Review of Interconnected by Tim Burness

Interconnected is the latest release from Tim Burness, coming hot on the heels of Whose Dream Are You Living?, an album I enjoyed delving into for this newsletter both on its first digital release (2015), and it’s amended re release on cd in 2017. I’m pleased to say that this new collection continues where that album left off, exploring further some of the same themes but also taking an artistic deep dive into darker territory. That darker side is reflected in the album artwork which is a nice sleek black where the previous few releases had all been largely white in their make up, illustrated only very sparsely by a red question mark or a collection of fairly colourless pictures of Tim.  An artier image adorns the front cover of ‘Interconnected’, with a unicorn-headed Burness reading the Financial Times, projecting the image of a being not of this world, trying to make sense of the madness within it. It also hints at some of the political themes within as Tim offers a critique of neo-liberal capitalism and hopes for a better social structure, one where people can rediscover their connection to nature, the earth, our fellow beings and spiritual energy.

Music video for Electric Energy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0b3WF2LEYzM

Music video for I Am Afraid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6icbZoFtmc

So, what is ‘Interconnected’ in Tim’s world? Well. Everything is interconnected. The personal, the spiritual, the political. Love, hope and fear. Freedom and power. ‘Everything is interconnected, be the change you wish to see’ sings Tim during the album opener Electric Energy, a deliberately upbeat starting point that positively screams the 1980s in production style and is Tim’s call to arms for us to channel our energy, our consciousness, our love and spirituality to overthrow the oligarchies and the hierarchies that keep us trapped in this capitalist system. For Tim, music is all about positive energy and the way that energy exhilerates and raises awareness of our spirituality. It is a way to inspire whether that be through the rhythms of dance music, the emotion of a guitar solo or the mood and lyrical content of the song. ‘Electric Energy’ is both a description of the energy of love within us to spread and do good for others as well as a creator of that energy within us through its light playfulness and gimmicky effects, its fat, bouncy bass and it’s synthtastic pop hooks and danceable rhythm.

From the upbeat vibe of ‘Electric Energy’ we quickly move deeper into Tim’s psyche where he reveals his very real sense of fear, paranoia and frustration of where neo-liberalism has led us to. I Am Afraid is like the flipside of ‘Electric Energy’ as Tim isn’t blaming anyone other than ourselves for not taking our own responsibility for using our minds, for handing over power to the wrong people, for not realising the power we have. In ‘Electric Energy’ Tim is encouraging us to ‘look to the source of the power inside yourself, conscious love action, build for the future, blow away the hierarchy’ but in ‘I Am Afraid’ Tim is angry that, ‘we are responsible, we’ve put the power in the hands of fools with money’, and frustrated, ‘this joke isn’t funny anymore’, we’d better get going with alternatives, what is this total utter madness’?! That growing desperation is translated musically into an incessant guitar riff that repeats over and over through the song, building in tension. Tim’s calling out of ‘I am afraid, aren’t you?!’ suggests he is feeling alone and isolated and wanting the rest of us to wake up to what is going on around us. We should all be afraid and we should all do our bit to change things.

The parenthesis title of ‘I Am Afraid’, (Saturn Conjunct Pluto) which is, for the non astrologists out there, a reference to the fact that we are two thirds of the way into the cycle of Pluto going into Capricorn. Tim is a dedicated and published astrologer and explains that between 2008 and 2023 we are experiencing a tumultuous period. Capricorn is all about structures organisation, economics and politics and Pluto is about transformation, wiping everything out and starting again, death and rebirth. Tim relates this to the economic crash and all the political upheaval and social division we have had since as well as the huge challenges we face on issues such as global warming. ‘What have we become?, we have reached our limits, can we turn it around?, I am afraid of a loveless world, where nobody cares’, is Tim’s frustration that we need to reevaluate our priorities, move away from the importance of financial status and reconnect with our humanity, with our sense of community, our love and respect for our fellow beings, of nature and of our planet if we are to come out of this situation.

Photo by Rachael Emily for Prog magazine

Freedom explores one of the great philosophical dilemmas; where do you draw the line and strike the balance between personal freedom and an element of social structure to protect your freedom. This is quite a different track for Tim in that he has steered away from straight forward, direct lyrics to something more poetic and ambiguous. These poetic lines float wistfully over an elegant piano melody and lush synth soundscape, with Kate Bush and Genesis influences gently nudging their way in to an inventive track built upon the unusual 5/4 time signature. ‘Freedom’ is the featured track on a Prog Rock Magazine cover CD and one of the undoubted highlights of the album (I find the entire first half to be flawless). Tim deliberately wanted this song to get away from obvious interpretations but I think the key to it is the low in the mix, affected toff voice Tim uses to seemingly mock the concept of freedom, a cynicism that any freedom we may feel we have is mere smoke and mirrors from the elites to fool us and keep us from uprising into any meaningful action.

If that all sounds like a heavy going start of the album I can assure you that it is only really ‘I Am Afraid’ with its swirling, claustrophobic paranoia that is truly heavy to listen to. ‘Electric Energy’ is fun and uplifting with positive encouragement in much the same way as ‘And Set Your Spirit Free’ is on the previous album, and ‘Freedom’ is an atmospheric dreamy epic. Punctuating the heavy themes of the album with a dollop of the renowned Burness humour is Dear Stranger, a tongue in cheek duet of sorts with the computerised voice of Siri (voice actor Susan Bennett, also the voice of Delta Airlines, provided the monotonous, robotic tones for Apple inc). Tim’s use of humour isn’t always appreciated by the stuffier critics of the Prog scene, but if you know Tim you know he has an affable cheeky chappiness about him, and the ability to mix deep thinking with a welcome blend of absurdist and satirical humour, a perfectly natural way for Tim to further express his personality and inner angst. ‘Grass is Greener’ from ‘Whose Dream ….?’ contained elements of Tim’s humour but this is more overtly used in ‘Dear Stranger’, an XTC-ish pop song about internet dating, with goofball backing vocals and ludicrously catchy melody.

This is the Space follows on from ‘Dear Stranger’ and I can’t help feeling it’s sequencing here is because it is also about a relationship. ‘Dear Stranger’ detailed the frustration, albeit comically, of trying to get to know someone who is protected behind the computer screen, what do you trust is real? The information given? The images shared? ‘This is the Space’ takes us back down into the darkness of earlier in the album with my interpretation of the song being about mental health. ‘So dark, so light’, ‘unreachable, I can’t get into your head’, ‘unfathomable’, all expressions of the desire to connect with someone whose mood and personality swings violently from one extreme to the other, rarely settling in the space where a relationship can flourish. That dichotomy of dark and light swings like an emotional pendulum as the song builds in its dark psychosis through to its abrupt end.

Making It Up is notable for a lovely bit of acoustic guitar from Keith Hastings, who provides the bass throughout this and most of Tim’s back catalogue, and is similar in feel to ‘Freedom’, a mid tempo, gently brooding soundscape with Tim perhaps pondering further on the relationship in ‘This is the Space’ and where it is going. Still Mumbling is an update of Mumbling in the House of Commons a song Tim has been playing around with since 1981, with the 1989 single version supposedly the final take! Tim regards this as his ‘hit’, seeing as it received some airplay from Alan Freeman on Radio 1 and this is basically a fun jazz-rock jam from the band with some humorously satirical lyrics on the state of British politics, and ineffective politicians in particular, a situation seemingly unchanged in nearly 40 years!

 
 

Ants is the most challenging song on the record, and Tim’s most satisfying creatively. A reflection of his own existential insecurity and confusion as well as philosophising on the nature of the individual within the collective, comparing our own societies to that of the ants crawling around the Earth. The track isn’t particularly melodic or tuneful, building an oppressive soundscape on top of a 1-2-3 percussive beat with Tim’s use of E-Bow providing a strange electronic tone amongst other effects. Beautiful World is a Floyd-esque epic, containing Tim’s longest lyric, a tortured ballad to our own planet and the very real risk we are posing to it if we don’t change our ways. Such a track would have wrapped this album up perfectly but Tim was keen to end on a more positive note, the album coming full circle after the positive opening of ‘Electric Energy’. One More Time is a fun, almost silly, sing-a-long ditty that works as an uplifiting, light-hearted encore which may just leave you wanting more, whereas ‘Beautiful World’ would have left a greater sense of completion.

Interconnected is the work of an artist who has been developing his craft, his thoughts, his ideas over a number of years finding himself in the fortunate position of being able to capitalise on his creative peak at a time he had resources to put every bit of energy and care into the project. There are many echoes of his previous works as well as Tim borrowing comfortably from his myriad influences, but the album also stretches out into new territory, pushing his own musical instincts, with the encouragement of his producer Julian Tardo, as well as the capabilities of his hugely talented band of Fudge Smith, Keith Hastings and Monty Oxymoron. The strength of Tim’s music is the honesty, the soul baring and humanity of his lyrical content. He is able to project the many facets of his personality, his hopes, his fears, his desires, his anxieties, his humour and his positivity, to be constructive and to help make a difference to change things for the better. He may claim to be afraid as we approach the peak of Pluto’s crossing over into Capricorn, but he is not afraid to explore his darker recesses, just as much as he isn’t afraid to be silly and fun. He’s not afraid to tackle the big subjects of our time but he balances criticism with answers and a positive way forward. Tim’s music is a ‘light in the darkness’ which should give us all food for thought and inspiration through all the madness going on around us and in our own individual lives.

Review by Joe Bridge

Taken from the December 2018 newsletter of Brighton’s Real Music Club

Burness Band – live review

“The main support act this evening was the Tim Burness Band.

The band is made up of four very accomplished musicians, namely the Brighton based Tim Burness (guitar and vocals), drummer Fudge Smith (ex-Pendragon and ex-Steve Hackett), bassist Keith Hastings (Bamboleo) and keyboard maestro Monty Oxymoron (from legendary English punk band The Damned and also of the Sumerian Kyngs).

Prior to their performance, I was having a conversation with Tim and I must say what a very likeable fellow he is. A very down to earth guy and one you could easily go out for a pint with.

When on stage his warmth was still evident as he was having the banter with the punters in between each of his eight song set, whilst tuning his guitar.

Tim has been recording and performing in one guise or another since the 1980’s. Gaining some relative success around Europe on the way as Burnessence. In May last year, he released his seventh album, ‘Whose Dream Are You Living?’ to some great critical acclaim and I must concur with those people as I have the album and it is a fine coming together of musical styles. With each song on the album you hear elements of other artists such as Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and Peter Gabriel’s Genesis to name just two.

So live as well as on his recorded musical output, the Burness sound features a wide range of musical styles – from progressive rock to pop-rock to ambient electronica. The lyrics cover a range of interconnected themes – from the personal to the political to the spiritual. It’s a summing up of one man’s journey through his life with contrasting themes and ups and downs. It will be interesting to see what the forthcoming ‘Interconnected’ 2018 album will bring.

At The Albert, Tim (and not Desmond, Harold or Roland – injoke!) began his set with a solo number ‘I Don’t Know What’s Good For Me’ and then invited his pals to join him for the further numbers. I noted Keith Hastings bass playing style and it reminded me of the sadly departed Mick Karn from Japan.

The punters were sent on a journey during the set from prog rock to ballad to cosmic. We learnt that ‘Infinite Ocean’ came into being as a result of standing on the end of Brighton Pier. We learnt (if we didn’t already suspect) that there is ‘Mumbling In The House Of Commons’ with little else getting done – which was delivered as a southern version of Mark E. Smith. I learn that the most powerful and outstanding Tim Burness Band track tonight was ‘Walk Through The Darkness’,
which deals with depression as its subject matter and sounds akin to Oasis – nice one!

Tonight’s Tim Burness Band setlist reads:
‘I Don’t Know What’s Good For Me’ (solo) (from ‘Infinite Ocean’ 1997 album),
‘What’s Going On In Your Head?’ (from ‘Whose Dream Are You Living?’ 2017 album),
‘Poppadom Rock’ (from ‘I Am You Are Me’ 1984 album as Burnessence),
‘Infinite Ocean’ (from ‘Infinite Ocean’ 1997 album),
‘Love Is For Giving’ (from ‘Finding New Ways To Love’ 2004 album)
‘Broaden Your Horizons’ (from ‘Vision On’ 2007 album),
‘Walk Through The Darkness’ (from ‘Finding New Ways To Love’ 2004 album),
‘Mumbling In The House Of Commons’ (from ‘Infinite Ocean’ 1997 album),

Tim Burness Band setlist from the Prince Albert gig 31.3.18

Find out more here:

https://timburness.bandcamp.com/

https://www.timburness.com/

https://www.facebook.com/tim.burness.1

Nick Linazasoro

Full review of the night at http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2018/04/01/b-movie-play-brighton-gig-exactly-37-years-to-the-day-after-their-john-peel-session/

Review of “Whose Dream Are You Living?”

Thanks to Joe Bridge of the Real Music Club for this nice album review:-

“Tim Burness is back at the RMC on February 27th and with his seventh album, Whose Dream Are You Living? a work he has been patiently and lovingly crafting for the best part of five years. His previous album Vision On (2007) received strong notices, recognition and international reviews, so Tim had a lot to live up to with its follow up, released in November last year and available via https://timburness.bandcamp.com/

LiveBurnessOpening track Onwards and Upwards starts off with Gregg McKella’s swirling synths and electro beats before the real drums (Fudge Smith: ex Pendragon and Steve Hackett) kick in and drive the song forward, carrying the positive message of the song’s lyrics along with it.

Slowing down with Grass is Greener, this song seems to catch a man at some sort of crossroads contemplating a change in life, with Tim’s wit particularly enjoyable on lines such as “I know that some British folk like to hang out in Turkey, if I get myself out there I might feel slightly more perky. I heard things are quieter in Belgium, unfortunately there is not much that rhymes with Belgium” and “the grass is greener over there, at least I’ve still got most of my hair”!

The album continues to alternate between tempos as Monty Oxymoron (Damned, Sumerian Kyngs) starts up Set Your Spirit Free, another positive-thinking song “release the energy and set your spirit free” before the ambient sounds of Round and Round bring things down into a mellow hypnotic trance with its repetitive acoustic riff and minimal vocal lines punctuating the soundscape.

Moving on with something a bit different, Smith’s thumping percussive beats and Tim’s fiery bursts of guitar create an aggressive atmosphere to colour the assertive lyric of The Messenger, an atmosphere that builds before being punctured by a cough and a completely unexpected (should I have put a spoiler alert in?!) middle section, all Oompah band and megaphone! Another track that takes the album into different territory is the aptly titled Unlike Any Other, which is largely instrumental bar some sparse spoken lines, and carries with it a kind of modern noirish nightmare feel with its theramin-like sounds eerily playing over the stop-start rhythm.

After that midway detour, A Space for Our Love to Grow brings us back to the vibe set by the opening four tracks – a typically spacious, synthesised sound with a yearning chorus. There are again some little musical twists to keep things interesting, such as the nice acoustic / keys outro that just acts as a nice release to the emotion of the main body of the song.

Politics infiltrates the album on Stop Them. Tim’s anti-corporate, anti-capitalist protest is powerful in its passion but done with a light enough touch to not beat you over the head with its message. The music is subtle with vocals to the fore, bringing full attention to the lyrics.

After the relatively heavy Stop Them comes a song with a sprinkling of humour, playing on its name check of Doctor Who in its first line, with repeated use of Dalek-sounding voices. Otherwise What’s Going On In Your Head is one of those Ronseal songs, doing exactly what it says on the tin!

Closing out the album is Cynical World, a track that gives the album a sense of closure and of wrapping things up with the repeated vocal refrain “Our love goes on” sung over Monty Oxymoron’s distinctive backing vocals and some clean, emotive lead guitar work. Tim Burness has produced a mature and engaging work, full of hope, positivity and deep soul searching, always giving something for the mind to think over whether they be the personal, spiritual or political lyrics within, the trippy soundscapes, or the intricate musical twists and turns along the way. Five years of hard graft and personal investment well spent!”

Great gig

A few pics of our recent gig with The Lanes and Spacedogs, promoted by The Real Music Club at The Prince Albert, Brighton. Promoter Roy Weard:- “Wonderfully good gig tonight. All three bands absolutely excelled themselves and the audience wear pumping it up by the end of The Lanes gig. Great stuff.” Photos courtesy of Andy Voakes Music Photography. A great night, the first TB full band gig for a few years, here’s to a few more…

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Brighton Burness Band gig coming up – Saturday 27th February 2016

Very close to Brighton train station, The Prince Albert, Saturday 27th February. Monty Oxymoron (from punk legends The Damned) on keyboards, Fudge Smith (ex-Pendragon and ex-Steve Hackett) on drums, Keith Hastings (Andalus) on bass guitar. And me!

RealMusicGig

More Tim Burness music on YouTube

Finding New Ways To Love (2004)

Finding New Ways To Love (2004)

More tracks from my albums are now up on YouTube. Mumbling In The House Of Commons (originally written in 1981, final version released in 1989) is a punky little number and the nearest thing I’ve had to a “Greatest Hit”. It has featured on several releases down the years.

The two albums below feature Fudge Smith (ex-Pendragon, ex-Steve Hackett) on drums, Keith Hastings on bass, Monty Oxymoron (The Damned) on keyboards and myself on guitar, vocals and keyboards.

From Finding New Ways To Love (2004) there is the upbeat Open Man and the darker and rockier Walk Through The Darkness, both popular tracks. I have also uploaded Heal Your Soul and Love Is For Giving and the short instrumental Beneath The Surface.

Vision On (2007)

Vision On (2007)

 

From Vision On (2007) there are the ambient pieces Undercurrents and Undercurrents II, the space-rock of Broaden Your Horizons and the instrumental progrock of Can You Hack It?

I think they’ve stood the test of time but of course I’m biased!

Slowly but surely… the new album

Currently listening back to the latest mixes of my next album, “Spirit Level”. The title is taken from The Spirit Level, an influential book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett on the consequences of inequality in societies. With one or two exceptions, the tracks are all sounding jolly good, even though I do say so myself. Still a long way to go though, now hoping for a 2014 release.

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Monty Oxymoron, Tim Burness, Fudge Smith and Keith Hastings

We made a big step forward in March, with around ten days with Julian Tardo in Church Road Recording Studios in Hove. Having originally worked on around thirty rough tracks since 2010, some ruthless decisions have been made, and it’s now down to ten or twelve. More than ever before, I have tried to put as much of my self into this album as possible. I’m trying to give it absolutely everything – I might not have many albums left in me! Musically, as with most of my material down the years, it is a mixture of “progressive rock”, pop, and electronic and experimental elements. A fair bit of my dubious sense of humour is in there too.

A few general influences on the album have been a fascinating biography of The Beatles by Sean Egan, the stunning opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, and a number of books such as the recently published The Future by Al Gore. Musically I have gone back over much of my own work down the years, aswell as listening very very carefully to many of my all-time favourite classic rock albums and artists.

There are scrillions of people making music these days, and much of it is of a high standard. A lot of great stuff is only heard by a very small audience. At this stage, I am just grateful for the opportunity to have a lot of fun expressing myself, with the help of some great musicians and friends. Drummer Fudge Smith and bassist Keith Hastings came down to Brighton for their final contributions in March. The next step is a bit of compositional homework with keyboard maestro Monty Oxymoron, then back into the studio in a few months time.