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No-Man - Wild Opera (1996)
Genre: Trip Hop, Art Rock
Released: September, 1996
Recorded: August, 1994
Label: 3rd. Stone Ltd.
Producer: Tim Bowness, Steven Wilson
No-Man's fourth studio album proper was an unfettered amalgam of art-rock, trip-hop and difficult dub influences that were developed from demanding improvisatory writing sessions. Strong, strange and instinctive, "Wild Opera" was the sound of a band rediscovering reasons to exist. Music on the move (to where?)...
In 1996, No-Man announced their return on a new label 3rd Stone Ltd., home of Spacemen 3 and Bark Psychosis. The fresh start was spearheaded by the bleak and baleful "Housewives Hooked On Heroin" single (a Hot Press 'single of the fortnight'), a taster for the 'Wild Opera' album which followed that autumn.
'Wild Opera' was a far darker, more beat-driven and wilfully exploratory recording than 'Flowermouth', with lyrics and moods musing on a fractured, threatening and often crushing world. No-Man's taste for melancholy balladry and cinematic art rock soundscaping was still in evidence, but this time it was joined by savage industrial dance, luscious trip hop and odder pop excursions than the band had ever attempted before.
Most of the album had emerged from a series of semi-spontaneous improvisations recorded over a few hours, rather than planned-out attempts at songwriting. The raw results of three such sessions appeared on the album, revealing new and more direct No-Man working methods. Wild Opera was a reinvention that flung itself into the faces of a press that were still coming to grips with the band's re-emergence, and consequently reviews ranged from the savagely ecstatic to the cluelessly confused. Over the years the album would become an insidious musical force, gradually gaining more and more underground attention.
One of the best 'Wild Opera' tracks - 'Dry Cleaning Ray' - was released as a single in 1997. It also spawned the 'Dry Cleaning Ray' mini-album. Even more eclectic than its predecessor, 'Dry Cleaning Ray' presented drastically reworked 'Wild Opera' material, Gainsbourg covers, left-field remixes (such as 'Punished For Being Born', Muslimgauze's bizarre reinvention of 'Housewives Hooked On Heroin'), and freefalling instrumental moments. It also offered new songs such as the seething, venomous isolationist songscape of 'Sicknote', showing that the band continued to explore new territories.
1. Radiant City (3:31)
2. Pretty Genius (3:51)
3. Infant Phenomenon (3:21)
4. Sinister Jazz (4:18)
5. Housewives Hooked on Heroin (4:39)
6. Libertine Libretto (3:20)
7. Taste My Dream (6:09)
8. Dry Cleaning Ray (3:26)
9. Sheeploop (4:01)
10. My Rival Trevor (4:20)
11. Time Travel in Texas (4:24)
12. My Revenge on Seattle (4:42)
13. (Silence) (2:00)
14. Wild Opera (3:06)
Tim Bowness - vocals, tapes, words
Steven Wilson - instruments, tapes, backing vocals (2,5)
Richard Barbieri - sample material
Natalie Box - violins (1,2)
Mel Collins - sample material, saxophone (1)
Robert Fripp - sample material