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

2020 astrology – the end of an era and new beginnings

Astrology for 2020 – three major conjunctions

“For many reasons, 2019-20 and the years that follow will confront the world economy with reality”, astrologer Roy Gillett in ‘Economy, Ecology and Kindness’ (2009).

Thoughts from other astrologers here and here. Conjunctions occur when planets reach the same point in the sky, as seen from the Earth. Astrologically, according to the planets involved, they signify the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. It is unusual to have three conjunctions involving three of the five outer planets in the same year.

Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn, building during 2019, exact on 12th January 2020 and continuing during 2020 and beyond

At the time of writing this piece (January 2019), Saturn in Capricorn has recently moved significantly closer to Pluto for the first time, within about 8 degrees. Correspondingly, warnings of recession are being made by many experienced commentators in the world of global finance and the interconnected crises of capitalism, democracy and ecology appear to be accelerating. During April and May 2019, the conjunction will be within 3 degrees of exact, before easing off then building to January 2020.

Using the western tropical zodiac, the conjunction falls in Capricorn, hence the worlds of economics and politics and other Capricornian themes (hard reality, organization, limitation, integrity) are the focus of a profound transformation. Along with countless other astrologers, I have previously blogged about Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) and Saturn teaming up with Pluto in 2020 is a crucial focus of that process. As extensively researched and documented by Richard Tarnas:

“The successive alignments of the Saturn-Pluto cycle coincided with especially challenging historical periods marked by a pervasive quality of intense contraction; eras of international crisis and conflict, empowerment of reactionary forces and totalitarian impulses, organized violence and oppression, all sometimes marked by lasting traumatic effects. An atmosphere of gravity and tension tended to accompany these three to four year periods, as did a widespread sense of epochal closure; “the end of an era,” “the end of innocence,” the destruction of an earlier mode of life that in retrospect may seem to have been marked by widespread indulgence, decadence, naivite, denial, and inflation. Profound transformation was a dominant theme” Richard Tarnas, Cosmos And Psyche

The astrological charts of Donald Trump, the USA and China are all clearly impacted by Saturn-Pluto in 2020. The Cancerian Moon of the UK chart is already being hit with Brexit and other crises.

Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn throughout 2020, exact on 4th April, 30th June and 12th November

Unlike Saturn-Pluto, the second conjunction of 2020 is potentially much more optimistic and creative, although not without a dark side. At its best, Jupiter-Pluto is all about positive healing and re-generation. It signifies upbeat new beginnings, here likely in relation to the broken Capricornian worlds of economics and politics. Many huge drives for success, improvement and achievement in the pursuit of excellence are likely to be launched at this time. Taking genuine responsibility is a key theme but a reforming zeal and obsession with power could be problematic. The old may have to be eliminated as organizations and bureaucracies dig deep into their roots, bringing hidden or secret aspects of reality to light. At its best (think Gandhi or maybe even Bill Gates, who were born with Jupiter-Pluto) this conjunction can sow the seeds for healing the world. The currently scheduled date for the next USA election is 3rd November, immediately followed by the final pass of Jupiter-Pluto.

Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius, exact on 21st December 2020

Many western astrologers have had their eye on this one for a long time. The general historic importance of Jupiter-Saturn cycles has long been observed. Since the 1840s, all the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions (except a few in the early 1980s) have been occurring in the Earth signs Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. Falling in the first degree of Aquarius, an Air sign. the late 2020 conjunction marks a significant long-term shift towards fairer social attitudes. The change of conjunctions from Earth to Air indicates moves away from, for example, fossil fuels and materialism. In their place come an emphasis on new ideas, information, technology, equality for all and respecting our environment. The decentralized political structures indicated here are very different to the regeneration of corporate power indicated by Jupiter-Pluto above. Perhaps they will combine, or just simply co-exist.

Many thanks to Roy Gillett of the UK Astrological Association for fully drawing my attention to the significance of the 2020 triple conjunctions, both through his talks and his book ‘Economy, Ecology and Kindness’. Also to Julian Venables for banging on (and on!) to me about the importance of the new Jupiter-Saturn cycle a few years ago. I recommend an extraordinary book by Professor Richard Tarnas – Cosmos And Psyche. which (amongst other things) masterfully documents Saturn-Pluto correlations with countless traumatic periods throughout modern global history, ranging from the beginning of World War One to the events of 911 and many more.

I haven’t mentioned the 2020 eclipses, retrograde Mars in Aries or even Uranus in Taurus (further emphasis on radical changes in relation to global finance and ecology) – the above is a deliberately brief and general summary. We may have to wait until Pluto enters Aquarius in 2023-24 for the real revolutions.  Good luck to all – I think we need it!

Consultations and readings available at https://www.timburnessastrologer.co.uk