Before the Bullfight

‘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.’

It was a theme he expanded on in other interviews, ‘It’s just like a summing up. It’s something I have to do. I couldn’t just leave Brilliant Trees as it was and say, “Oh well, that’s the end of that avenue; that’s explored.” For me Brilliant Trees is a better album because I was fishing in the dark, I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I have to go through the process of following the avenues that I’ve found interesting – even if it’s against my own will. I still have to do it. It’s something I had to get out of my system.’

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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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Laughter and Forgetting

‘Joie de vivre’

Brief airy atmospherics and then immediately, the voice.

‘Running like a horse between the trees
The ground beneath my feet
Gives me something to hold onto’

‘Laughter and Forgetting’ picks up from the theme of the song ‘Brilliant Trees’. Here, though, joy and optimism are more unreserved. ‘Brilliant Trees’ captures the faltering of conventional religious faith, yet transforming love is found in another’s eyes. In ‘Laughter and Forgetting’ the sense of loss is not so acute as Sylvian again uses imagery from nature to express a joie de vivre that I find uplifting and alluring.

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I Surrender

The joy of love, human and divine

‘I Surrender’. The track that broke a long silence. In the previous five years only a handful of collaborative tracks had been released and indeed David Sylvian admitted that at times the happy circumstances of his life may have resulted in him leaving music behind altogether.

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