The soundtrack of discovery

Many years ago, in the sixth form at school, I was introduced to the music of the band Japan. I was captured. This was the time of the album Tin Drum, and that most weird of singles – ‘Ghosts’. I listened to the music of the band intently, loving the craft of it – music and lyrics.

In 1984, David Sylvian’s debut solo album Brilliant Trees was released. What had been a fascination became a deep appreciation. I love that album. To this day it is my favourite album by any artist, ever – simply because of the impact it had on me back then. It opened up new musical horizons and a journey of discovery that has lasted for over thirty years so far.

One of the great joys of having followed the music of David Sylvian over these years is being introduced to an array of artists with whom he has worked. In recent years I was travelling extensively and I discovered a new way to appreciate this work. Of course, nothing can beat sitting down and listening to an album in its entirety, as the artist intended. But a complementary approach for me became listening to the music of David Sylvian alongside that of his collaborators. I built a playlist which became a companion as I travelled all over the world.

I named that playlist Vista. For me this captures the breadth and the beauty of the music. Today my Vista playlist has over 250 tracks and I continue to add to it as the journey of discovery continues. I find myself reacquainting myself with music that I haven’t listened to for years and finding new treasures too.

This blog is partly a challenge to myself to articulate why this music means so much and why it reaches me like no other. I’d love to share with you some of the music that I’ve discovered along the way, to hear your thoughts and to be introduced to pieces from this cast of musicians that are as yet undiscovered by me. You may like to listen to some of the songs on my playlist or create one of your own, you may not like this approach at all and find some of the selections wrong for you – whatever the case, I hope this site might prompt you to listen afresh to some of this music in the way that suits you best.

This blog will be all about the music. It is not intended as a biography of the man; those exist elsewhere. Neither is this an extensive discography, these can be found at and The thoughts included here are my own and I make no claim that they are the truth; the music is there to be interpreted by the listener as part of their own experience. Your truth, your response, is as valid as mine.

Only one plea – as we discover the vista of music, let’s listen in a way that supports the musicians whose work we admire.

Humbly presented, this is my Vista blog.

 ‘I have often said that the desire is to blow the listeners’ hearts wide open. By this, I mean I want them to be moved to the point of abandonment. This would be beautiful, an ideal, but it is too much to expect. That the work might resonate in the lives of others is no lesser achievement, and one I might more modestly aspire to.’ David Sylvian, 2010

17 thoughts on “The soundtrack of discovery”

    1. Hi Michael. As I post the blogs the playlist will build up on the Tracks page under the index. I’m hoping to post around every two weeks, so it will build up quite quickly. Thanks for reading and please do follow the blog to receive new content as it is posted.

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  1. Brilliant trees was released when I was 17, studying subjects I did not enjoy and wondering if I would ever ‘fit in’. I bought that record and have not cared about fitting on since. It is quite simply a work of such depth and skill I’m still enthralled by it.

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  2. Hi, I found this blog through a Tweet from As a big fan of the music of the man, I am of course very interested in your opinion and eager to read some more about his musical hemisphere.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant Trees is such a seminal album for me in so many ways. On a musical level it was breathtaking and so different to anything else at the time. It reaffirmed for me that the musical experimentation and the courage and bravery to try different things, exhibited during his time in Japan was still there. Personally the album heralded a new phase in my life and the timing was incredible so much so it was almost the soundtrack to what was happening in my life at the time. Lastly on an intellectual and emotional level the album struck so many chords. I still listen to it with pleasure so many years later and it sounds as fresh and as new as ever. I have to say Brilliant Trees is one of my favourite albums and a work of art.

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  4. Have always followed DS as his music to me is poetry and inspired me to write my own particulary around the beauty of DBOAC as the album reflects a period of joy in his life and came out just after I got married.
    Silver moon and Gone To Earth are my personal favourites the sonic nature of which I’d never heard before and still haven’t to this day.Thank you for this vista it is so nice to share with others the man’s genius

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  5. Good looking blog, which I will follow with interest. Brilliant Trees, like for many, was a very personal album for me. I was living on campus, studying for my PhD and had the album when it was released on cassette. At that exact time I fell in love for the first time, so that album became our soundtrack. After we broke up a year or so later, I couldn’t listen to the album for many years. It had such personal memories, such was the depth of Sylvian’s music and lyrics. Luckily I can quite happily appreciate its magnificence again!

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  6. Congratulations — this is a nice concept you have for a blog of an artist mostly in hiding… I have always admired his craftsmanship. From his associations/collaboration it has led me to further enjoy/discover other incredible artists. Brilliant Trees, was indeed brilliant, tracks that paved the way to more treasure to come… e.g. Gone To Earth (a masterpiece).

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      1. To open up discussion on Brilliant Trees among people joining this blog it would be rewarding for perspectives/experiences to be shared… not much has been said?

        For me personally my memory of buying this album was on a beautiful summers day. The cover looked well designed and with great anticipation I couldn’t wait to put it on the turntable. However the rush home was delayed. There were pick-your-own fresh strawberries in a field on the way back that I couldn’t pass up. A buddy and I took to picking loads of strawberries to share with our families.

        My first listening experience then was with my folks, fresh strawberries and cream LOL. My folks were quite hip to Japan, I cannot recollect how they felt about it though.

        My impression after getting used to the album was that Pulling Punches and Red Guitar didn’t belong on the album… they created a discord with the other tracks and the new direction David was taking. As abstract as the lyrics were for Red Guitar it and Pulling Punches were still Japan art-house pop, a unique sound the band had crafted together.

        Understandably it can’t be easy to make a complete break/jump from one genre sound he had created successfully with the band and dive deep off on his own new poetic path.

        Listening to the album without those two tracks gives a more complete experience.

        New listeners of Sylvian’s work without the Japan background would probably agree with this view.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks to those who have shared their impressions of Brilliant Trees and David’s music, it’s been great to read those. There have been over 750 visitors to the site since launch last week. Thank you!! Please do share more here, picking up on apen’s comment above.


  8. I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan of Japan. It was more my friend who played me Gentlemen Takes Polaroids, which didn’t hit me at the time. When I heard the single version of The Art of Parties, that was when I sat up and took notice. With Brilliant Trees, that’s where Sylvian took his songwriting to new levels. Not just in the sophistication of the material, but in using people like Jon Hassell and Holger Czukay to add their own highly distinctive sound into the musical landscape. For me, I think the more traditional “rock” sound of Red Guitar and Pulling Punches is needed in the album to balance the more introspective material. The album as a whole is perfect, though my personal favourite was still come, Gone to Earth. But that’s a different story!

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  9. Well done for coming up with this blog, I finally can get to share my experience of DS-dom after all these years…
    It’s gratifying, that’s the word, to see so many others who saw this album as simply “life-changing”! I get what the gripe is with Red Guitar – which is gripping! – and the awkward “Pulling Punches”, they, imv, were sops to the record company (“okay then, I’ll get a couple of singles out of it to promote the album!”, sez DS..)..
    What broke my heart was “Nostalgia” and Weathered Wall” – how much more perfect two songs be?? Maybe they were outtakes from Tin Drum but they take me to worlds I know I will sadly never see. They make me feel like a buddha sitting cross-legged and sweaty in a temple far away, and this entire album helped shape my global outlook on life.
    I’m so glad my pal excitedly introduced me to the latter-day Japan sound, it was the foundation for a lifetime’s obsession with this music – how remarkable to happen upon a similarly-nerdy(indeed needy!) group of music enthusiasts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am similarly grateful to a particular individual for introducing me to Japan’s music. Interestingly, I found some years later that he hadn’t continued to follow the post-Japan work. I am very thankful that he told me about Tin Drum back in 1982.


  10. It’s interesting how many of us were drawn to David and the other members of the band, and how his and their music has affected us as individuals and the lives we leave. I remember being distraught when they split, David in one camp, Mick in the other, and Steve and Richard continuing with both as best they could. Brilliant Trees was for me a message to say life moves on, but echoes remain.

    Last week, here in Tokyo, I saw Steve play with Exit North. Centre-stage was Thomas Feiner. A part of me wanted a different singer in his place, but life does move on Forty years have passed since Japan and David impacted my life. The last 17 years have been spent here in Japan, no small part due to the influence of the band’s music, image and attitude. I sometimes play Brilliant Trees in my café here. The years between drop away and I’m transported back to younger south-east London days of make-up and Oxfam trousers; desperate to both emulate David but also to carve out an identity for myself. His music and his transitions helped give me the strength to be me. New paths and new directions. The start of my new career. And now I play our song inside, where everyone can hear.

    Liked by 1 person

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