Visions of China

‘playing with images’

‘Credit where credit’s due. Yuka brought the first Chinese records home which filled my head with unknown sounds, and it was only a matter of weeks before they were circulated around the band and we were all hooked,’ writes Mick Karn in his book Japan & Self Existence of then girlfriend, Yuka Fujii. ‘I couldn’t get enough of them. It was always exciting to get home and listen to what I’d bought on the strength of the sleeve design alone. The best were the instrumental tracks, for it was the unusual instrumentation that left us wondering at how the absence of guitars, drum kit, synthesisers and anything else familiar, somehow still produced commercially driven music.

‘The direction that had been missing for the next album was now beginning to take shape. Without consciously copying or mimicking anything we heard, but simply by exploring our own western, electronic instruments to interpret and blend the newly found influences into our writing. We listened to nothing else.’

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Redemption

Approaching Silence

In 1989 a new building was opened for the Tochoji Zen Temple in Yotsuya, Tokyo. Initially established in 1594, the modern development was commissioned under the design of Takashi Serizawa to commemorate the Temple’s 400th anniversary. By now situated just minutes away from the Tokyo Metro amidst the bustle of modern Japanese urban life and commerce, the new complex skilfully combined modern design with a traditional aesthetic. Uniquely, Serizawa incorporated a basement auditorium within the layout and devised a plan for temple activities to be expanded to include cultural projects, particularly in the arena of contemporary art. Soon afterwards this basement venue was officially named ‘P3 art and environment’.

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Throughout the Frosty Night

‘dawn is waking’

The first time this listener was introduced to the playing of Clive Bell was as part of Richard Barbieri and Steve Jansen’s short-lived dalliance with overt pop for their 1987 album as The Dolphin Brothers – Catch the Fall. Here Bell adds such exotic sounds as those of the khene and Thai flute to the title track and the seductive ‘Love That You Need’. These traditional wind instruments bring a sense of unspecified Eastern location to the songs, their authentic sounds being reminiscent of those that Barbieri and David Sylvian had worked so meticulously to muster from their analogue synthesisers for Japan’s China-influenced pinnacle, Tin Drum.

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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.

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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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