Song

Last words

The first time I heard Franz Wright’s voice I had no idea of the identity of the speaker. It was 7 September 2013 and the premiere of The Kilowatt Hour, a trio of Christian Fennesz, Stephan Mathieu and David Sylvian, taking place at the Punkt Festival in Kristiansand, Norway. The venue was the main screen at the local cinema: the sound system powerful and detailed, the acoustics perfect.

Weaved within the music, high in the mix, were readings in a distinctive modulating voice that was both strident and world-worn. There had been no inkling beforehand that there would be a spoken word element to the performance, so in the absence of context all one could do was give total attention to the lines narrated. At the time, the experience of hearing passages confronting mental anguish, illness and death was extremely disconcerting… shocking even. I was unprepared for it.

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Cover Me with Flowers – live

‘the bridge between rhythm and harmony’

On 23 July 2001, David Sylvian sat down at home to write what would become his introduction for the smart hard-backed concert programme to accompany his forthcoming tour. ‘It’s a warm summer night in New England. Moths are climbing over the wire mesh screens which cover the windows trying to reach the light of the office and the glow of the computer monitor. All is quiet but the beating of wings against wire and the hum of the hard drive. I’m three weeks away from commencing rehearsals for the Everything and Nothing tour. We’re clearing out an old barn on the property, bringing in fresh power from the road expressly for this purpose.

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Before and Afterlife

Creating other worlds

When Jan Bang heard that Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær had been invited to rework a track for David Sylvian’s instrumental compilation, Camphor, he didn’t hold back in seeking a role in the commission. ‘I said to Nils, “If you are doing a remix of David Sylvian, I need to be on it.” Just like that,’ remembered Bang, laughing, in an interview with John Kelman for the All About Jazz website. ‘Nils and I had been working closely for so many years, and it sort of felt natural.’ (2010)

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Pulling Punches

‘an explosion of frustration’

‘Red Guitar’ was the first song heard from Brilliant Trees, being the advance single heralding Sylvian’s debut album. But when we carefully removed the vinyl from its designer inner-sleeve for the inaugural play of a Sylvian solo LP, it was ‘Pulling Punches’ that launched our ride into the unknown. And what an explosive, energetic opener it is.

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Thalheim – The Church Bells Strike

‘the rebirth of love’

‘Thalheim is a place in Germany,’ states David Sylvian factually on the promotional interview cd that was provided to journalists when Dead Bees on a Cake was at last released by Virgin. ‘A place where another famous Indian saint lives and receives people from around the world. I visited her there and the song touches upon that and my relationship with her.

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