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Thread: David Sylvian - Stunning Vocalist/Musical Genius

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    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    David Sylvian - Stunning Vocalist/Musical Genius

    What can I say, I get immense enjoyment and statisfaction of his full catalog (that I own). His work with Fripp () is sublime. What a combination.

    I've been listening to Brilliant Trees, Dead Bees On A Cake. Secrets Of A Beehive, and Approaching Silence lately. All very unique with several highlights. I surrender has excellent vocals and instrumentation frpm Beehive, for example.

    What are your views on David? I get so much pleasure listening to his musianship.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  2. #2
    a master artist
    Been following him since Brilliant Trees

  3. #3
    I enjoyed his music with Japan back in the day, but he took things to another level with his solo career. Secrets of the Beehive is just one of my favourite albums of all time, I never grow tired of playing it. His more experimental work is always of interest, but I do miss the melodies and structures of his classic song based work.

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    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Huge fan here, especially of his work after Japan. Japan is still a bit hit or miss for me but his solo work is all good. I even like Manafon which seems to have received a rather lukewarm reception.

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  5. #5
    I’m a connoisseur of soundscape/ambient ‘prog’ and Sylvian’s contributions to the genre are absolutely top shelf. Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities, Mute and Mutability (with Holger Czukay), and the 2nd disc on Gone To Earth are all timeless gems.

    I’m less of a fan of his more song-oriented work. To me, his voice is too ‘cool, sexy’ and lacking in dynamics, with most traversing the same vocal range.

  6. #6
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Glad to read that everyone here finds David's music rewarding. I like everything he does but prefer to song based music. Let the Happiness In is such an excellent example of a melancholy tone in the instrumental piece, slow and somber but very hopeful lyrics. Good use of juxtaposition. It's like someone who experiences depression and just see a glimmer of hope where they just to start to feel happy.

    I do like his more challenging music though. He could sing the phonebook compellingly. As I mentioned, I've been playing Approaching Silence. No lyric, just ambient music. Not sure what is musical contribution is to this album.

    I think Fripp's playing with David is so distinctive and impressiive. I still haven't really gotten into his work with Japan - is there are example of something that really stands out?
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  7. #7
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    Been following him since Japan. Brilliant Trees is a favorite, Secrets of the Beehive and Gone To Earth are also very good.
    I also like the song based rather than ambient stuff ( at this time ).
    As far as Japan goes I like, Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum.
    On Gentlemen Take Polaroids check out Taking Islands In Africa, the title song, Swing it is a more 'groove oriented/pop' album
    On Tin Drum , Still Life In Mobile Homes, The Art Of Parties are the poppyish the others vary, some more experimental.
    Last edited by markwoll; 5 Days Ago at 09:46 AM.
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    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Nothing I heard from Japan ever did anything for me, but I have all or most of the regular albums starting with Alchemy, plus most of the compilations and remix collections. Not sure why Brilliant Trees isn't in my collection, maybe I ought to get that one.

    He seems to have given up releasing new music.
    Are there any similar artists that scratch the same itch for you? For me, a few come to mind: Exit North, Dark Star Safari, Thomas Feiner, some of the Steve Jansen releases.
    A few years ago a one-off "band" put out a release "Birds Through Fire: Letters From Thurza" with Robby Aceto who was on at least one Syvian tour; I thought it should appeal to anyone who likes Syvian but my brother hated it.

  9. #9
    Wouldn't call him a genious but he released some very rewarding albums.

    While nothing from Japan stood the test of time to my ears, Brilliant Trees, Gone to Earth, Secrets Of The Beehive, Blemish and both electronic LPs he did with Holger Czukay are keepers.
    Macht das ohr auf!

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    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spacefreak View Post
    Wouldn't call him a genious but he released some very rewarding albums.

    While nothing from Japan stood the test of time to my ears, Brilliant Trees, Gone to Earth, Secrets Of The Beehive, Blemish and both electronic LPs he did with Holger Czukay are keepers.
    My Favourite from your list is Secrets Of The Beehive although Brilliant Trees is on a similar level. The opening track from Beehive, I Surrender, is excellent. What do you think about his work with Robert Fripp?
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  11. #11
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    My Favourite from your list is Secrets Of The Beehive although Brilliant Trees is on a similar level. The opening track from Beehive, I Surrender, is excellent. What do you think about his work with Robert Fripp?
    I surrender is from Dead bees on a cake. Another fine album, although it offered very little new at the time.


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    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Another pretty essential release for the fans of vocal Sylvian is the album Sleepwalkers. This contains songs he did in collaboration with other artists that often appeared on albums of those artists.
    For me the only doublures were a couple of Nine Horses songs, the rest I never heared before. Some beautiful stuff on there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    My Favourite from your list is Secrets Of The Beehive although Brilliant Trees is on a similar level. The opening track from Beehive, I Surrender, is excellent. What do you think about his work with Robert Fripp?
    My first exposure to Sylvian (no pun intended) was The First Day/Damage stuff, which I immediately dug. Since then I've gone back and had a listen to all periods of his career, although it's taken me a while to actually start collecting his music -- probably because nothing else he's done is as rock-y or in your face as that.

    I can see getting into some of his Japan stuff like Quiet Life if I'm in the right mood, but I much prefer his post Japan work. I now have Brilliant Trees and am working my way forward from there. Next up will probably be Gone to Earth (esp. since a couple tracks were also nicely covered by Sylvian/Fripp) and Flux and Mutability with Holger Czukay.

    There's times when his music can get a bit too precious for me, as in "music as the soundtrack to pretentious art gallery exhibits", but then again I enjoy Eno's ambient stuff and Fripp soundscapes, which are sort of the same thing. It really all depends on what kind of mood I'm in.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by thedunno View Post
    Another pretty essential release for the fans of vocal Sylvian is the album Sleepwalkers. This contains songs he did in collaboration with other artists that often appeared on albums of those artists.
    For me the only doublures were a couple of Nine Horses songs, the rest I never heared before. Some beautiful stuff on there.
    One of the songs that should have been on Sleepwalkers is Linoleum by Tweaker:



    I've wrote it before over here: I've been following Sylvian and his Japan-colleagues since 1978. Yes, I also like Japan's first two albums.

  15. #15
    Member Boceephus's Avatar
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    Rain Tree Crow - Amazing stuff! I really dig the Sylvian/Fripp recordings & pretty much everything else.


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  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    What are your views on David? I get so much pleasure listening to his musianship.
    I like the ambient/instrumental stuff (Alchemy, Approaching Silence, the duos with Holger Czukay). I think the only release of his I heard with vocals was "Blemish" and I didn't like the vocals at all. They were more spoken word than sung - is that typical of what he does?

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    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad to the Bone View Post
    I like the ambient/instrumental stuff (Alchemy, Approaching Silence, the duos with Holger Czukay). I think the only release of his I heard with vocals was "Blemish" and I didn't like the vocals at all. They were more spoken word than sung - is that typical of what he does?
    Oh no, not at all. His earlier vocal albums are a lot more melodic. Blemish and Manafon were a big change in style.

    I would recommend to try Gone to Earth. On this album the vocal and ambient Sylvian are most in balance.

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  18. #18
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thedunno View Post
    Oh no, not at all. His earlier vocal albums are a lot more melodic. Blemish and Manafon were a big change in style.

    I would recommend to try Gone to Earth. On this album the vocal and ambient Sylvian are most in balance.
    Taking The Veil Is quite nice.
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
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    Nostalgia, you know, ain't what it used to be. Furthermore, they tells me, it never was.
    “A Man Who Does Not Read Has No Appreciable Advantage Over the Man Who Cannot Read” - Unknown

  19. #19
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad to the Bone View Post
    I like the ambient/instrumental stuff (Alchemy, Approaching Silence, the duos with Holger Czukay). I think the only release of his I heard with vocals was "Blemish" and I didn't like the vocals at all. They were more spoken word than sung - is that typical of what he does?
    I agree with thedunno, most of David's song based catalog is highly melodic, for example, including:

    Brilliant Trees (1984)
    Gone to Earth (1986)
    Secrets of the Beehive (1987)
    Dead Bees on a Cake (1999)
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  20. #20
    Member Boceephus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    I agree with thedunno, most of David's song based catalog is highly melodic, for example, including:

    Brilliant Trees (1984)
    Gone to Earth (1986)
    Secrets of the Beehive (1987)
    Dead Bees on a Cake (1999)
    I’d include Rain Tree Crow into that list too.


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  21. #21
    Brilliant Trees, Gone To Earth, and "Secrets of the Beehive" are sublime and I don't think he has ever been able to top those.
    I kind of lost interest after his Raintree Crow and Fripp collaboration.

  22. #22
    Genius? Not for me. An important artist, yes. Mark Hollis was a genius. But David paved the way for him, and I would even acknowledge a direct influence of his on Mark.

    He just didn't push the barrier all the way through, and somehow remained on the outskirts of mainstream and experimental at the same time. And yes, as Teddy noted, the voice - a beautiful voice - lacks in dynamics. Even there one might crave for some element of surprise to creep in.

    My opinion is based on the 80's albums, since I have listened only sporadically to his later work. Brilliant Trees is a very promising start for his solo career, and a beautiful record - but I don't think he lived up to the expectations. Secrets of the Beehive has its great moments but doesn't keep the tension all the way through.

    Still a unique and important voice in the context of progressive music.

    EDIT I am listening to the 2nd record of Gone To Earth right now, and I almost feel the inclination to eat my hat. Although I am not a fan of ambient music, this one is particularly inspired and well made.
    Last edited by Zappathustra; 4 Days Ago at 07:24 AM.

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    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Udi Koomran View Post
    I LOVE
    Words with the Shaman
    This, and your earlier post, is high praise coming from someone with your musical pedigree! I've worked my way through Sylvian's catalog over the last few weeks. Next up. Sylvian and Fripp collaborations. I realize its only a few releases.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    This, and your earlier post, is high praise coming from someone with your musical pedigree! I've worked my way through Sylvian's catalog over the last few weeks. Next up. Sylvian and Fripp collaborations. I realize its only a few releases.
    Thanks man
    Do not miss Rain Tree Crow !


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