Not long after leaving Japan in 1982 David Sylvian appeared on TV ( I’ve forgotten the programme) performing an acoustic version of an old song “The Other Side of Life” from the album Quiet Life. The miracle of Youtube as ever has an uploaded copy.
It does though, give us very few clues to the music he was to go on to create as a solo artist.
I had been a big Japan fan and had gone to one of their final concerts at the Hammersmith Odeon so I was really looking forward to any new material, especially from Sylvian, whose voice I loved.
Side 1 plays very much as a follow on to Japan. Shortish songs, lots of synths and keyboards and with two former bandmates involved (Steve Jansen, drums and Richard Barbieri, keyboards) it couldn’t help but sound very, well, Japanish. Legendary bassist Danny Thompson does provide a jazzy edge to “The Ink in the Well” which is preferable to the “funky” slap bass smothered all over “Pulling Punches”, ugh.
It’s on side 2 that Sylvian lays out his cards for the future. Here the major contributors to the overall soundscape are ex Can bassist Holger Czukay, and ambient pioneer and Eno collaborator Jon Hassell. The three tracks unfold and blend into each other with shifting rhythms and ghostly trumpet moving around Sylvians tremulous baritone vocals. I’ve remained a fan ever since, one of the few artists to come out of the 80’s still producing excellent, though sometimes challenging music, “Brilliant Trees” was where it all started.