Blackcrow Hits Shoe Shine City

‘this dark emotional experience personified’

As the sun set on an artistically fruitful 1980s and a new decade dawned, collaborative projects would be the primary outlet for David Sylvian. ‘For the past almost three or four years, I’ve being going through quite a powerful emotional change in my life and it took me a long time to come to terms with what was happening. So I thought, rather than just slogging away without getting to grips with it, I should perhaps collaborate and allow myself to work more on the spur of the moment,’ he explained in 1991, as the eagerly awaited reunion project of the former members of Japan – Rain Tree Crow – was first shared with an intrigued audience.

‘The idea was to have a loose outfit of musicians and just respond to the characters involved,’ said Sylvian, ‘which was actually fun.’ As Richard Barbieri, Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and Sylvian entered the studio in France in the September of 1989, there was a firm commitment to a new way of working from all involved: developing material from scratch in the studio environment rather than bringing in compositions written in isolation and further developed in the rehearsal room (see ‘Red Earth (as summertime ends)’). All parties were eager to discover where this new musical path might lead.

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Playing the Schoolhouse

‘sensitivity to time within space’

From 30 November to 2 December 2016 a symposium entitled On the Edge was staged in Oslo, Norway. Whilst David Sylvian was not present at the event, his influence on the proceedings was significant. The programme was created by Ivar Grydeland, a musician who works in the field of improvisation and a member of the groups Huntsville and Dans les Abres, the latter’s eponymous debut album having been released on the ECM label in 2008.

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Jacqueline

‘A life lived bereft of the sun’

In summer 2009 followers of David Sylvian’s music were awaiting a firm release date for his new solo album. A mid-March announcement had been made on davidsylvian.com revealing the title – Manafon – and promising that more information about this ‘powerfully bold, uncompromising work’ would be shared ‘shortly’.

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p:Machinery

‘a complete experimental playground’

ZTT records was established in 1983 by record producer Trevor Horn, businesswoman Jill Sinclair (Horn’s wife), and NME music journalist Paul Morley. In many ways the partnership between Horn and Morley was an unlikely one, with Horn’s early ’80s projects with Buggles and Dollar not the sort of acts that Morley would have lauded in the music press. There was no doubting Horn’s prowess in the studio, however, with ABC’s 1982 smash-hit The Lexicon of Love testifying as much.

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Midnight Sun – live

‘lost in the sound every night’

Recently David Sylvian reflected on the various live outings he has made since his first solo tour, In Praise of Shamans, in 1988. His recollections were particularly warm in relation to the Everything and Nothing tour which included stints in both 2001 and 2002. It was, he said, ‘enjoyable due to the fluency of the musicianship and the shared camaraderie.’ The musicians had evidently enjoyed their time spent together: ‘Socially speaking, everyone found their comfort zone and stayed within it.’ (2021)

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