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David Sylvian - Brilliant Trees CD (album) cover


David Sylvian


Crossover Prog

3.75 | 108 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is a delightful album on which David Sylvian welds together the funk, the 'worldbeat' and the atmospherics of Brian Eno (BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE) and late 1970s Talking Heads (REMAIN IN LIGHT in particular) with the sonic experiments of early Roxy Music (especially FOR YOUR PLEASURE's B side) and the world-weary attitudes of David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.

"Weeping for the loss of heaven" and "The sound of waves on a pool of water / I'm drowning in my nostalgia" are two typical quotes from the album.

When I say Sylvian welds together other people's styles, boy do I mean it! The opening track, for example, doesn't just borrow from Talking Heads funk, it even borrows half of its title ("Born under Punches" has become "Pulling Punches") AND makes use of Jon Hassell, the trumpeter who provided REMAIN IN LIGHT with some of its more unsettling moments. The second track, "The Ink in the Well", is a dreamy folk- rock ballad, somewhat in the style of John Martyn, and sure enough, it's got a starring role for Martyn's regular bassist, Danny Thompson. The fact that Sylvian even got Kenny Wheeler to play on this track (Wheeler is probably the greatest jazz trumpeter to emerge after Miles Davis) shows how seriously he takes his musical arrangements.

So why is this album an excellent addition to any prog collection?

To tell you the truth, I haven't been too impressed with Sylvian's other solo albums. GONE TO EARTH and BEEHIVE each have their moments but also contain a lot of tracks I invariably skip. The man's later albums simply sound greyish; there's far too much monotonous whining. (In my view, this is even true about his two-disc compilation EVERYTHING AND NOTHING.)

But on BRILLIANT TREES Sylvian got everything just right. This is a collection of superb melodies, inspired arrangements and wonderfully dreamy, melancholic moods from start to finish. Sylvian's collaborators are partly responsible for the album's success. Apart from the ones already mentioned, there are contributions from Holger Czukay, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mark Isham, Percy Jones, and all other former members of Sylvian's old band, Japan. Because of all these superb musicians BRILLIANT TREES is a masterpiece, on which the songs follow each other seamlessly. The mood is overwhelmingly gentle, but the colours are constantly changing. Soft synthesizer washes may drown YOU, dear listener, in nostalgia, but Sylvian's drum and bass are funky when they have to be.

As if all this weren't enough, the album is now available with three instrumental bonus tracks from a lovely old E.P. ("Extended Play"), WORDS WITH THE SHAMAN.

fuxi | 4/5 |


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