Review: Tim Burgess – Ascent Of The Ascended EP

Tim Burgess Ascent Of The Ascended artwork

Tim Burgess keeps his band ticking over with new solo release.

For reasons initially beyond his control, Tim Burgess has had quite the year.

By now, you’ll surely be aware of his Twitter Listening Parties which, it’s fair to say, have taken on a life of their own. As well as giving other artists good exposure, on the official website one can now purchase art prints with links to recommended record stores.

In addition, all year Burgess has been vocal and pro-active in his support of music venues, and even aided in securing bailout packages for the Gorilla and Deaf Institute in his (near) hometown of Manchester.

As if all that wasn’t enough, he’s also released a (solo) career best album, I Love The New Sky, and is closing out the year with this Ascent Of The Ascended EP. It consists of two new tracks and recordings from a session at Paste Studios in New York, just before the pandemic took its vice-like grip on 2020.

Demonstrating the confidence Burgess surely now feels, the two new tracks are vastly different; the title-track has been described by its creator as a ‘magnum opus’ and, in truth, your reviewer will struggle to come up with a more apt description. Wurlitzer guitars, a trotting seesaw beat, a cluster of people shouting (rather than singing or chanting) ‘hey hey hey’ and a truly moving, lifting backing vocal from the man himself after the delivery of the title line all feature in the first minute.

After that, the verse settles into something more traditional and in line with the scattered, pointed style of I Love The New Sky before taking off again then diverting for a wonky, vocal-effected middle-eight. To round off (just in case your ears haven’t had enough) an ear-piercing sound drowns all surrounding it for the last ninety seconds, a sound akin to a spaceship taking off to, well, the New Sky. Burgess’ best ever solo track? Quite possibly.

In contrast, Yours. To Be is much more traditional and straight-forward, an acoustic track all about catching a moment (‘Windows wound down, my arm around you, feel like a superstar’). At just under three minutes, it’s pleasant but not especially memorable.

The remaining four tracks were all recorded live at the Paste sessions, which was part of the promotion for the album, but these are no direct copies of the recordings. The Mall is given a guitar solo to spruce it up, along with a string-led outro and wobbly piano. The keys get more prominence on Laurie, while Undertow veers closest to its source material.

Whilst the above are all recognisable, the version of his band’s The Only One I Know gets a full workover. All brushed drums and sparse piano, it’s a jaunty campfire version of the indie classic, yet still retains its slightly other-worldly air, even with Burgess choosing to sing in a completely different key.

It’s a creative’s prerogative to re-imagine his own work, and it would therefore be churlish to compare the two versions. It works well as a companion piece but, obviously, not as good as the original.

Unlike Tim Burgess himself, who is going from strength to strength.


Richard Bowes

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