California, Norfolk (Deluxe)
Tim Bowness & Peter Chilvers
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Having worked together for so many years in various collaborations and group incarnations, it's no surprise that Bowness and Chilvers readily bring together their talents for this duo release, and neither is it a surprise that the end results are passionately accomplished. Keeping a low-key but intensely beautiful mood running throughout the record, the two create what could almost be a companion piece for No-Man's Returning Jesus, Chilvers' piano and synth-led compositions an equal but different partner to Steven Wilson's work. The blend of a barely there keyboard loop, guest vibraphone from Jon Hart, and on-the-edge-of-hearing guitar on the brief "Also Out of Air" redefines the concept of how less can readily be more, as does the opening sparkle on "Rocks on the Green," though the song builds up in complexity as it goes. The opening moments to "Hostage," the album starter, captivate so completely on their own that it's almost a crime that their work still hasn't received the attention it so deserves. A slightly buried guitar loop and subtle orchestration provide the bed for Bowness' gently swooping delivery, and when Chilvers adds a simple but just plain lovely piano part, the emotional impact ratchets up even more. "Dreamer's Song" concludes the album on a just different enough note, acoustic guitar rather than keyboards playing the lead. "Post-Its," one of two songs where Bowness adds subtle but softly stinging electric guitar, ranks as the album's highlight, a portrayal of romantic collapse and remembrance carried by a quiet rhythm, a fragile concluding synth orchestration, and Bowness' almost impossibly rich vocals. Nice touch — the use of crunching snow as the distorted beat for the lengthy "Winter With You," which, in its second half, becomes an extended ambient instrumental break, all while the rough rhythm softly chugs along, fading away into a piano and vocal conclusion.
Years Active: '90s, '00s