No-ManlyThe late Mitch Hedberg used to joke about how Pringles’ original intention was to manufacture tennis balls. “On the day the rubber was supposed to show up,” he’d say, “a truckload of potatoes came. Pringles is a laid-back company, so they just said, ‘Fuck it, cut ’em up!’”

Perhaps Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson went through a similar process with Love You To Bits, which presents two 20-minute sides of interrelated music – Love You To Bits and Love You To Pieces – in much the same way as, two years before No-Man formed in 1987, Grace Jones and Trevor Horn conspired to turn the song Slave To The Rhythm into an album of similar length. Unable to decide which of the 10 versions they preferred, Bowness and Wilson simply declared, “Fuck it, let’s make it an album!”

If so, it was a bold decision, but a worthwhile one, in keeping with a band whose 1993 single, Painting Paradise, offered a 21-minute B-side, Heaven Taste. It also befits a duo whose art-pop echoes that of, among others, Japan, with whose members they’ve worked. Love You To Bits sounds like an especially extended 12″ remix, its tracks essentially imaginative variations exercising additional creative muscles.

So, Bowness’ breathy vocal aside, Love You To Bits Bit 1 begins like a rococo KLF before shifting into an urgent indie-meets-Moroder stomper, and Bit 3 adds a dirty guitar riff and shuddering vocal effects, while Bit 4 echoes Trevor Horn’s lush soundscapes, and Bit 5 fades out with a nostalgic brass band. Love You To Pieces Piece 1’s synths still sparkle but are significantly more contemplative, and Piece 2 drifts into Underworld territory, adding a gloriously jazzy Rhodes piano break, before the beatless Piece 4 heads heavenwards and Piece 5 closes business with hushed ambience.

Some may find this repetitive, but, thanks to Wilson’s arrangement and production skills, it’s an immersive, luxurious experience. The 10 affiliated tracks might not seem like an album, but as Hedberg also said: “Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read!”

8/10

Wyndham Wallace

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