When We Return You Won’t Recognise Us

‘the interior life of a community’

March 2009. The venue is on the north-east coast of Gran Canaria, the near-circular island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Part of a Spanish archipelago but geographically much closer to Africa. In fact, at its closest point, Morocco is less than a hundred miles to the East. Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (CAAM, or the Atlantic Centre of Modern Art) in Las Palmas has dedicated exhibition space to the second architecture and art biennial of the Canary Islands, with parallel presentations taking place at a number of venues across Gran Canaria.

Silencio, silence, was the chosen theme of a festival that was conceived on this occasion as a meditation on the landscape of the Canary Islands and their unique geographical, topographical and sociological make-up. The event brochure sets the scene: ‘Through photographs, paintings, projections, installations and architectural and landscape projects we seek to reveal a number of different approaches that arise from analysing landscape as an object and as a process: a task which combines elements from architecture, geography and art… these provide us with a framework to analyse and reflect on the elements that form the mosaic of relationships which articulates and constitutes our environment, taking the production of the landscape and its progressive modification over time as our point of reference.’

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Brilliant Trees – Steel Cathedrals – live

Re-taking the stage

Live performance was something that David Sylvian confessed he didn’t really relish with Japan. The occasional highs never seemed to outweigh the constraints of the experience. ‘I don’t really like touring and repeating material over and over,’ Sylvian reflected when the subject of taking to the road was raised just after the release of his second solo album, Gone to Earth. ‘You have to be in a certain frame of mind to do it, and it’s a quite uncreative frame of mind. It’s almost like, “It’s time to take a holiday, I’ll do a tour.” I always felt that way with Japan, because once I start touring I just don’t think creatively at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, it can be very enjoyable if you’ve got the right people around you.’

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Atom and Cell

‘a small seed that burrowed its way into my mind’

Manhattan, 10th September 2001. ‘That’s where the story starts,’ David Sylvian confirmed to the host of BBC Radio 3’s Mixing It programme. ‘That’s because I was in New York the night before the attack took place. I was there with my wife and family, and Ingrid turned around to me and said, “There’s a really ominous feel in the city tonight, you know, that something awful is going to happen.”’

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A Fire in the Forest

‘a lullaby for neurotics’

UK music magazine The Wire runs a regular feature whereby a series of tracks is played to a guest who is challenged to identify both artist and music, with the ensuing conversation a launch-pad for discussion of artistic trends, innovation and influences. In June 2003, it was the turn of David Sylvian to encounter the ‘Invisible Jukebox’. Included in the music presented to Sylvian was a track with which he was familiar. ‘Is it Christian [Fennesz]?’ he asked. ‘It’s the title track from Endless Summer,’ came the confirmation of his inquisitor.

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Yin – Yang

Sound as aura

In January 2018, David Sylvian contacted Jon Abbey and Yuko Zama in New York to gauge their interest in releasing some music by the Berlin-based musicians Biliana Voutchkova and Michael Thieke. Jon’s Erstwhile Records is home to recordings by some of the foremost innovators and improvisers in the contemporary scene with his wife Yuko involved in production and taking a lead in design. The label’s output had been one of the resources that Sylvian had explored whilst preparing for the Manafon project, and the AMPLIFY 2004: addition festival in Germany – co-curated by Abbey and Keith Rowe – was where he met some of the musicians who would feature on that record for the very first time (see ‘Snow White in Appalachia‘).

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