An Introduction to Late Night Laments by Tim Bowness

English singer-songwriter Tim Bowness releases his sixth solo album Late Night Laments on Friday 28th August. Tim is primarily known as vocalist/co-writer with the band no-man, a long-running collaboration with Steven Wilson. He has recently signed a publishing deal with Real World, so we asked him to share some of his thoughts on his forthcoming album in this blog.

Sometimes music appears so quickly and seems so right that talking about it seems pointless; cheap even. It is what it is, and what it is is an instinctive force of nature. Conversely, when music comes unnaturally, there’s often a desire to over-explain it in order to justify its existence. As such, expect all the Late Night Laments interviews to be filled with silence and, in-between the silence, pauses.

As with no-man’s Together We’re Stranger, Late Night Laments was something I didn’t expect to make, but felt compelled to complete once I’d started. Also, as with Together We’re Stranger, the music seemed to be dictating the creative process and I felt like an editor or spectator. From titles to arrangements to artwork, the making of the album was very much a case of ‘first thought, best thought.’ The sequencing on the other hand…

The last song on the album was the first to be written. Composed in the early hours of the morning after I’d just finished re-reading John le Carré’s masterful and melancholy The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, ‘One Last Call’ emerged fully formed. In some ways, I was still adrift in the world of espionage, personal loss, and attempts to find meaning in flawed political and religious systems. After creating the atmospheric backing track, I sang the song quietly into my computer with the window open and the sound of the breeze almost drowning out my voice.

Overnight, the song reverberated through my mind and I was sure I’d hit on a direction for a new album.

The next morning I sent the results to my co-producer, sounding board and fellow veteran of the Northern Wars, Bob/Brian/Bobian Hulse. In the accompanying email I presented the idea of Late Night Laments. After the eclecticism of Flowers At The Scene and the big beat grandeur of Love You to Bits, I wanted (needed?) to make something that operated in a very focused sonic and emotional territory.

Listen

Luckily, Brian liked what I’d done and added a few lovely overdubs to my demo. Within a few days, he sent me some backing tracks he’d written in a similar vein. ‘Never A Place’ was completed within the week and the game was well and truly afoot.

Both ‘One Last Call’ and ‘Never A Place’ felt fresh and felt necessary. The subject matters for the songs surprised me and they both possessed a particular intensity whose origins I couldn’t quite place. Lyrically, there was an overwhelming (and overwhelmed) sense of the external pressures that impact on individuals, plus the frequent le Carré theme of small lives being sacrificed for the supposedly greater good.

Late Night Laments came together in two bursts of activity between August and October 2019 and January and March 2020.

Very quickly, Brian and I knew what constituted an LNL piece. The requirements were unusually specific and impostors were shot on sight (or consigned to ‘the hard drive of doom’, at the very least).

With one exception — ‘Hidden Life’ — which started life as a song I’d co-written with Pete Morgan — the music exclusively came from me or Brian. In all cases, I subsequently worked on the vocals and lyrics in my home studio and Brian and I worked on arrangements.

Throughout most of 2019, I re-recorded my vocals for LYTB, continued to tweak and add to the lyrics, and attended some of Bruno Ellingham’s mixing sessions. The resulting album was everything I wanted it to be and, like the band’s early work, managed to combine no-man’s core identity with something more outgoing.

By August 2019, I’d not written anything totally new since ‘What Lies Here’ in July 2018. ‘One Last Call’ ended the drought, and this time, the musical gaze was most definitely inward.

LNL finds me retreating into exclusively introspective moods for the first time in a while, but with the benefit of a decade or so of experiences.

Listen

From the beginning, I very much imagined the album as a late night headphone listening experience and saw it as representing someone (locked in a small world of favoured ‘comfy chairs’, records, films and books) lost in a beautiful sensation, while hearing the sound of the news murmuring away in the background. In the era of 24 hour news channels and social media, it’s harder than ever to escape the march of history and a lot of current themes — generational divides, hate crimes, political extremes, terrorism and more — found their way into the songs.

For me, the artwork (another hyper-detailed Gosling/Bowness collaboration) provides a perfect summation of the album’s contents. Although it’s not a narrative story, Late Night Laments possesses a strong conceptual continuity throughout.

Tim Bowness - Late Night Laments album artwork

By mid-March 2020, 53 minutes of music had been recorded (plus a couple of demos that hadn’t been fully realised) and the album sequencing had begun.

As always, Steven Wilson did a wonderful job of the mix and the cherry on top came in the shape of mastering engineer Calum Malcolm, the sonic perfectionist responsible for favourite albums of mine by the likes of The Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout and It’s Immaterial.

After 27 attempts at ordering the songs, I found what I was looking for and everything suddenly clicked. On one of my last listens through, I became so absorbed in the experience that when the album finished I had to gradually re-remember that ‘lockdown’ and ‘the virus’ were real things. The music (or my exhaustion) had made me forget what was happening in the outside world and for a few moments the all-too depressing reality we’re living through seemed like far-fetched fragments from a bad dream.

Late Night Laments is out on Friday 28th August. The album is released on Inside Out / Sony.

Pre-order Late Night Laments

By Tim Bowness

Published on Tue, 25 August 20

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