Tim Bowness / Samuel Smiles — World of Bright Futures
(Hidden Art hi-art 3, 1999, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2000-10-01
Vocalist Tim Bowness (of No-Man) formed Samuel Smiles back in the early 1990s with Michael Bearpark (guitar, programming) as an exercise in “ambient folk” music. For this, their first release, new members Peter Chilvers (piano, keyboards, bass, loops, Chapman Stick) and Myke Clifford (saxophones, flute, congas) join the duo, along with guest appearances by (among others) Steven Wilson and Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree. I’m not sure the “ambient folk” tag really fits – the sound is what you might get with a coffee-house crooner sitting in with a very textural pop group with jazz leanings. Sparse piano, echoey guitar sounds (sometimes distorted like a very quiet Fripp), jazzy sax, and tons of reverb define the core of Samuel Smiles. Front and center is Bowness’s breathy singing, and I suppose his style may not be for everyone (I admit I have to be in a certain mood for him not to put me to sleep). The band’s self-professed emulation of Nick Drake and John Martyn (as well as Bowie, Fripp, and Eno) is apparent in their music, though they don’t come off as copying anything. Bearpark’s guitar, in particular, is quite inventive, ranging from Fripp-esque noodly high solos to feedback-and-volume-pedal background textures. “Sorry Looking Soldier” in particular, is an outstanding example of guitar work. For progressive fans in the audience, I must mention a mellow piano-based version of King Crimson’s “Two Hands” and a cover of Peter Hammill’s “Ophelia” with piano and guitar. The first 1000 copies of the CD come with a bonus disc of live material, some of which dates back to 1992. The presentation is a bit more stripped down on these tracks, even with the addition of a cellist.
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more