Playground Martyrs

Childhood trauma

Steve Jansen was a part of samadhisound from the start. He helped to develop the new label’s studio after David Sylvian relocated from California to the mountains of New Hampshire. Together the brothers explored the possibilities of the latest recording technology, and in 2002 they began to fashion compositions that would ultimately be part of the Nine Horses release. Steve even relocated for a year with his family to the remote former ashram site that was now home to Sylvian, his wife Ingrid Chavez and their children. As Sylvian took a six week break to record Blemish, Jansen turned his attentions to evolving material for a debut release under his own name.

Steve’s approach was moving further than ever from his roots as the drummer in Japan: ‘With this album I approached composition attempting to avoid chord and song structures and the usual familiar building blocks. Instead I wanted to piece together unrelated sounds, music samples, rhythms and “events” in an attempt to deviate from my own trappings as a musician.’ (Steve Jansen, 2007) Continue reading “Playground Martyrs”

Laughter and Forgetting

‘Joie de vivre’

Brief airy atmospherics and then immediately, the voice.

‘Running like a horse between the trees
The ground beneath my feet
Gives me something to hold onto’

‘Laughter and Forgetting’ picks up from the theme of the song ‘Brilliant Trees’, here though the joy and optimism are more unreserved. ‘Brilliant Trees’ captures the faltering of conventional religious faith, yet transforming love is found in another’s eyes. In ‘Laughter and Forgetting’ the sense of loss is not so acute as Sylvian again uses imagery from nature to express a joie de vivre that I find uplifting and infectious. Continue reading “Laughter and Forgetting”

Blemish/Camphor

Stripped bare

The final phase of David Sylvian’s time as a Virgin records artist was marked by Dead Bees on a Cake – his celebration of love, human and divine – and then a series of releases that looked back across his career to that point. The Everything and Nothing compilation brought together highlights from his vocal work including some reworkings and unreleased material. Damage was remixed by Sylvian to reflect his take on the collaboration with Robert Fripp. Finally there was Camphor, the instrumental companion piece to Everything and Nothing. Amidst all of this there was the retrospective Everything and Nothing tour covering Japan, Europe, US and Canada. Continue reading “Blemish/Camphor”

Firepower

Aggression unleashed

1992 and some intriguing snippets started to emerge, first from Japan and later from Italy. David Sylvian had linked up with Robert Fripp, last heard on Gone to Earth, and stick player Trey Gunn. As a trio they had accepted the challenge of allowing only very short preparation time before a series of live performances. Material was being written quickly and further developed through the shows themselves. Continue reading “Firepower”

Sons of Pioneers

Collaboration in a band context

Recently I returned to Tin Drum after a long break. I’m not sure why I neglected it, maybe because David Sylvian has often spoken of his work implying that ‘Ghosts’ was the one Japan song truly reflective of his musical journey. Maybe because the literature and websites tend to differentiate between Japan and the solo period as different eras, and lately I’d given much more of my attention to the latter. Continue reading “Sons of Pioneers”