It has been 11 years since the last No-man album. I actually didn’t believe that, so I had to double check. Yes, the last album was back in 2008, “Schoolyard Ghosts”. And, honestly, the new album, “Love You To Bits”, was a bit of a surprise when it was announced. It releases on November 22nd, and I’m finding it to be a fun listen.
No-Man, as you probably know, is comprised of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson, two instantly recognizable names in the progressive community. They actually founded this project back in 1987, though, so they’ve been at it since before either of them was a real success. Their albums tend to be varied, as well, so most of the albums have some different genre spin or special collaborations, whether that be jazz, art rock, pop, or electronica.
On “Love You To Bits”, the duo head straight for an electronic pop sound. Yes, I would call it progressive in the way it is structured, but I doubt either of them would care. You will hear lots of burning electronica, addictive loops, recurring themes, nostalgic bass lines, pop/dance beats, and beautiful vocal harmonies. I will go out on a limb here and say that this is not a deep album, but that is exactly how it should be.
The first thing I noticed here is that the album technically only has two songs, and the record only clocks in at about 34 minutes in length. Some might call that an EP. I would also say, though, that the musical ideas do have their introduction, development, and ending, and so the album feels satisfying. In fact, if the album were 45 minutes or more, I feel like the extra minutes would just be filler. These two musicians are seasoned, and they know how to edit themselves.
The first song is called “Love You To Bits”. It is separated into 5 “bits”. It begins with a slow electronic loop that feels great and really builds the anticipation. Tim Bowness is the primary vocalist on the entire album, and his voice really captures the apathetic love that this album studies. You’ll hear Steven Wilson singing background harmonies that honestly sound fantastic; they really play up against Tim’s melancholy to produce something lovely. The song basically transitions from slow burning to melancholy musing to 70s inspired bass rhythms to edgy guitar takes, and then combines them all in grand fashion. The suite, or whatever you want to call it, definitely has its own satisfying arc.
The second song is called “Love You To Pieces”, and is separated into 5 “pieces”. I find this suite to be a little darker and more beat-driven, and it messes around more with keys than with guitar. You’ll hear, though, some of the same recurring themes from the first half of the album. As a result, it sounds quite a bit like the first suite. It does end more on a spacious, atmospheric note, however.
No-Man’s latest is certainly a fun listen. “Love You To Bits” is one of those albums that gives you a cool and colorful rush when you want something a little less technical. It does get somewhat repetitive, which is kind of the point, but the elements in play here are strong and definitely entertaining to hear. I think there will be bits and pieces of it stuck in my head for some time.