TIM BOWNESS My Hotel Year (One Little Indian)

The press release accompanying Tim Bowness’ debut solo album commends it to fans of artists as diverse and innovative as David Bowie, This Mortal Coil, Scott Walker, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Brian Eno, Mark Hollis, Mark Eitzel and Red House Painters, and I must admit that any album that soared as gracefully or plucked heartstrings as exquisitely as the works of the aforementioned would be a hotly-tipped contender for my year’s best pile. Unfortunately, though, “My Hotel Year” does neither. Given that Bowness spends his days as one half of progressive electronica duo No-Man, it’s not a staggering surprise to discover that his solo work retains that band’s antiseptic feel, even down to the booklet’s design, typography and images of urban dislocation.

All aesthetic at the expense of emotion, Bowness’ breathy, supercilious vocals and pattering synth backgrounds fail to connect on any real level, bar the gentle Aphex Twin burble of “I Once Loved You”. Majoring on alienation and despair framed by a shadowy metropolitan landscape, there’s nary a trace of a pulse to this bloodless album, let alone a real, human feeling. Even the string arrangements on “Sleepwalker” sound constricted and oppressed; any dynamics the music might have are mediated to a constant, unvarying level. If you remain unmoved by the crushing majesty of it all, “My Hotel Year” is a cold, dead place where nobody knows your name.