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Tim Bowness: the Elton John of sublime, avant-garde prog

No-Man vocalist Tim Bowness’s latest solo salvo Butterfly Mind does more than float

Tim Bowness: Butterfly Mind cover art cover art
(Image: © InsideOut)

Tim Bowness is persistently prolific – this is his sixth solo album in eight years, aside from collaborations and the 2019 No-Man reunion with Steven Wilson

While those releases have stayed in close contact with the sublime, Butterfly Mind feels like the work of a reinvigorated singer, probing – gently, as ever – for new angles, avant-garde shapes within his established musical templates. 

For every trademark languid ballad (Dark Nevada Dream) there’s a surprisingly virile rock-adjacent knees-up (We Feel, Only A Fool). ‘So sensitive – and hard as nails,’ he sighs, both ironic and not. 

Bowness’s guest list is now reaching Elton-esque proportions, from Ian Anderson and Elbow’s Richard Jupp to Nick Beggs, Peter Hammill, Dave Formula and No-Man’s violinist Ben Coleman (revisiting after 30 years). It’s a mark of how respected his gossamer use of light and space now is, yet, with lyrics alluding to ageing and our times, this stings like a bee. 

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.