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.

Issue 6 from 1985 carried pictures of David Sylvian taken on 7 July that year; he’s wearing large shades, a designer white shirt with bold black design and has a portfolio case tucked under his arm. The photographs are accompanied by the following news: ‘It’s been over a year since the release of Brilliant Trees and the wait for another LP continues. David’s second album provisionally titled The Holy Blood of Saints and Sheep was due for release in September but has now been delayed until November when the video Preparations for a Journey will also be released.. ..Side One of the album is an instrumental piece entitled ‘Explosion of Faith in a Cathedral’. Side Two consists of three or four songs.’ 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”

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”