No-Man is the side project of Porcupine Tree founder Steve Wilson and longtime collaborator Tim Bowness, but unlike the hard driving, intense modern progressive music found on a Porcupine Tree album the music of No-Man is quiet, melancholy and haunting. Sometimes the tunes are a bit too sedate for my ears. There is no denying Bowness and Wilson have created some beautiful cinematic ballads … but the tunes lack the sort of energy and creativity associated with Porcupine Tree. But then again … this is not that band. Here is where Steve Wilson comes to unwind and decompress.
There is little to differentiate one tune from the other, with the exception of the stand-out track “Pigeon Drummer”, which begins with a bombastic Porcupine Tree opening salvo, before abruptly changing gears morphing into a haunting creepy masterpiece. It’s the closest thing on the album to something you might find on a Porcupine Tree album. And the only time my ears really perked up, awakening me from the album induced trance. This is not a snipe – but a positive statement of fact. The music is truly hypnotic.
“Schoolyard Ghosts” the sixth official studio album from No-Man was recorded between Autumn 2007 and Spring 2008, eight long years after the last Bowness/Wilson collaboration “Together We’re Strangers”. And on this project the pair expanded their musical pallet to include musicians Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Tony Mastelotto (King Crimson), Bruce Kaphan, Theo Travis, and orchestral arrangements by Dave Stewart and the London Session Orchestra.
Hypnotic aptly describes the seductive vocal styling of Tim Bowness.
When listening to many of the tunes on No-Man’s “Schoolyard Ghosts” I’m occasionally reminded of the solo albums of Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright. There is a similar dreamlike quality to both artists.
After a hectic workday when you need to simply chill-out and find your ‘center’ this is the album to gently bring you to a place of peace and serenity; or when you feel the need to get away from the turmoil and float above the fray. “Schoolyard Ghosts” is available as a two disc collection with a second disc containing three music videos.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on August 9th, 2008