David Sylvian







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b. David Batt, 23 February 1958, Beckenham, Kent, England. Sylvian first established himself as a singer with Japan. His androgynous image and ethereal vocals made him a prominent figure in that group. Just before their break-up in late 1982, he branched out into a new venture recording with Ryűichi Sakamoto of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. The duo's 'Bamboo House' reached the UK Top 30 and the collaboration continued the following year with 'Forbidden Colours', the haunting theme to the David Bowie film Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. Sylvian's own Red Guitar also reached the Top 20 and he soon gained a reputation as an uncompromising artist, intent on working at his own pace, and to his own agenda. The atmospheric Brilliant Trees, reached the UK Top 5 and was widely acclaimed.

Over two years elapsed before the double album follow-up Gone To Earth, which fared less well. By the time of Let The Happiness In single & the third solo vocal album, Secrets Of The Beehive, Sylvian had virtually returned to the pop fringe but his love of experimentation was still present. A collaboration with former Can member Holger Czukay on the atmospherically ambient Plight And Premonition and Flux And Mutability emphasized this point.

There also followed a collaboration with the illustrator, Russell Mills, entitled Ember Glance. Sylvian subsequently joined his former Japan colleagues for their 1991 reunion project under the guise of Rain Tree Crow. Following his collaboration with Ryűichi Sakamoto in 1992, Sylvian was back in the charts with 'Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II)'.

In 1992, Sylvian released "The First Day" with Robert Fripp and this took him back into the UK charts. A limited edition live album Damage was released to coincide with the world tour the duo undertook. 1n 1994, they both worked on a sound installation in Tokyo, Japan, titled Redemption (approaching silence).

The following year, Sylvian embarked on a solo world tour entitled Slowfire.

In March 1999, Sylvian's first solo album for 12 years, Dead Bees On A Cake was released to mixed response, reaching Number 9 in the Italian charts and Number 31 in the UK. A single, I Surrender preceded the album by a few weeks and reached the top 40 in the UK.

The book, Trophies II - the lyrics of David Sylvian was published in February 1999 in an edition of 5,000 and included poems and lyrics from 1988 to 1999.

A second single, Godman, limited to 5000, was released in September 1999 along with Ember Glance on CD without the box set & Approaching Silence.

The year 2000 saw Sylvian busy working on a "Best of/Rarities" album .

The 2000s saw an upheaval for Sylvian and the path of his music seemed an ever more obscure one though whether that is right or wrong is up to each individual who chose to follow him or not. He split from his wife, Ingrid Chavez, with whom he had two children, and with Virgin Records, his label of over 20 years. In the aftermath he set up his own label, SamadhiSound, not only as a vehicle for his own releases but that of others. Putting aside his own releases for one moment, some of the releases of other artists were simply astonishing. I'm talking about the work of Harold Budd, his brother Steve Jansen's Slope, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Derek Bailey and, of course, the Nine Horses project. It was sad to see that in 2013 SamadhiSound surrendered third party releases and reverted to concentrating on Sylvian projects alone as they had at the beginning with their first release, Blemish, in the early 2000s.

Blemish was an important release in the history of the artist. It signalled a more obscure pathway to the heart, if you like, a long way from the more accessible beauty of Gone to Earth and Secrets of the Beehive. The Raintree Crow project is now considered by most Japan fans as one of the great albums, if not the greatest, from their back catalogue - one wonders what path he would have took had the band members built on what they achieved therein.

But we will never know. Instead Sylvian has made his audience work harder, not only in his concerts since the early 2000s but in the releases, from Manafon to the 2014 release, ‘there’s a light that enters houses with no other house in sight'. They are much harder to get into - they require the listener to delve deeper to get into them - if, of course, the listener wants to delve that deep.

I for one enjoyed Blemish after many listens though I haven't gone as far as I should in following his music since then. Maybe it's time for a visit...

Whatever your viewpoint, I would say few would disagree that the artwork to the releases is as beautiful as anything you will ever see anywhere. A third Trophies lyric book followed and in its own way is as beautiful as the first two. Working with Chris Bigg, Sylvian's releases are worth collecting for the artwork alone.

As he said in Godman there can be only one sensation: 'astonishment'.

2015 was a busy year culminating in Hypergraphia: The Writings of David Sylvian 1980-2014, a beautiful book containing all of the lyrics from the Trophies trilogy and containing over 600 pages of artwork that simply bedazzles. This was the final release from his label, Samadhisound, which, over the past decade or so, had released a body of work not only from him but musicians like Harold Budd, Sweet Billy Pilgrim and Derek Bailey. It seemed a fitting tribute to the work he had done with the label's designer, Chris Bigg.

A new EP, Playing The Schoolhouse was released on Confront Recordings.





David Sylvian Cds

David Sylvian Dvds @ amazon.com (direct link)

David Sylvian Books @ amazon.com (direct link)




David Sylvian.

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