Tim Bowness – Butterfly Mind (Album Review)

Review of the new Tim Bowness album – Butterfly Mind

by Geoff Bailie

In the 8 years since he signed to InsideOut, Tim Bowness has produced a series of very strong albums, of which this is the 6th! His musical career spans the last 40 years and, of course, we now know him as one of the voices of The Album Years podcast, as well as one of the business brains behind the “go to” online prog store, Burning Shed. With such a track record what does Butterfly Mind have in store for us.

I’ll say at the outset that I really love the fact that this album is just shy of 44 minutes of music. The art of album compilation and sequencing is of course subjective – but the CD era has perhaps eroded some aspects of crafting that perfect listening experience. Like No-Man’s “Love You To Pieces”, this new Bowness album ticks all of the boxes to present a very enjoyable “listen in one sitting” experience.

At the outset I’ll say that this is a really varied album, with a cornucopia of music styles and influences, and perhaps a more upbeat feel than we are, at times, used to from Tim’s albums. Take a track like “Always The Stranger” which kicks off with the album’s core band (Brian Hulse, Nick Beggs and Richard Jupp) driving a fantastic groove which, partway through, drops to a short jazz influenced interlude. The mix of styles has the potential to be jarring, but that isn’t the case – instead it’s one of the many shifts and musical nuggets that draw you into this album. That tone is set in the opening “Say Your Goodbyes Pt 1” which kicks the album off. Just when you’re feeling you’re back in a comfortable mellow and atmospheric Bowness mode, an electronica pulse kicks in, joined by Jupp’s drums, some flute by Ian Anderson, and your attention is shifted and lifted. And this is before things take a dramatic left turn in the closing a cappella section. To me this track sets the tone for the listening along the lines of: you may not get exactly what you expect here… but listen up because we are going on a journey!

“It’s Easier To Love” is a mellow atmospheric track the style of which will be familiar if you’ve been a long time Bowness listener, with perhaps an even more organic edge with strings, saxophone and, later, Hammond organ played by Magazine/ Visage’s Dave Formula. Its intriguing lyric, like the music, has many twists and holds this listener’s focus, without feeling you’re being drawn into a specific narrative. That’s followed with a big style shift into the groove and riff of “We Feel”. With a very different vocal treatment particularly on the verses, it feels like new territory, until elements come to remind us of the collective album as a whole, such as Ian Anderson’s flute appearing again and the vocals of Peter Hammill. As you can see the album features as fantastic roster of special guests but this isn’t gratuitous, with each contribution added in a synergistic way to bring the elements needed to serve the song and the sonic landscape.

The rhythm base of “Lost Player” brings a Peter Gabriel feel, with a (spoiler alert) style-shift midway, something this album is very fond of, and which is very enjoyable. At this point, I felt my listening expectation had been sufficiently set to… well to not know what to expect, and “Only A Fool” didn’t disappoint in that context – another track that brilliantly blends the organic instrumentation, with the electronic, all held together and propelled by Bowness’s distinctive vocal lead. If Drum and Bass Pedal wasn’t previously a genre, then it’s invention is heard in “After The Stranger”, while “Glitter Fades” which follows bring us into more familiar territory, both in terms of Tim’s previous albums and in terms of returning elements from elsewhere in this album, such as Martha Goddard’s backing vocal refrains and the wind instruments that appear throughout, this time the clarinet of Steve W Tayler. “About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor” is the “come down” track after that, preparing us for the album’s closing epic.

“Dark Nevada Dream” precedes a reprise (or part 2) of “Say Your Goodbyes”. It’s an 8+ minute epic which, like much of the album, combines a tech / electronic base and more organic instruments. It’s probably the song most typical of what’s gone before in Tim’s discography, but that’s not a criticism – it’s Tim doing what he’s great at, and it’s a very strong track.

Starting with a blank canvas, Tim Bowness, in his role as vocalist, musician and sonic architect, has created an album that both impresses on first listen, and grows, in my estimation, with subsequent plays – it’s well worth your air time!

Released on August 5th, 2022 on InsideoOutMusic

1. Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 1 2:22
2. Always The Stranger 2:50
3. It’s Easier To Love 5:13
4. We Feel 4:53
5. Lost Player 3:13
6. Only A Fool 4:33
7. After The Stranger 1:15
8. Glitter Fades 4:50
9. About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor 3:49
10. Dark Nevada Dream 8:26
11. Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 2 1:59

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