To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Tim and Giancarlo’s mesmeric 2011 album Warm Winter, Kscope Records are re-releasing it in an expanded edition, eponymously re-titled as per the duo’s creative moniker Memories of Machines. The album comes out on 25 February 2022, featuring a 2021 remix from the original tapes by Giancarlo Erra that emphasises the textural nature of the music and restores the pieces to their original arrangements and track lengths – resulting in a very different listening experience. The artwork has also been enhanced and overhauled for the release by Giancarlo Erra and Caroline Traitler.
Featuring contributions from Robert Fripp, Peter Hammill, Julianne Regan, Jim Matheos, Colin Edwin, Huxflux Nettermalm, Peter Chilvers, Aleksei Saks and members of Nosound and Tim Bowness’s live bands, the album contains ten tracks culminating in the ten-minute At The Centre Of It All, plus two bonus tracks created in 2020. I’d not heard the original album, so this review is me hearing it “cold”, as it were.
The album’s opens, as before with New Memories Of Machines, as a brief intro before sweeping into Before We Fall, a heavily synth-driven arrangement with Tim’s soft, careening voice floating over the top of a fluid, almost lazy (in the nicest sense!) chord progression, then the first comparison of several with Pink Floyd – a chorus softly cooing below a serene piece of lead guitar work.
Beautiful Songs You Should Know is fronted by a sweetly melancholy, elegaic piece of strings, Tim’s voice then floating along on acoustic chords and more lovely string arrangements – I’m guessing cello rather than violin? Whatever, it’s a real mood-piece. Warm Winter is next, another combination of acoustic chords, mesmerically soft vocals, muted synths, in fact muted everything – at this point the album is for me in danger of becoming aural wallpaper, very nice but drifting past my lugs….Lucky You Lucky Me follows in the same vein, but there’s more strength to the vocals and lyrics, a la Snow Patrol
Change Me Once Again is a richer arrangement, a conventional rhythm giving it that extra something. Again very Snow Patrol, a lovely sensuous pace, mood, percussion like waves breaking on the shore together with dreamy guitar work – a beautiful track! Something In Our Lives is a slow, sparse arrangement that demonstrates nicely how less is sometimes more. Its underpinned by the simplest piano run ever, yet works perfectly and creates a platform for a brief but sooo melodic guitar lick.
Lost And Found In The Digital World is another slow, luscious track, brass leading the melody in that sumptuously melancholic way only brass can achieve. Another strong vocal leads into a another simple but oh-so-effective sustained guitar (I think? – could be keys but who cares, it hits the spot, or more accurately caresses it!
Schoolyard Ghosts then has a sense of space, a sort of softer, more pastoral version of Pink Floyd – who could be pretty pastoral in their own right! What I mean is it’s a slow, meanderingly gentle number, sparse but sweet guitar notes that are hazy, lazily echoey, drifting around in that best Floydian style. Very dreamy!
At The Centre Of It All was the original album’s signature track – nearly ten minutes worth of slowly (very slowly), organically, building a story. Rich strings again feature, very Roger Waters in the lyrics. It doesn’t really do it for me, it’s very “Barrington Pheloung” (as in the theme tune for Morse) but without fully developing or exploring enough? – its nicely immersive without somehow catching fire?
And then we have the two bonus tracks. Dreamless Days is (I think) a 2020 out-take from other songwriting sessions, a muted electric piano providing the bubbling undercurrent below Tim’s trademark sparse vocals. It’s interesting in the different approach used in song-building, there’s what could be sustained distorted guitar work lowdown in the background, compardd to the original album it adds a new, darker mood that I really enjoyed!
Someone Starts To Fade Away is another 2020 creation, a new version of the 2006 Nosound piece. It features what I think is harp, supplemented by strings, subdued keys and some touching flute and/or synth work – there are so many lovely instruments and players on this album it’s a bit of a lottery trying to spot what playing where at times – but the overall effect is all about harmony.
An interesting album – I believe you have to be in a certain mood / ambient mind-set to fully appreciate this song-set, it’s undoubtedly very skillfully written and played, some of the arrangements are simply breath-taking whilst others are a bit hum-drum (sorry!). But overall, this is a classy piece of work!
Memories Of Machines will be released as a 2 disc (CD/DVD), 2LP and digital album, the DVD featuring hi-res stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes.