Saffron Laudanum

Melting music into new

It’s 2011 and audience members at the Agder Theatre, Kristiansand, Norway rush from the main auditorium to a dark basement room where plain benches are set out to accommodate as many people as possible in this smaller space. In dim light the deep shimmering drone of the music begins. David Sylvian’s distinctive reading voice declares:

‘matter
in the layers between
crushed in time

matter
what they left behind
can be read on an arrowhead’

The concert just completed in the theatre above was Sylvian’s one and only live performance of Plight & Premonition, his classic ambient collaboration with Holger Czukay. What the audience witness now is a live remix of that material, overlaid with pre-recorded words drawn from Nils Christian Moe-Repstad’s poem ‘I Swallowed Earth for This’. The musician creating a new piece from sound samples gathered live during the Plight & Premonition concert is Stephan Mathieu. Continue reading “Saffron Laudanum”

Red Guitar

‘my vice and my virtue’

Sat in the Reading Room for Rare Books and Music at the British Library in London, I don the headphones provided. I’ve come to this hushed space to listen to a conversation recorded with photographer Angus McBean in 1989, just months before his passing. Hearing the excited tones of the sprightly octogenarian it’s impossible not to be caught up in his enthusiasm for life and his sheer joy at recounting tales from a career in which he captured portraits of the stars of stage, screen and literary arts – Audrey Hepburn, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Ivor Novello, Vivien Leigh, the Beatles, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Margot Fonteyn, T.S. Eliot, Benjamin Britten, the list is truly incredible. If a glint in the eye can be caught on audio tape then surely it is captured here. It’s the same playful energy that comes over in the settings created for his subjects, influenced as they were by his early career as a mask-maker and scenery designer for stage productions and by the impact of the Surrealist movement. Continue reading “Red Guitar”

Manafon

‘A man out of time’

Manafon. Manafon? What could it mean? Scurrying to a search engine it was soon discovered that David Sylvian’s new album was named after a small rural community located in the hills of Montgomeryshire, the northern part of the Welsh county of Powys. But that just raised more questions! Why?! Continue reading “Manafon”

Taking Islands in Africa

‘a masterclass in synth programming’

In March 1980 Japan headed for the country of their band-name, embarking on a tour to support the Quiet Life album. Mick Karn later recalled how their travel was, ‘more often than not, by Shinkansen, the luxuriously smooth bullet train.. ..It was on one such journey I heard a cassette that was being circulated amongst the band, on my Walkman, the latest invention from Sony. Electronic music was the future, Kraftwerk were already a favourite, but there was something different about this band. YMO were the perfect accompaniment to the speeding scenery outside, it was one of those moments when music and visuals became one, quite by accident, and somehow captured the very spirit of Japan. We couldn’t believe that no-one had heard of them abroad.’ (2009) Continue reading “Taking Islands in Africa”

20th Century Dreaming – live

‘a shaman’s song’

As David Sylvian and Robert Fripp prepared to go out on the road in 1993 to support their album The First Day, it was clear that they would need a drummer as a key member of the band. The material had developed since the initial drummer-less Sylvian/Fripp/Gunn trio shows the year before, and the powerful yet intricate drive present on the album would now be critical in a live setting. Jerry Marotta had left the sessions for the album early in its gestation, with the drum parts on the record constructed from early recordings and samples of his playing, at times manipulated by David Bottrill. So, a new band-member needed to be found. Continue reading “20th Century Dreaming – live”