Climbing down from the mountain
David Sylvian really knows how to end an album on the perfect note. ‘Brilliant Trees’ captures a faltering faith but the wonder of human love as the summation of his debut release of the same name. Secrets of the Beehive, in its original incarnation, leaves the question ‘is our love strong enough?’ hanging in the air, extending beyond the last notes of ‘Waterfront’ and into our own thoughts. The ‘sunshine above the grey sky’ of ‘A Fire in the Forest’ calms the atmosphere after the brutal soul-searching of Blemish.
A lot of ground has been covered on Dead Bees on a Cake before it draws to a close.. ..the joy of marriage, first experiences with holy teachers, devotion to the vibrant Hindu gods, finding beauty amid brokenness, exploring Europe and road-trips across the length and breadth of the US, becoming a parent.. Then this album too reaches its exquisite conclusion, on this occasion in a pairing of tracks – ‘Praise’ and ‘Darkest Dreaming’. The first features the singing of Indian holy woman Shree Maa, recorded when she stayed with the Sylvian family in Minneapolis. It’s like the sound of true light, shining brightly. And then comes ‘Darkest Dreaming’ which brings back to mind the darker undercurrents that exist in life, but does so in reaching out for the embrace of another. Continue reading “Darkest Dreaming”
October 2016, Cafe OTO in London, and a concert to celebrate twenty years of Confront Recordings, staged by the label’s owner Mark Wastell. Cafe OTO nestles in a side street in Dalston, a gloriously unpretentious venue where a small team share duties at front of house, attending to the bar, sound and lighting, creating a space for performances from some of the leading improvisers and experimental musicians from across the world. Its vibe is part bar, part cool village hall, part vinyl and cd boutique, making it without doubt one of my favourite places in the capital. Continue reading “There is No Love”
‘Stealthily as perfume..’
Like many fans of Japan, my first exposure to the work of Russell Mills was the cover of their post-split compilation on Virgin Records, Exorcising Ghosts, released late in 1984 after Sylvian’s solo debut Brilliant Trees had hit the record stores. In those pre-CD, pre-download days the artwork was such an integral part of the experience of a new release. A glorious gatefold with carefully crafted typography and art by Mills. I loved how tactile the image seemed, even when reproduced in the gloss of an album sleeve.. ..so expressive, suggestive of something natural and elemental. Continue reading “How Safe is Deep?”
I find it amazing how listening to a piece of music can take you back to a specific time and place. I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard ‘Let the Happiness In’. It was my first year in work after university, which involved taking a number of one week courses in Birmingham (UK), staying away from home. September 1987, Sylvian’s new single was coming out and I would be in Birmingham. I had to get my hands on a copy so, when the classes had finished on the day of release, I headed straight for one of the large record stores in town. As I climbed to the first floor, that introduction came over the powerful sound system.. ..it caught my attention although I didn’t know what it was until the vocal started. Realising this was the new song I stood and listened to it for the first time, then grabbed my copy of the 12″ single (still an absolute favourite with the ‘Buoy’ remix and gem ‘Blue of Noon’ on the b-side) and headed out, prize in hand. Continue reading “Let the Happiness In”
David Sylvian’s first musical endeavour after the release of the Rain Tree Crow album was to provide input to a number of tracks for Hector Zazou’s project based around the life and work of French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Contractual issues later led to the bizarre situation where this album, Sahara Blue, was first released in 1992 with two vocal performances by Sylvian – credited mysteriously as Mr. X – and then reissued that same year with replacement songs featuring Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard of the band Dead Can Dance.
Continue reading “Victim of Stars”