Before and Afterlife

Creating other worlds

When Jan Bang heard that Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær had been invited to rework a track for David Sylvian’s instrumental compilation, Camphor, he didn’t hold back in seeking a role in the commission. ‘I said to Nils, “If you are doing a remix of David Sylvian, I need to be on it.” Just like that,’ remembered Bang, laughing, in an interview with John Kelman for the All About Jazz website. ‘Nils and I had been working closely for so many years, and it sort of felt natural.’ (2010)

So why the drive to work with Sylvian? ‘While I was growing up, I was listening more to disco, R&B; that was what I was interested in. And then a change happened, by accident really. I was working in a record store, one that imported 12″ vinyl and mostly from London, so we had the fresh material from dance music from both the UK and the States. And there was this 12″ by David Sylvian, called ‘Red Guitar‘ from Brilliant Trees, and that changed the way I listened to music. I was listening to more American music at the time and this was totally the opposite – a more European aesthetic, more inwards than outwards-looking. With that, I became more curious and found more music that led me to Jon Hassell (who was involved with Brilliant Trees), and Scott Walker, the American singer that was based in Europe.’

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Pulling Punches

‘an explosion of frustration’

‘Red Guitar’ was the first song heard from Brilliant Trees, being the advance single heralding Sylvian’s debut album. But when we carefully removed the vinyl from its designer inner-sleeve for the inaugural play of a Sylvian solo LP, it was ‘Pulling Punches’ that launched our ride into the unknown. And what an explosive, energetic opener it is.

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Thalheim – The Church Bells Strike

‘the rebirth of love’

‘Thalheim is a place in Germany,’ states David Sylvian factually on the promotional interview cd that was provided to journalists when Dead Bees on a Cake was at last released by Virgin. ‘A place where another famous Indian saint lives and receives people from around the world. I visited her there and the song touches upon that and my relationship with her.

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Ride – live

Chance adventures

Early in 1997, slipped in with the latest edition of the Medium newsletter – the official information service for Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri and Mick Karn, was a simple A5 flyer. ‘LIVE at the London Astoria 2, Saturday 12 April 1997,’ it declared, ‘a one-off event with special guests.’

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Ember Glance

‘ideas of space, time and memory’

In the sumptuously presented book that came as part of the Ember Glance box set, before the reader sets eyes on anything of the installation itself, there is a section entitled ‘The Lakes: preparation’. Included here are treated photographs taken by The Douglas Brothers. A portrait of Ian Walton whose gloriously textural daubs of paint would grace the huge final wall in the finished display. Blurred frames of Sylvian in the Cumbrian outdoors. Hands sifting through rocks, twigs and bones, collating material to be incorporated in a public exhibition that will be staged over 5,000 miles away in Tokyo’s docks.

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