Visions of China

‘playing with images’

‘Credit where credit’s due. Yuka brought the first Chinese records home which filled my head with unknown sounds, and it was only a matter of weeks before they were circulated around the band and we were all hooked,’ writes Mick Karn in his book Japan & Self Existence of then girlfriend, Yuka Fujii. ‘I couldn’t get enough of them. It was always exciting to get home and listen to what I’d bought on the strength of the sleeve design alone. The best were the instrumental tracks, for it was the unusual instrumentation that left us wondering at how the absence of guitars, drum kit, synthesisers and anything else familiar, somehow still produced commercially driven music.

‘The direction that had been missing for the next album was now beginning to take shape. Without consciously copying or mimicking anything we heard, but simply by exploring our own western, electronic instruments to interpret and blend the newly found influences into our writing. We listened to nothing else.’

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Blackcrow Hits Shoe Shine City

‘this dark emotional experience personified’

As the sun set on an artistically fruitful 1980s and a new decade dawned, collaborative projects would be the primary outlet for David Sylvian. ‘For the past almost three or four years, I’ve being going through quite a powerful emotional change in my life and it took me a long time to come to terms with what was happening. So I thought, rather than just slogging away without getting to grips with it, I should perhaps collaborate and allow myself to work more on the spur of the moment,’ he explained in 1991, as the eagerly awaited reunion project of the former members of Japan – Rain Tree Crow – was first shared with an intrigued audience.

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The Other Side of Life

‘a new high mark of maturity’

There were fundamental differences in band preparations for Japan’s third LP. The material for the first two albums, Steve Jansen explained, ‘was performed extensively live before we had the opportunity to record it. Therefore, those albums serve more as a document of what we’d learnt as a group performing together. There was very little recording craft involved, just a lot of energy and influences from an eclectic mix of styles, which were all a part of our early teenage years onwards.

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Ghosts – live

‘some sense of nostalgia’

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember why you made a particular decision. Especially one that you wish you could change afterwards… It was late 1982 and I was in the final year at school. Important exams were looming the following year which would determine whether I would achieve my ambition of going to university, and if so, which one I might attend. My fascination with Japan had developed in the preceding months as the singles ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Cantonese Boy’ had been lifted from Tin Drum, catching my attention and drawing me to the album. The plethora of Hansa singles had got me exploring the back catalogue, and I was guided through by an enthusiastic friend.

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New Moon at Red Deer Wallow

‘One of the strangest tracks’

Following their excursion into commercial pop territory with The Dolphin Brothers, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri’s next joint project was set to take a very different direction. ‘We try to alternate our recordings in terms of types of album,’ explained Jansen. ‘Our first album [Worlds in a Small Room] was instrumental, the next vocal; so this should have been instrumental. Also, the record company weren’t budgeting enough for a vocal album, which requires studio time. If they had said, “do another vocal album, here’s the budget,” we’d have done it. But we were quite happy not to.’

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