Brilliant Trees – Steel Cathedrals – live

Re-taking the stage

Live performance was something that David Sylvian confessed he didn’t really relish with Japan. The occasional highs never seemed to outweigh the constraints of the experience. ‘I don’t really like touring and repeating material over and over,’ Sylvian reflected when the subject of taking to the road was raised just after the release of his second solo album, Gone to Earth. ‘You have to be in a certain frame of mind to do it, and it’s a quite uncreative frame of mind. It’s almost like, “It’s time to take a holiday, I’ll do a tour.” I always felt that way with Japan, because once I start touring I just don’t think creatively at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, it can be very enjoyable if you’ve got the right people around you.’

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Atom and Cell

‘a small seed that burrowed its way into my mind’

Manhattan, 10th September 2001. ‘That’s where the story starts,’ David Sylvian confirmed to the host of BBC Radio 3’s Mixing It programme. ‘That’s because I was in New York the night before the attack took place. I was there with my wife and family, and Ingrid turned around to me and said, “There’s a really ominous feel in the city tonight, you know, that something awful is going to happen.”’

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The Scent of Magnolia

‘unorthodox with a lot of movement’

When David Sylvian’s career-to-date retrospective album Everything and Nothing appeared in 2000, it turned out to be a compilation with a difference. Among the familiar songs from twenty years of his musical history were some never-before-heard tracks spanning the entire period. The artist was clear, however, that these were not inferior and therefore discarded out-takes.

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Cover Me with Flowers – live

‘the bridge between rhythm and harmony’

On 23 July 2001, David Sylvian sat down at home to write what would become his introduction for the smart hard-backed concert programme to accompany his forthcoming tour. ‘It’s a warm summer night in New England. Moths are climbing over the wire mesh screens which cover the windows trying to reach the light of the office and the glow of the computer monitor. All is quiet but the beating of wings against wire and the hum of the hard drive. I’m three weeks away from commencing rehearsals for the Everything and Nothing tour. We’re clearing out an old barn on the property, bringing in fresh power from the road expressly for this purpose.

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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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