Reviews & Recommendations
My roads uncrossed
White lined and tarred
By believing in you
Every colour you are

-- David Sylvian
David Sylvian
(solo work)
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"David Sylvian is best remembered as the pale-faced, lipstick-wearing, bleached-hair frontman for New Romantic pioneers Japan. These art-rock pretty boys were the prototype for the Duran Duran revolution, but in 1982, as Japan-mania peaked, the group imploded and a disillusioned Sylvian retreated into a prolific-yet-sporadic solo journey."
-- Sarah Pratt, RollingStone

"Sylvian is clearly indebted to Bowie. His previous band, Japan, mined Bowie's glam and Berlin periods and derived some memorable songs. Sylvian thinks of himself as more than a pop star and leader of a long-defunct new wave band; he's an artist-in-sound, luvvie, and he's going out of his way to prove he could be more of an egghead than Brian Eno if he really wanted to be."
-- Paul Cooper, Pitchfork Media, 6/02

 David Sylvian Discography - Album / CD Reviews

***½ 1984: Brilliant Trees audio

"Although the songs on Brilliant Trees had the melancholy, nostalgic air of Ghosts, they also had an exultant open feel. The pop star was discovering, blind perhaps but not deaf, how to make music which breathed. Chords were suggested rather than stated, sounds were ambigously mysterious yet individual; a warm, strong double bass, a soaring pure flugelhorn, a smokey, sinous trumpet. All the unmistakenly the signatures of soloists like Danny Thompson, Kenny Wheeler or Jon Hassell, yet enveloped in a mood that was specifically David Sylvian's."
-- D. Sylvian Megastore

***½ 1986:Gone to Earthaudio

"1986, of course, was not the best of all possible years for musicians with 'progressive' or 'art rock' tendencies. With the singles charts increasingly determining the success or failure of various acts, many talented musicians curtailed their more adventurous projects in favour of streamlined pop/AOR numbers. Yet 'Gone To Earth' shows evidence of an artist ignoring this trend entirely. (...) After Japan's fragmentation, Sylvian went even further in exploring extended song forms, using various jazz and art-rock techniques on his first solo album, 'Brilliant Trees'. On 'Gone To Earth', he goes even further in this direction. Many of the songs on this release are best defined as extended art songs, and the second half is primarily devoted to a series of sparse instrumentals. The album also benefits from the presence of Robert Fripp, who is given a leading role on many of the tracks -- those who liked the more recent Sylvian/Fripp releases will probably find much to appreciate here as well."
-- The Christopher Currie, 3/98

***½ 1987: Secrets of the Beehive audio

"Cold. Dark. Somber. Melancholy. All good words to describe this masterwork, but don't be scared off. It's not outright depressing. The feeling of this album is more of moving through lonely times than whining how bad it is. We don't always have an easy time of listening, but there's light at the end of the tunnel, brighter than before, once we come to the end and let the happiness in. Perfect for listening on a cold evening in fall or winter, with just a couple candles lit. You can toss labels at this work such as soft rock, jazz, new age, but the only one that sticks is simply Art. Sylvian has done some great things, but this is his one work that stands above all the others."
-- spiral_mind, amazon customer review, 2/01

1999:Dead Bees on a Cakeaudio

"12 years since Sylvian's last solo outing, the brilliant, mostly acoustic 'Secrets Of The Beehive', comes this effort. Unfortunately, 'Dead Bees On A Cake' doesn't pick up where that album left off. Dead Bees is a collection of 14 easy listening songs that could be played perpetually in a dentist office, they're that lackluster. Sylvian too often takes the ambient route on Dead Bees, opting for moody, 'ethereal' touches that feel slim and lack direction. Also, he still sings with his deep, brooding, affected new wave voice of yore, so the worst songs come off as Yanni-style tinkle tinkle New Age with a spooky, yodeling David Bowie handling vocals."
-- Gina Vivinetto, Nude As The News

**** 2000: Everything and Nothing (Box Set) audio

"This is the mark of good production on every level, and gives the album an undeniable freshness, even if some of its earliest material is two decades old. The album also works well as a sampler of Sylvian's numerous collaborations. He has been known to keep good company, and a slew of familiar names from the worlds of 20th century classical music, film composition and progressive rock appear in the liner notes. How good is the company? Well, can you come up with another contemporary musician who counts Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bill Frisell, John Cage, Mark Isham, Marc Ribot and Robert Fripp as sidemen? Musically rich throughout, Everything and Nothing is a spotlight for Sylvian's stylish, Brian Ferry-inspired baritone, his fascination with eastern culture and spirituality and the beautiful orchestrations of songs like God's Monkey, I Surrender and Some Kind of Fool. For the unfamiliar, this album is a must for fans of Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk and Scott Walker..."
-- August Forte, Splendid Ezine

2002: Camphor audio

"After 22 years on the Virgin label, as a member of Japan and as a solo artist, David Sylvian has finally called time on his association with the company that has been his home for nearly his entire recording career. Acting as a companion piece to the last year’s retrospective 'Everything and Nothing', 'Camphor', a collection of mainly instrumental tracks culled from the last 18 years of his career, is the full stop on a career that has straddled the boundaries between chart success and challenging experimental music like few other of his contemporaries. (...) Camphor features contributions from luminaries such as Robert Fripp, Bill Nelson and Holger Czukay, and tracks written with his former Japan cohorts such as Rain Tree Crow. (...) It’s not all perfect however. There's pomposity occasionally lurking near the surface, represented by the song titles, The Song Which Gives The Key to Perfection. And he occasionally breaks into worrying bursts of guitar virtuosity - wailing solos that distract from the atmosphere. One can only imagine the pained grimaces on the face of the guitarist in the studio as each extended note is over-emoted. But thankfully these disturbing lapses are few and far between, and certainly not enough to distract from the album as a whole."
-- John Power,

**½ 2003: Blemish

"Sylvian takes on all aspects of the recording here - he composed and played everything, he recorded it, and he produced it. This gave him the freedom to stretch out as he never had before, creating a decidedly uncommercial album in the process - no surprise there. 'Vocal ambient' is the best way to describe the outcome, as the music behind his vocals is often formless and beatless, but is nonetheless an intriguing bed over which to weave his lyrics. (...) Along for the ride on three tracks is avant-garde freak-guitarist Derek Bailey, who is either tremendously talented at playing the way no one else has, or has absolutely no idea what those long shiny thin strings on a guitar do - and so he plinks and plucks, seemingly at random. His work is like utterly alien sounding abstractions of traditional Chinese music - intriguing and grating at the same time. This is Bailey's art - playing the illogical as musical, finding sounds from the grating of a string on a fret; stopping a note before it rings out; frantic, dissonant scales."
-- Tom Johnson,, 6/03

***½ 2005 : NINE HORSES - Snow Borne Sorrow

Tracklisting: 1. Wonderful World 2. Darkest Birds 3. The Banality Of Evil 4. Atom And Cell 5. A History Of Holes 6. Snow Borne Sorrow 7. The Day The Earth Stole Heaven 8. Serotonin 9. The Librarian
"This nominal debut is David Sylvian's return to Technicolor after the monochromatic minimalism of his previous, largely improvised, album. Here he is collaborating with former Japan bandmate (and brother) Steve Jansen and laptop eccentric Burnt Friedman. The extravagant melodic gifts that grace 'Secrets of the Beehive', his masterpiece, are muted, and this is a less obviously satisfying record. But the raft of auxiliary musicians, including Ryuichi Sakamoto, create subtle eddies, intensifying the smoky, ominous atmosphere. Sylvian's voice is still an elegant chocolate swoon, the perfect partner for Stina Nordenstam's frosting on Wonderful World (no, not that one) - exquisitely weary but never jaded. The most affecting song finds Sylvian musing wryly on ageing, memory and regret in A History of Holes. The tunes rarely do more than nag away gently, but then this is esoteric meta-pop, not Motown."
-- David Peschek,, 10/05

2009 : Manafon

Tracklisting: 01. Small Metal Gods 02. The Rabbit Skinner 03. Random Acts of Senseless Violence 04. The Greatest Living Englishman 05. 125 Spheres 06. Snow White in Appalachia 07. Emily Dickinson 08. The Department Of Dead Letters 09. Manafon

Release date: Sep 14, 2009

Recommended Links:

David Sylvian's official site
Similar/Related Artists:

Japan | Rain Tree Crow | Mick Karn | Dalis Car | Roxy Music | David Bowie | Peter Murphy | Talk Talk | Bryan Ferry | Robert Fripp | Ryuichi Sakamoto

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