20th Century Dreaming – live

‘a shaman’s song’

As David Sylvian and Robert Fripp prepared to go out on the road in 1993 to support their album The First Day, it was clear that they would need a drummer as a key member of the band. The material had developed since the initial drummer-less Sylvian/Fripp/Gunn trio shows the year before, and the powerful yet intricate drive present on the album would now be critical in a live setting. Jerry Marotta had left the sessions for the album early in its gestation, with the drum parts on the record constructed from early recordings and samples of his playing, at times manipulated by David Bottrill. So, a new band-member needed to be found. Continue reading “20th Century Dreaming – live”

Darkest Dreaming

Climbing down from the mountain

David Sylvian really knows how to end an album on the perfect note. ‘Brilliant Trees’ captures a faltering faith but the wonder of human love as the summation of his debut release of the same name. Secrets of the Beehive, in its original incarnation, leaves the question ‘is our love strong enough?’ hanging in the air, extending beyond the last notes of ‘Waterfront’ and into our own thoughts. The ‘sunshine above the grey sky’ of ‘A Fire in the Forest’ calms the atmosphere after the brutal soul-searching of Blemish. Continue reading “Darkest Dreaming”

How Safe is Deep?

‘Stealthily as perfume..’

Like many fans of Japan, my first exposure to the work of Russell Mills was the cover of their post-split compilation on Virgin Records, Exorcising Ghosts, released late in 1984 after Sylvian’s solo debut Brilliant Trees had hit the record stores. In those pre-CD, pre-download days the artwork was such an integral part of the experience of a new release. A glorious gatefold with carefully crafted typography and art by Mills. I loved how tactile the image seemed, even when reproduced in the gloss of an album sleeve.. ..so expressive, suggestive of something natural and elemental. Continue reading “How Safe is Deep?”

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)”