Let the Happiness In

Lifting the spirit

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.

The deep resounding brass and its restrained power captivate me every time I hear this song start. It demands to be listened to, and the musical setting is quite unlike anything else I can think of – certainly a departure from the prominent guitars and resounding drums of the previous year’s Gone to Earth. Sylvian had said early in 1987 that he wanted to use ‘real instruments’ for his forthcoming project, and later explained that it was the strength of the compositions that lent themselves to this approach: ‘I knew that the arrangements of the pieces could be quite sparse, and that I could get away with that. So I basically orchestrated each track from the original starting point which was either me sitting at a piano or with an acoustic guitar, which is why the material is acoustically based.’ (DS, 1987) Continue reading “Let the Happiness In”

Victim of Stars

Poetic inspiration

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”

Forbidden Colours (version)

Unresolved questioning

When David Sylvian entered Berlin’s Hansa studios in the summer of 1983 to start putting together his debut solo album, Brilliant Trees, amongst his top priorities was returning to the recent chart success ‘Forbidden Colours’, in which his vocal melody was interweaved with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack theme for Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. The intent of this was not to lend some familiarity and commercial impetus to the new release, but rather to re-work the composition from a new musical palette. It was also recognition that in this song, Sylvian found his voice for the new chapter. Continue reading “Forbidden Colours (version)”

Exit/Delete

Unlocking expression

Masakatsu Takagi first worked with David Sylvian on the Fire in the Forest tour which started out in the UK in September 2003, ending in Japan in spring 2004. The dates were put together based on the unexpected success of Blemish. Budgetary constraints meant that the on-stage musicians would be David Sylvian and his brother Steve Jansen only, and the nature of the material dictated that the performance would be largely laptop-based and consequently somewhat static. Another element was required for the mix, a visual component to provide added depth to the audience’s experience. Yuka Fujii became aware of Takagi’s innovative moving image work, shared samples with Sylvian, and so it was that he came to complete the on-stage trio. Continue reading “Exit/Delete”

Small Metal Gods

‘A new frontier’

From the completion of The World is Everything tour in 2007 there was great anticipation of David Sylvian’s next vocal project. Sketchy details surfaced of earlier studio sessions with members of the experimental improvisation group Polwechsel, and a release date in autumn 2008 was mooted – but the year closed without any news. Continue reading “Small Metal Gods”