Lost Songs: Vol. 1

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The first in a proposed series of three discs covering a slew of previously unreleased compositions, Lost Songs: Vol. 1 demonstrates just how good the Bowness/Wilson partnership really is. Nearly everything on here could easily have made the final cut of many of the duo's albums, not to mention outclassing many other bands' works. Some songs are mere demos, and a couple are remixes, including the punningly titled "Hard Shoulder" (revamping "Soft Shoulders"), as well as the only song that had seen a formal release beforehand, "Days in the Trees -- Bach," a brief, piano-led variant of the original. Throughout, the creativity and constantly shifting stylistic approach of No-Man remains front and center. Some songs definitely capture the two working in extremes -- opener "Gothgirl Killer" has some of the most brutal drumming and feedback texture No-Man has ever worked with. It's not quite an elegant version of Nine Inch Nails per se, but there's a weird sort of connection there. "Amateurwahwah," with its blend of a steady, almost Steve Albini-styled drum punch and riffs, has a bit of the same quality, offset by strings, piano, and Bowness' fragile, almost nervous chorus. Other songs capture a more familiar but no less captivating No-Man at play, as the up-tempo joys of "Days Like These," and, especially, the straight-up dancefloor groove of "Love Among the White Trash," make perfectly clear. "The Night Sky" has to rank as one of the prettiest, involving songs the partnership has created, at once subtle and, thanks to another spot-on Bowness performance, strong. Various guests familiar from the formal releases crop up here and there -- Robert Fripp, sax/flute players Theo Travis and Mel Collins, and, in a fine turn on double bass for the sleazily beautiful slink and strut of "Samaritan Snare," Colin Edwin from Porcupine Tree.