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.

Most commentary on Sylvian’s involvement with Zazou has centred on the withdrawal of his primary input to the project, and consequently until recently I had heard little about the creation of the album. Thankfully the two tracks – ‘Victim of Stars’ and ‘To a Reason’ – are not completely ‘lost’ works, given copies of the first edition exist and can still be tracked down through resellers and online. ‘Victim of Stars’ bears the ever beautiful piano of Ryuichi Sakamoto and has a fascinating lyric penned by Sylvian and directly inspired by Rimbaud’s creative genius. It’s a piece deserving of far greater exposure than it received and well worthy of a place in Sylvian’s catalogue of collaborative work.

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”

Red Earth (as summertime ends)

‘A completely different approach and feel’

It seems that there were certain aspects of being in a band that David Sylvian felt liberated from after Japan split up, but there were others that he missed almost immediately when setting out as a solo artist.

In 1986, just after the release of his second solo album Gone to Earth, he explained that his desire for musicians from a jazz background to perform on his records ‘came out of the frustration of working within a band like Japan which was studio-bound. Nothing was improvised except in rehearsals when you are putting the track together. Going into the studio everything was well prepared and you really knew what you were doing, and it was only a matter of sound you were working with. So, when Japan split up I wanted to get into something that had a bit more life to it, a bit more spontaneity to it.’ Continue reading “Red Earth (as summertime ends)”