The Art of Parties – Methods of Dance – live

‘a new energy’

It seems that Masami Tsuchiya heard the music of Japan before the band discovered his. ‘I was very touched by Japan’s music from the very first album,’ he told Bamboo magazine, ‘and I told everyone about them – what great musicians they were. The word got around and Japan got to know about it’. Tsuchiya was a founder member of Ippu-Do, an outfit with an openness to European influences. Some sessions for their 1980 LP Real even took place at Hansa studios in Berlin, originating titles such as ‘German Road’, ‘Heidelburg Symphony’ and ‘Neu! (Changing the History)’ – tracks that boast a new wave sound with synthesisers, sequencers and vocoder vox accompanying driving guitar, bass and drums.

Following the release of the subsequent album, Radio Fantasy, Tsuchiya was ready for a solo project. This time he headed to London, specifically to Air Studios in the middle of town, where he was determined to work with the rhythm section of the English band that he so admired. ‘The request came through management,’ explained Steve Jansen, ‘probably via London based project co-ordinators’ (2022). Japan had been busy, spending three spells on the road in 1981 for the Polaroids, Art of Parties and Visions of China tours, culminating in Christmas shows at the Hammersmith Odeon. Nevertheless, the following month Jansen and Mick Karn were ensconced at Air bringing their signature sounds to Masami’s debut album as a solo artist – Rice Music.

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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.

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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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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.’

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