Atom and Cell

‘a small seed that burrowed its way into my mind’

Manhattan, 10th September 2001. ‘That’s where the story starts,’ David Sylvian confirmed to the host of BBC Radio 3’s Mixing It programme. ‘That’s because I was in New York the night before the attack took place. I was there with my wife and family, and Ingrid turned around to me and said, “There’s a really ominous feel in the city tonight, you know, that something awful is going to happen.”’

A premonition? ‘Yes, something like that. And the skies opened, the rain poured down on this very warm day in September.

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A Fire in the Forest

‘a lullaby for neurotics’

UK music magazine The Wire runs a regular feature whereby a series of tracks is played to a guest who is challenged to identify both artist and music, with the ensuing conversation a launch-pad for discussion of artistic trends, innovation and influences. In June 2003, it was the turn of David Sylvian to encounter the ‘Invisible Jukebox’. Included in the music presented to Sylvian was a track with which he was familiar. ‘Is it Christian [Fennesz]?’ he asked. ‘It’s the title track from Endless Summer,’ came the confirmation of his inquisitor.

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Yin – Yang

Sound as aura

In January 2018, David Sylvian contacted Jon Abbey and Yuko Zama in New York to gauge their interest in releasing some music by the Berlin-based musicians Biliana Voutchkova and Michael Thieke. Jon’s Erstwhile Records is home to recordings by some of the foremost innovators and improvisers in the contemporary scene with his wife Yuko involved in production and taking a lead in design. The label’s output had been one of the resources that Sylvian had explored whilst preparing for the Manafon project, and the AMPLIFY 2004: addition festival in Germany – co-curated by Abbey and Keith Rowe – was where he met some of the musicians who would feature on that record for the very first time (see ‘Snow White in Appalachia‘).

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Ti Ho Aspettato (I Have Waited for You)

Wrestling with angels

Paolo Bedini’s first involvement with David Sylvian’s activities in Italy came through the television programme Doc, a show for which the singer performed a number of pieces with the full band line-up for his 1988 In Praise of Shamans tour. It was the start of a productive working relationship that helped Sylvian to deepen his connection with an appreciative audience in the country and included staging the only European outing for the trio of Sylvian, Fripp and Gunn in 1992.

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Snow White in Appalachia

Mining for gold

In 2004, David Sylvian entered Christoph Amann’s studios in Vienna for the initial sessions that would surface on Manafon some five years later. In reality, though, this wasn’t the beginning. The concept was to expand the approach of responding to freely improvised music through his own automatic writing, pioneered with such impact on Blemish. This time around the musical improvisations would not be Sylvian’s own, nor the output of a solo performer as was the case with Derek Bailey, but rather the result of the chemistry between small constellations of artists proficient in the field.

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