No-Man

Flowermouth

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Things were better honed for No-Man on Flowermouth, released a year after the band's debut. Minus Ben Coleman (although you'd never guess because he appears on seven of nine tracks), Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson were aided by Robert Fripp, Ian Carr, Steve Jansen, and Richard Barbieri (who recorded the excellent set Flame with Bowness in the same year). Beginning with the epic "Angel Gets Caught in the Beauty Trap," which is almost ten minutes on the original and longer on the reissue, things flow as Bowness' soothing vocal gives way to solos by Carr and Fripp. "You Grow More Beautiful" is another hit that might have been, while "Animal Ghost" is what Arthur Ransom, the author of Swallows and Amazons, might have sounded like had he chosen music instead of literature -- a very English affair with a meandering piano line (removed on the reissue) and flute solo. "Soft Shoulders" is the closest to a throwaway, but "Shell of a Fighter" restores order, an enthralling piece expanding to nearly eight minutes of lilting pastoral verse, quiet passages of electronics, and an all out storm of squally guitars and ferrocious drumming. "Teardrop Falls," one of their best, is a paced yet graceful pop dance tune. Flowermouth has serenity, too, in "Watching Over Me," which may have been better following "Shell." "Simple" uses a sample courtesy of Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, roaming through contemporary club beats to reach a haunting climax. "Things Change" is the endgame, with the lyrics "You're leaving me behind you, I hate the way things change" sung in earnest. Gentle again, giving way to Wilson's emotionally wrought guitar mimicking the gut wrenching agony of love lost. A masterpiece of writing and playing recommended beyond reason.

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