To his fanbase, English composer/musician Tim Bowness is regarded as one of the unsung heroes of prog rock. He’s probably best known for his work with prog royalty Steven Wilson in their ‘No Man’ collaboration, as well as the other bands he’s been involved with. Thus, one tendency has been to regard him as being ‘Steven Wilson’s representative on earth,’ but the music he’s making under his own name easily suggests he’s his own man, as evidenced by his 2019 album, Flowers at the Scene, reaching #5 in the UK rock and prog album charts.
Late Night Laments is the follow-up to ‘Flowers… ’ and it’s a sonic masterpiece of lush, atmospheric sounds and feel with a wide lyrical scope – it could well be Bowness’s most intimate album to date. The album combines electronic soundscapes, acoustic instrumentation and some unexpected rhythms, and it’s an emotionally gorgeous piece of work. Mixed by Steven Wilson, Bowness has used a stellar cast of supporting musicians, including Richard Barbieri and Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld and Gong) and Melanie Wood (Knifeworld) in making this record.
The music is mostly soft and melancholic with the occasional whispery vocals. Late Night Laments is prog in the modern sense, with the emphasis on well-crafted songs, rather than the overusing of clever, flashy chordal arrangements and excessive soloing. The themes Bowness sings about are frequently at odds with the beauty of the music, with topics including the generational divide, ideological violence and a children’s author’s mental breakdown!
‘Northern Rain’ is a haunting tune about someone watching their partner disappearing into a fog of dementia. ‘I’m Better Now’ was written from the perspective of someone committing a hate crime stating “couldn’t wait to stick the knife in…” and featuring a superb guitar break from Kavus Torabi. ‘Never a Place’ concerns social exclusion singing “there was never a place in the line for you”. ‘The Hitman Who Missed’ is someone who lives in the world of the cold, casual kill. Most of these songs are performed mid-low key, which enhances the mood and atmosphere, and not a note on the album is wasted. Late Night Laments is a reaffirmation of Tim Bowness’s talent as a songsmith, and the feeling he injects into the songs on the album shows he can be every bit as dramatic, subtle and sublime as Steven Wilson. He’s currently a well-kept secret in prog circles, but for how much longer?