David Sylvian – 4 Re-Releases

Tattooed across my forehead is the word ‘Sucker‘. Or at least it should be for I most certainty am one. I had absolutely no intention of buying any of the 4 albums I bought at the weekend, I was actually looking for one album by Steven Wilson, which they didn’t have, when I saw, on the wall, 4 David Sylvian Albums, re-released, all lined up and looking quite lovely.

I made the snap decision to get all 4 and, very quickly, I was walking back to the car with my purchases in a carrier bag at my side. It was at this point I remembered I already had a copy of ‘Brilliant Trees‘ and, technically, I also have a copy of ‘Secrets of the Beehive‘ although it is on cassette, I don’t know where it is, and even if I did I have nothing to play it on, but still, I do have a copy already. These releases are all remastered and have different covers, so the question is, do I regret my snap decision to buy all 4? The answer is, no, not really. Well, perhaps I did a little at first but I’ve made peace with it now having played them all several times.

Somebody made a video on these 4 releases already, which really appeals to my laziness, so here it is:

Brilliant Trees

So, Brilliant Trees, released in 1984 shortly after the demise of Japan, brought together some top musicians to collaborate on what can be seen as Sylvian announcing that he’s just fine without the rest of Japan thank you very much.

Line-up / Musicians
– David Sylvian / vocals, guitar, synthesizer, treated piano, percussion, tapes, co-producer
– Holger Czukay / guitar, French horn, voice
– Ronny Drayton / guitar (1,4)
– Phil Palmer / guitar (2,4)
– Richard Barbieri / synthesizer (1,5)
– Steve Nye / synthesizer & piano (3,4), co-producer & mixing
– Ryuichi Sakamoto / synthesizer & piano (4,5,7)
– Kenny Wheeler / flugelhorn (2,3)
– Mark Isham / trumpet (4)
– Jon Hassell / trumpet (5,7)
– Wayne Brathwaite / bass (1,4)
– Danny Thompson / double bass (2)
– Steve Jansen / percussion, drums, synthesizer

As the next thing to be released after Japan’s ‘Tin Drum’ (excluding the live album ‘Oil on Canvas’) it seems a natural progression and not far removed from what one may have expected as a next release. There is the obvious connection with Sylvian’s vocal of course but it still has the sonic feel, at least to a noticeable degree, of the album that had gone before. What it does do is add some new sonic elements and continue Sylvian’s forward momentum.

I’ve read a number of times, from people who liked Japan, that they couldn’t get on with this album or most of his solo work, well I urge them to try again, particularly in regards to ‘Brilliant Trees’ as it is a wonderful set of songs.

Alchemy An Index of Possibilities

Well this is an entirely different kettle of fish. I’d never heard it, or even of it before but had some expectations of what I was about to listen to. None of those expectations were fulfilled. It is pretty experimental and contains no obvious Sylvian vocals. I like ambient, Krautrock, experimental music and there is much here that I can get into, but I find that it isn’t cohesive at times.

Line-up / Musicians

– David Sylvian / guitar, keyboards, digital percussion (5), synth & programming (7), tapes, co-producer

– Robert Fripp / guitar (5)
– Masami Tsuchiya / guitar (5)
– Ryuichi Sakamoto / piano & strings (5)
– John Taylor / piano (7)
– Stuart Bruce / programming (7)
– Jon Hassell / trumpet (1-4)
– Kenny Wheeler / flugelhorn (5)
– Percy Jones / fretless bass (1-4)
– Steve Jansen / drums & keyboards (1-4), percussion
– Holger Czukay / radio (1-4), dictaphone (5)

That last chap there, Holger Czukay, was a founding member of Can, in case you were wondering, and Sylvian went on to work with him again.

Preparations For A Journey, above, is a short documentary that accompanied the short film “Steel Cathedrals” on the Japanese only laser disc. The documentary follows David’s brief work with Polaroid montages, which lead to his book “Perspectives” and an exhibition at Hamiltons gallery in London.

I don’t dislike the album at all, I just feel, when listening to it, that it can be a little disjointed and it needs a Can like bass groove or something similar in places. In fairness this is not a proper second solo release but a collection of tracks from various projects.

Gone To Earth

For his third (second really) solo album, David Sylvian assembled a fine collection of musicians, including his former Japan band-mates plus Robert Fripp, Bill Nelson, B.J. Cole and producer Steve Nye. The result is very much an album of two halves. The first two sides of this double contain some of Sylvians best work while the second two are somewhere in the ambient genre.

I was listening to ‘River Man’ just now, not the Nick Drake song, and was suddenly struck by the resemblance between its opening bars and those of ‘Don’t Give Up’ by Peter Gabriel from the SO album. Interestingly, both were released in 1986, though I’m not suggesting plagiarism on either part.

There are some rather long tracks on the first disc, such as ‘Wave’ which clocks in at over 9 minutes, as is “Before the Bullfight but they don’t drag as Sylvian builds a mood so well that, if you let yourself fall into it, it can carry you away.

I do rather like the ambient album though I tend to ignore the track names and just listen to it as 1 track on each side as they can be somewhat indistinguishable from each other. It is less experimentally disjointed than the previous release and, while not challenging, is very listenable if you are in the mood for it.

Line-up / Musicians

– David Sylvian / vocals, keyboards, guitar, electronics (1), Fx (2), co-producer

– Robert Fripp / guitar (1,4-7,13,17-20), electronics (4-7) 
– Bill Nelson / electric (3,5,7,8,16) & acoustic (3,9) guitars 
– Phil Palmer / acoustic guitar (1)
– B.J. Cole / pedal steel guitar (7,12)
– John Taylor / piano (2)
– Steve Nye / piano (10), co-producer, mixing
– Kenny Wheeler / flugelhorn (2,3)
– Harry Beckett / flugelhorn (5)
– Mel Collins / soprano saxophone (6,7,18)
– Ian Maidman / bass
– Steve Jansen / percussion, drums, sampled bass (6,18)
– Richard Barbieri / Fx (3,5)

Secrets Of The Beehive

This is one of my favourite albums, not just by Sylvian but generally. I played the cassette a lot and find the tracks really very accessible. For reasons that I am quite unable to grasp, possibly because I’m actually a psychopath and don’t know it, I love the lyrics to “The Boy With The Gun”

He knows well his wicked ways
A course of bitterness
A grudge held from his childhood days
As if life had loved him less
Reading down his list of names
He ticks them one by one
He points the barrel at the sky
Firing shots off at the sun

“I am the law and I am the King
I am the wisdom, listen to me sing”

He carves out the victim’s names
In the wooden butt of the gun
He leans well back against the tree
He knows his Kingdom’s come
He’ll breath a sigh self satisfied
The work is in good hands
He shoots the coins into the air
And follows where the money lands

“I am the law and I am the King
I am the wisdom, listen to me sing”

He pauses at the city’s edge
Of hellfire and of stone
He summons up the devil there
To give him courage of his own
He’ll free the sinners of deceit
They’ll hear his name and run
His justice is his own reward
Measured out beneath the sun

“I am the law and I am the King
I am the wisdom, listen to me sing”

And my name’s on the gun

I’m not entirely sure why but I find the experience of listening to these songs as Autumnal, they just have that feel about them, they speak to me of endings perhaps. I found one official video, for the song ‘Orpheus’, although ‘Let the Happiness In’ was also a single, there either wasn’t an official video or I have just failed miserably in finding it.

So that’s the 4 albums. I guess I ask myself if I feel enriched by owning these and listening to them and I have to say I do. It has also re-connected me with the earlier Japan albums, which have had a spin this week and reminds me that there wasn’t much like them at the time, or since.

Brilliant Trees 9/10
Alchemy 6.5/10
Gone To Earth 8/10
Secrets of the Beehive 9.2/10

Mono – Requiem For Hell


I was in the record store on Sunday, just browsing really and, having been trough almost everything and about to leave the store, I noticed the sleeve in the above image. I had no idea what it was but made a closer inspection to find it was by Mono, a band I already liked but hadn’t realised that they had a new album out. I’d seen one in the store before but it was £32, a little more than I had wanted to spend at the time. The album was actually a 2016 release but I haven’t been keeping up with Mono for quite a while, the only other album of theirs that I have being ‘Hymn to the immortal wind’ from 2009 (which is excellent in case you wondered). This one was priced at £28, again a bit on the steep side but I decided to go for it.

Although a double album, it is only three sided, with the fourth being an etching of a feotus, resulting in the total length of the album being 46:03, pretty short for £28.

The sleeve is nice, with a die cut circle in the back and the vinyl is 180grm. The etching is pretty pointless, as they often are, I’d have been quite happy with a completely blank side instead but I suppose it is easier to realise that this side shouldn’t be played.


A1: Death In Rebirth (8:05)

A2: Stellar (4:59)

B1: Requiem For Hell (17:49)

C1: Ely’s Heartbeat (8:27)

C2: The Last Scene (6:43)

D: Etching

As for the music, it’s great, I love it. I am rather partial to long instrumental tracks in a post rock style though, so unless they had suddenly turned to J-Pop then it was a pretty safe bet for me.

Interestingly, I stumbled across a documentary on youtube titled: “MONO – Journey Through Hell (Official Documentary)” which is the official documentary celebrating the release of the 9th album “Requiem For Hell”. Along with it was a short band bio, as below:

MONO — The Tokyo, Japan based 4 piece Instrumental Rock band MONO was originally formed in 1999. Their unique approach of blending orchestral arrangements and shoegaze guitar noise in their music has been held in extremely high regard; so much so, that the band’s musicianship can no longer be sustained by Rock music alone and was praised by British Musical Magazine NME as “This is music for the Gods”. One of the most monumental live memories of the band was a special set of shows with 23-piece orchestra in New York, Tokyo, London and Melbourne. Their annual world tour consists of around 150 shows. The band has now visited over 50 countries and proudly holds the stake of being one of the most internationally successful bands in Japan. Among their fans, they are revered as one of the best live bands in Rock. After releasing 9 successful albums including a live album with New York orchestra, the band received the highly regarded award “The Marshall Hawkins Awards: Best Musical Score – Featurette” from the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema for their collaborative short film “Where We Begin” in 2015.

Now in 2016, the band has finished recording their 9th album with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, Chicago. The album is scheduled to be released on Oct 14th, 2016.

Here is the actual documentary:

And here is the official video of the track ‘Requiem For Hell’, shortened from its original 17:49.


Side 1, Track 12:

Total Run Time: 50:00

Japan: Ghosts: 4 Minutes 37 Seconds: 1982


I had a copy of tin Drum, which this single was taken from, back when it was released, and I still have a copy now although I think I originally had a cassette rather than vinyl. Japan were not everybody’s thing, but ‘Tin Drum’ was a very good album and quite different to much of the ‘New Wave’ music that was a round at the time. For me it is the sparseness of this track that sets it apart and it’s total unsuitability as a single release, which still managed a No.5 placing in the UK charts. It isn’t the cheeriest song but it does have a haunting beauty.

Just when I think I’m winning/ When I’ve broken every door/ The ghosts of my life blow wilder than before/ Just when I thought I could not be stopped/ When my chance came to be king/ The ghosts of my life blew wilder than the wind



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What’s in the bag? (5)

IMAG0451I always rather liked Japan, and it is odd now to look back and remember the TV News reports asking, in the same way as for Boy George, whether David Sylvian was a man or a woman. This is a live album that was recorded on their last tour, 1982, and released in 1983 after the group hand split up. It is sort of semi-live as I think a lot of the parts were re-recorded afterwards and mixed in. Live albums are usually a best of, this one contains three new tracks though, “Oil on Canvas”, “Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer” and “Temple of Dawn”, all of which are instrumentals and weren’t live at all. My copy is a double in a gate fold sleeve and the proper track listing is below.



Side A:

  1. “Oil on Canvas” (instrumental studio recording) – 1:25
  2. “Sons of Pioneers” (Karn/Sylvian) – 4:59
  3. “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” – 6:41
  4. “Swing” – 5:36

Side B:

  1. “Cantonese Boy” – 3:45
  2. “Visions of China” (Jansen/Sylvian) – 3:34
  3. “Ghosts” – 6:23
  4. “Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer” (instrumental studio recording) (Jansen/Sylvian) – 3:30

Side C:

  1. “Nightporter” – 6:47
  2. “Still Life in Mobile Homes” – 5:37
  3. “Methods of Dance” – 6:07

Side D:

  1. “Quiet Life” – 4:34
  2. “The Art of Parties” – 5:28
  3. “Canton” (Jansen/Sylvian) – 5:43
  4. “Temple of Dawn” (instrumental studio recording) (Barbieri) – 1:45