glovers Disco Ball on the cover, to the way that Tim’s lyrics and vocals fit round the expansive in your face dance track sounds like nothing else out there at the moment.
The creative partnership and friendship of Bowness & Wilson that has innovated and made some devastatingly beautiful music over the last 32 years, shows no signs of slowing down. Love you to Bits is an absolute masterwork, combining the best of Bowness & Wilson, with phenomenal lyrical observations and truly jaw-dropping musical moments.
I’ve heard a fair few albums this year, and I think it’s fair to say that this no-man album was probably the most anticipated album to be released this year, and it doesn’t disappoint in any way.
The music, lyrics and way the tracks flow together are sheer musical brilliance, the brass band close on Love You to Bits is a touch of genius, it’s also an album that you have to listen to all the way through, I’ve been lucky to be listening to this on headphones on my commute to work, (which takes as long as the album does!) and on headphones you get immersed into the album as it takes you on a musical journey.
Interestingly, when I spoke to Tim recently (interview to be published soon) he said it’s both their least progressive & most progressive album at the same time, and I totally get this, it’s full of confidence and is 100% no-man throughout.
I have been a no-man fan since Flowermouth, and I would have to say that this is their finest work to date, one of those albums that will stay with you, and without a doubt this is an album to define 2019.
Tim Bowness – vocals/instrumentation
Steven Wilson – instrumentation
Dave Desmond Brass Quintet
Adam Holzman- piano
David Kollar- guitar
Ash Soan- drums
Produced by no-man
Released on LP/CD/Cassette & download on 22nd November 2019
Label: Caroline International