Superior Reputation cementing Japan
From page 81 of Classic Rock Magazine March 2011
Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Their last with guitarist Rob Dean, this was also the last Sylvian-related album to resemble what a conventional rock record might be.
It was also the first time Japan came into their own, now mixing Euro-disco to their glam and punk influences, the glacial keyboards of Richard Barbieri adding a mirrored sheen to Mick Karn’s tentacled bass and Steve Jansen’s cubist percussion on stand-out tracks like Methods Of Dance and the cathedral-like title track.
Japan were suddenly influential in their own right, as newbies like Duran Duran fought to keep up.
Japan Brilliant Trees VIRGIN, 1984 His first solo album and still one of his most interesting. Clues to his future direction had been left as far back as ... Polaroids , which closed with Taking Islands In Africa , his first collaborative songwriting effort with Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Now Sylvian gave full vent to his more experimental ideas, melding purring funk with spacey jazz and icy ambient sounds, most affecting on the almost jaunty Red Guitar , the twilight Weathered Wall and the epic title track. Featuring guests including Sakamoto, Can alumni Holger Czukay, John Martyn and bassist Danny Thompson, this was Sylvian’s biggest chart hit. Rain Tree Crow Rain Tree Crow VIRGIN, 1991
When news broke that Japan had re-formed (albeit without Dean, and for just one album) the hosannas were stymied somewhat by the additional news that Sylvian had insisted they do so as Rain Tree Crow.
The results, however, bore out his decision. This is not the long-delayed follow-up to Tin Drum that fans desired, but a deliberately unrehearsed, apparently improvised mix of Sylvian’s shimmering ambient ballads, and provocatively experimental instrumentals like New Moon At Red Deer Wallow (very Low -period Bowie).
A bittersweet farewell, then, but one worth cherishing.
Dead Bees On A Cake
A quarter-century into his career, Sylvian could have been forgiven had he relinquished his power to surprise. Instead he proved as effortlessly un-pindown-able as ever, not least on the swampland blues of the Tom Waits-like Midnight Sun . The muted trumpet on Thalheim offered equally unexpected delight, while on The Shining Of Things he proved that nobody outside the pure jazz spectrum does lounge-lizard cool any more like David Sylvian. Ably assisted by collaborators including Jansen, Sakamoto and Marc Ribot, this was Sylvian at full guttering-candle power.