Some Small Hope

Contrasting voices and a ‘weird groove’

In an age when I can press ‘publish’ and this article will be instantly available to read in the farthest reaches of the globe, and where we can carry our laptops, tablets or smartphones with us wherever we go, it’s difficult to put yourself in the position of Masaki Sekijima back in 1986. I caught up with Masaki, who first shared some background: ‘I joined Ryuichi Sakamoto’s office in late 1984 and was assigned to be his instruments assistant in late 1985.’ The following year, a new project was on the horizon which would require Sakamoto to obtain a visa allowing him to work short-term in the UK. A young Masaki was invited to accompany him on the trip. ‘I was his only staff member who knew how to use or set up his regular instruments at the time.’

Ryuichi had discovered a song by the English singer Virginia Astley and ultimately this interest led to an assignment as producer for her second solo album – and to Masaki’s involvement for which he would receive an album credit for programming. A record company press release later gave more detail: ‘It was a single of ‘Darkness Has Reached Its End’ which initially caught Sakamoto’s attention. In Japan, he had treasured an import copy of that early and acclaimed work, and immediately counted himself an Astley admirer. Seeing a certain empathy of style and wanting the opportunity to shape her compositions into something more rigid, innovative and exciting, yet retaining her sentiment, Sakamoto happily agreed to the proposed teaming for the project.’ (Geffen Records, 1988) Continue reading “Some Small Hope”

Like Planets – Nagarkot

The potency of the past

Alongside musical performances and live remixes at the Punkt festival there is a seminar programme embracing a wide range of topics related to creativity and innovation in the art of sound. For the fifteenth festival in 2019 the seminar curator was musician, musicologist and writer David Toop. ‘The theme of the Punkt seminars this year is Voices of Memory: sounding, listening and the sense of who we are,’ he writes in the festival programme. ‘Memory is vital to music, if only because sound is always running away from us, slipping into the air like a ghost. To understand form, relationships, the developing shape of a musical piece depends on keeping a memory alongside our immediate sense of what is happening.. ..There are many facets to musical memory, ranging from personal and cultural identity, to archival and technological memory, to the different memories involved in notation or improvisation, to the way we constantly rewrite our memory of music in relation to our changing selves.’ Continue reading “Like Planets – Nagarkot”

Wave

from ‘Saints and Sheep’

I was at university in London in the mid-1980s, and my primary connection to what was happening in the world of the ex-members of Japan was the fanzine Bamboo. I would eagerly anticipate each new issue, taking a walk after lectures to the Virgin megastore on Tottenham Court Road to check whether they might have a new issue in stock. If in luck, I’d hop on the bus back to Denmark Hill, make a coffee and sit in the one easy chair in my student accommodation to devour the content from cover to cover. The full set of these A5 volumes still sits proudly in my music cabinet at home – and if any of the dedicated band of instigators and contributors should read this, then please accept grateful thanks for being a lifeline to fans in those days before the information superhighway. Continue reading “Wave”

The Librarian

Rhythm philosophy

From time to time an announcement comes out of the blue, heralding new music that will be available in just a matter of weeks. So it was in April 2005, when davidsylvian.com announced that a new record was available for pre-order. ‘The release is a new 12″ vinyl single featuring the work of two acclaimed musicians – Burnt Friedman and Jaki Liebezeit. This 12″ release features a mix of one of the tracks from the very exciting forthcoming project that David Sylvian and Steve Jansen have been working on along with Burnt Friedman. The vinyl features three tracks by Burnt Friedman and Jaki Liebezeit, one of which is entitled ‘The Librarian’ which was co-written by and features vocals from David. Though this is a different mix to the one that will appear on the Sylvian/Jansen/Friedman album, it provides a hint of what to expect from the new record which is due later this year on samadhisound.’ Continue reading “The Librarian”

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’
Continue reading “Saffron Laudanum”