‘harmony between you and your environment’
A double album comprising a disc of vocal tracks accompanied by another of instrumental cuts was certainly an unusual proposition for a mid-’80s release from a pop artist with chart potential. Early in the genesis of the follow-up album to Brilliant Trees, Sylvian had toyed with releasing the first three vocal tracks he had written backed with ‘Steel Cathedrals’, or perhaps as part of a package with Words with the Shaman. Ultimately those instrumentals would see standalone release in video and EP form respectively, but when Gone to Earth eventually reached us it was in anything but a conventional format.
‘I was really just going to do a vocal album,’ said Sylvian on his press tour for the release, ‘but as I was writing, these instrumental pieces started coming, and there’s a kind of formula to the writing. And every morning I was getting up and I was writing, you know, maybe two of these, three of these pieces a day. And I ended up with such a large amount of material.’ Sylvian knew he wanted to pursue the recording of these instrumentals alongside the songs that would complete the vocal album, so Virgin were approached with the idea. It’s fair to say that the label was reluctant.
Continue reading “Sunlight Seen Through Towering Trees”
‘this dark emotional experience personified’
As the sun set on an artistically fruitful 1980s and a new decade dawned, collaborative projects would be the primary outlet for David Sylvian. ‘For the past almost three or four years, I’ve being going through quite a powerful emotional change in my life and it took me a long time to come to terms with what was happening. So I thought, rather than just slogging away without getting to grips with it, I should perhaps collaborate and allow myself to work more on the spur of the moment,’ he explained in 1991, as the eagerly awaited reunion project of the former members of Japan – Rain Tree Crow – was first shared with an intrigued audience.
Continue reading “Blackcrow Hits Shoe Shine City”
‘the battle between the animal and the spiritual’
DJ David Jensen interviewed David Sylvian on a number of occasions in the early ’80s for his evening show on BBC Radio One. By the time Gone to Earth was approaching release, Jensen had moved on to a rival station, Capital Radio, so it was there that the pair would reunite to discuss what the new album might promise. Judging by what he had read in Virgin’s press release, Jensen predicted that ‘it’s sufficiently different from your last albums to again surprise a lot of people.’ Sylvian was more measured in response, ‘In a way for me it’s an extension of a lot of the work I did on Brilliant Trees, so I wouldn’t say it was extremely diverse in nature – but there should be a few surprises on there.’
Continue reading “Before the Bullfight”
In 1983 the cassette-based magazine Audio Arts published a supplement capturing radical German artist Joseph Beuys in conversation with both the magazine’s founder William Furlong and Michael Newman. The recording was made at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum on the occasion of an exhibition of Beuys’ drawings. The artist, then in his early sixties, quickly widens the discussion to his ‘goals’: ‘I decided in my life not to become a physicist but to try to make an experience with the Arts; to widen understanding of the Arts, to become able to change the social order.’ Science, whilst being highly developed so as to render us ‘even able to fly to outer-terrestrial planets,’ is however unable to make clear ‘what it means to be a human being and what the inner goal of life on earth would mean, and what would be the highest quality for the life of the different peoples on earth, and how they could overcome their inner frustration, and how they could overcome the alienation of their working places. So, in being directed to bring a wider understanding of art which is related to everybody’s labour, on every existing working place, it is on the point where it touches the economical system.’
Continue reading “The Healing Place”
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.
Continue reading “Wave”