No-Man is a British United Kingdom art-pop duo formed in 1987 as No Man Is An Island (Except The Isle Of Man) by singer Tim Bowness and multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson (the latter also of Porcupine Tree). The band has so far produced six studio albums and a number of singles/outtakes collections (most notably, 2006's career retrospective, All The Blue Changes). The band was once lauded as "conceivably the most important English group since The Smiths" by Melody Maker music newspaper.
Originally creating a sample-based proto-trip hop/ambient ambient music /electro-pop-styled music, No-Man has pursued a more organic, diverse and band-oriented sound in subsequent years. Drawing from a diverse mix of singer-songwriter, post rock, minimalist, progressive rock, jazz and contemporary ambient Ambient music sources for inspiration, No-Man's musical style is distinctive yet difficult to categorise.
Amongst the many guest musicians the band has employed are:
*electronic artists Roger Eno, Faultline, Scanner, Muslimgauze and The Shamen
*jazz musicians Ian Carr and Theo Travis
*King Crimson personnel Robert Fripp, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison (also a member of Porcupine Tree), and Mel Collins
*ex-Japan Japan (band) members Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri (also a member of Porcupine Tree) and Mick Karn
*US pedal steel legend, Bruce Kaphan (ex-American Music Club).
*Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin.
Prehistory (No-Man Is An Island, 1986-1989)
Steven Wilson originally launched the band in 1986 as a solo project called No Man Is An Island (Except The Isle Of Man), recording an instrumental track called "From A Toyshop Window" which blended progressive rock with synth pop. In 1987, he linked up with singer, lyricist and occasional guitarist and keyboard player Tim Bowness, who at the time was singing with Liverpool-based art-pop band, Plenty. Both musicians brought an extremely wide set of influences and ideas to bear on the project and recorded two very diverse tracks on their first day of working together - the epic atmospheric ballad "Faith's Last Doubt" and the abrasive "Screaming Head Eternal". Both songs were later released on underground compilation albums ("Screaming Head Eternal" appeared on Plastic Head Records compilation, "Expose it").
Bowness and Wilson continued working together on recording sessions for the next two years. Some of the results surfaced ten years later on the Speak ((Speak)) album. Influences at this point included Minimalism, 4AD artists such as This Mortal Coil, and 1960s singer-songwriters, Nick Drake and Scott Walker. However, as Wilson and Bowness state on the sleeve notes to Speak, the band's music from this period seems surprisingly distinctive and unaffected by the prevailing trends of the era it was recorded in.
Violinist Ben Coleman joined the project after becoming involved with recording sessions in late 1988. The band established a four-piece live line-up in 1989 by adding guitarist Stuart Blagden (who had previously played with Bowness in the Manchester-based band, Still). The track "The Hidden Art Of Man Ray" acted as an audition piece for both Coleman and Blagden.
No Man Is An Island released their debut single, a waltz time ballad called "The Girl From Missouri", on Plastic Head Records in mid-1989. The band was disappointed with the single and soon disowned it. Subsequent band evolutions saw flirtations with aggressive synth-pop (on the "Swagger" cassette EP) and the departure of Blagden (who would later become a well-respected jazz and Latin music player).
No-Man's pop years (1990-1994)
By 1990, No Man Is An Island had shortened their name to No-Man and become a voice/violin/guitar-and-tapes trio (with Wilson handling all other instruments and programming in the studio).
Inspired by artists such as Public Enemy Public Enemy (group) and A Tribe Called Quest. the band incorporated dance beats and hip-hop influences into its art-pop sound. The first release under the No-Man name was the self-pressed June 1990 single release, "Colours" (a cover of the 1960s Donovan Leich song with crooned vocals and a dub-loop arrangement anticipating the later arrival of trip-hop). The single achieved Melody Maker, Sounds Sounds (magazine) and Channel 4 teletext "Singles Of The Week" accolades and was re-released by Liverpool-based label Probe Plus in October, 1990.
The attention which "Colours" had received gained No-Man a recording contract with the high-profile independent label One Little Indian (at the time, famous for The Shamen and Björk) and management by Talk Talk's manager Keith Aspden (who would stay with the band until 1994). During this period, the band received highly positive UK music media support (including more Singles Of The Week in Melody Maker, Sounds and Irish Republic of Ireland music paper, Hot Press) and had 2 indie top 20 hits ("Days In The Trees" and "Ocean Song") plus a Billboard Top 40 dance hit (the US only single, "Taking It Like A Man", at #34). The band also enjoyed high profile contracts with Hit & Run Publishing and Epic/Sony Epic Records in addition to their One Little Indian contract.
No-Man’s debut mini-album (a compilation of EP tracks called Lovesighs - An Entertainment) was released in April 1992, and in October of the same year the band toured England with a six-piece line-up including three ex-members of the band Japan Japan (band) – Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and (most significantly) keyboardist Richard Barbieri. The band's first full-length album (the more pop-oriented Loveblows & Lovecries - A Confession) followed in May 1993. By this time, the live band included bass player Silas Maitland and the (unrelated) drummer Chris Maitland. (The latter would join both Wilson and Richard Barbieri in the live lineup of Porcupine Tree).
In 1994 No-Man released their second album Flowermouth. This was a far more ambitious recording than their debut release and featured many guest performers including Barbieri, Jansen, Robert Fripp and Ian Carr. The album also demonstrated Bowness and Wilson's diverse range of influences including New York Minimalism, Miles Davis and progressive rock. Although the band parted company with violinist Ben Coleman during the sessions, he made a significant contribution towards most of the tracks on the record. (Coleman would go on to work with Mick Karn, Alice Alice (Italian singer) and Nick Laird-Clowes as well as pursuing a career as a visual artist.)
The move towards art-rock (1995-2000)
No-Man retired from live performance in 1994 (and would not return to the stage until 2006). Two albums released in 1996 closed the first phase of the band's career - a set of ambient dance reworkings of Flowermouth material called Flowermix and a compilation of the band's more ambient and atmospheric One Little Indian-era B-sides and rarities called Heaven Taste.
With each subsequent release the band moved further away from its more conventional pop and rock roots, mirroring the evolution of artists such as Talk Talk, David Sylvian, Radiohead, Scott Walker Scott Walker (singer) and Kate Bush. Since the mid-1990s, No-Man has released a steady stream of albums via Snapper Music and 3rd Stone/Adasam, featuring guests such as Fripp, Barbieri, Jansen, Theo Travis and Pat Mastellotto The band has maintained a healthy cult following as well as continued critical acclaim.
1996's Wild Opera and its 1997 companion release Dry Cleaning Ray (both released on 3rd Stone Ltd.) explored a combination of darker dance sounds, experimental art-rock and deep trip-hop, while maintaining No-Man's particular skill with ballads.
In 1999, the band released Speak ((Speak)) , a compilation of mostly-unreleased early ambient songs recorded a decade previously but which Bowness and Wilson considered to be of equal merit to the music released on One Little Indian or 3rd Stone Ltd.
Organic balladeers (2000-present)
Speak ((Speak)) 's quieter and more atmospheric approach pointed the way towards No-Man's subsequent output. 2001's Returning Jesus (the last album to be released on 3rd Stone Ltd.) resurrected and expanded the eclectic ballad, jazz and progressive rock influences of Flowermouth and brought the band to a new and revived audience, some of whom had come in via the continued success of Wilson's other main project Porcupine Tree.
Signing a new deal with Snapper Music, the band went on to release Together We're Stranger in 2003 - a sombre, moving record with strong tone poem elements detailing (in abstract) the break-up of a relationship and responses to bereavement.
In 2006, No-Man made a rare live performance in 2006 at the Norwich Garage (part of a Burning Shed label event).
The band released Schoolyard Ghosts on May 12, 2008, receiving some of the most favourable reviews of the band's career (the album was described as "truly sublime" by Classic rock Classic Rock (magazine) magazine. Guest musicians included Pat Mastelotto, Theo Travis, Gavin Harrison, Colin Edwin, Bruce Kaphan (ex-American Music Club) and The London Session Orchestra London Session Orchestra (arranged by Dave Stewart Dave Stewart (musician) ).
On May 27, 2008, it was announced that No-Man's music will be featured in the film by award-winning student film-maker Dan Faltz, Weak Species. The film is based on the writings of Dennis Cooper and is currently being considered for expanded feature film treatment.
No-Man played its first full performance in fifteen years at London's Bush Hall on August 29, 2008,. This performance was followed by two more concerts in Zoetermeer (The Netherlands) and Duesseldorf (Germany) on the 3 and 4 September respectively. The Zoetermeer concert was No-Man's first concert outside of the UK.
Mixtaped - a double DVD package including a film of the sell-out London performance, a documentary of the group's history and assorted promotional videos - was released in October 2009. Early releases of the DVD ordered from Burning Shed included an audio CD recording of highlights from the Bush Hall show.
Current live band line-up
The live band line-up for the 2008 mini-tour was as follows:
*Tim Bowness - vocals
*Steven Wilson - guitar
*Stephen Bennett Stephen Bennett (musician) - keyboards
*Pete Morgan - bass guitar
*Michael Bearpark - guitar
*Steve Bingham Steve Bingham (violinist) - electric violin
*Andy Booker - electronic drums
The London gig also featured a guest appearance of original violin player Ben Coleman on the song Things Change. There was speculations about the band playing a further small European tour in 2009, but this did not happen.
*Loveblows & Lovecries - A Confession - (1993, One Little Indian Records Ltd, TPLP57CD)>
*Flowermouth - (1994, One Little Indian Records Ltd, TPLP67CD)>
*Wild Opera - (1996, 3rd Stone Records Ltd, STONE 027CD)>
*Returning Jesus - (2001, 3rd Stone Records Ltd, STONE 038CD)>
*Together We're Stranger - (2003, Snapper Music PLC, SMACD867 (original digipak) / KSCOPE105D (super jewel-case reissue)>
*Schoolyard Ghosts - (2008, Snapper Music PLC, KSCOPE103)>
Compilations / Other
*Lovesighs - An Entertainment - (1992, One Little Indian Records Ltd, TPLP47MCD) - Debut mini album>
*Heaven Taste - (1995, Hidden Art, HI-ART 1) - Mini album of b-sides and unreleased tracks>
*Flowermix - (1995, Hidden Art, HI-ART 2) - Remix album>
*Dry Cleaning Ray - (1997, 3rd Stone Records Ltd, STONE 035CD) - Mini album, regarded as a companion release to Wild Opera>
*Radio Sessions: 92-96 - (1998, Burning Shed) - Mail order CD-R of tracks recorded for various radio sessions>
*Speak ((Speak)) - (1999, Materiali Sonori, MASO CD 90111 (original release) / 2004, Snapper Music PLC, SDPCD 194 (reissue with bonus track)>
*Lost Songs Vol 1 - (2001, Burning Shed) - Mail order CD-R of unreleased tracks>
*All The Blue Changes - An Anthology 1988–2003 - (2006, Hidden Art, HI-ART 19) - Compilation with some unreleased versions and an unreleased track>
Singles and EPs
*Colours - (1990, Probe Plus Records) - 12" only>
*Days In The Trees - (1991, One Little Indian Records Ltd)>
*Ocean Song - (1992, One Little Indian Records Ltd, 63TP7CD)>
*Sweetheart Raw - (1993, One Little Indian Records Ltd, 73TP7CD)>
*Only Baby - (1993, One Little Indian Records Ltd, 83TP7CD)>
*Painting Paradise EP - (1993, One Little Indian Records Ltd, 93TP7CD)>
*Taking It Like a Man - (1994, Sony Music Entertainment Inc, 46K 77463) - U.S. only EP>
*Housewives Hooked On Heroin - (1996, 3rd Stone Records Ltd, STONE 026CD)>
*Carolina Skeletons - (1998, 3rd Stone Records Ltd, STONE 037CD)>
*All That You Are - (2003, Hidden Art, HI-ART 18)>
*The Break-Up for Real - (2007) - Download only. All tracks are also included on All the Blue Changes and the DVD-A remaster of Together We're Stranger>
*Wherever There Is Light - (2009, Snapper Music PLC, KSCOPE127S) - Enhanced 5 track EP>
*Mixtaped - (2009, Snapper Music PLC, KSCOPE505) - 2 DVD, Live at Bush Hall, London (29/08/08) and Documentary>
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