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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Redemption

Approaching Silence

In 1989 a new building was opened for the Tochoji Zen Temple in Yotsuya, Tokyo. Initially established in 1594, the modern development was commissioned under the design of Takashi Serizawa to commemorate the Temple’s 400th anniversary. By now situated just minutes away from the Tokyo Metro amidst the bustle of modern Japanese urban life and commerce, the new complex skilfully combined modern design with a traditional aesthetic. Uniquely, Serizawa incorporated a basement auditorium within the layout and devised a plan for temple activities to be expanded to include cultural projects, particularly in the arena of contemporary art. Soon afterwards this basement venue was officially named ‘P3 art and environment’.

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The Ink in the Well

‘years with a genius for living’

At the end of the behind the scenes video that takes us ‘fly-on-the-wall’ into the sessions for Brilliant Trees in Berlin, a relaxed David Sylvian leans against the studio wall enjoying a snack of ice cream – the only food he could find in the café next door to the studio suitable for his newly adopted vegetarian diet. He confides to Yuka Fujii, who is behind the camera, ‘I should have just under an album’s worth of material when I get back to London. But I think I will use some of it as a separate single, because it doesn’t sit together as one album. So I will get back to London and I will write some more, and go into the studio and try to finish that.’

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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 the ride into the unknown. And what an explosive, energetic opener it is.

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Preparations for a Journey

‘exploring a different side of yourself’

‘Travelling clears your mind, inspires you with new ideas, or at least helps you pinpoint ideas you’ve had for a long time,’ David Sylvian told the NME in August 1984. ‘If you simply isolate yourself in a room in London, for example, you become too insular, you can no longer centre on the point you are trying to make. You can only struggle for so long in an isolated room before it becomes impossible for you to be objective about it. Travelling helps clear that, you begin to see things more clearly.’

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