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David Sylvian - Brilliant Trees CD (album) cover


David Sylvian


Crossover Prog

3.75 | 108 ratings

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4 stars The first solo album by former Japan vocalist David Sylvian takes the direction of the band's last studio album, "Tin Drum", several steps further. The distinctive-voiced Sylvian, a less affected, more melancholy version of Bryan Ferry, gathers together a roster of distinguished musicians, including former Japan members Steve Jansen (Sylvian's own brother) and Richard Barbieri (of later Porcupine Tree fame), Krautrock legend Holger Czukay, avant-garde jazz trumpeteer Jon Hassell, and Japanese multi-instrumentalist Ryuichi Sakamoto (a frequent Sylvian collaborator), in order to produce a beautiful, intriguing album, full of diverse soundscapes and world music suggestions. In comparison with Japan's sparse, nervous sound, "Brilliant Trees" is richer and more rounded, enhanced by the array of ethnic and traditional instruments played by the musicians.

While album opener "Pulling Punches" is a more mature, energetic version of Japan's sound on "Tin Drum", a funky number driven by a powerful, jagged bass line. "The Ink in the Well" takes the listener into dreamy, folky territory - double bass master Danny Thompson played in the Seventies with folk-rock legends Pentangle. The aptly-titled "Nostalgia", a wistful, slow-burning ballad, makes good use of Sylvian's somewhat offbeat vocal style, which sounds warmer and more emotional than in his previous career as the dandy-like singer of Japan.

Red Guitar, another funk-tinged composition boasting an almost catchy melody, is the only really upbeat track on the album; while the last three songs, "Weathered Wall", "Backwaters" and the 8-minute-plus title-track, share the same rarefied, laid-back atmosphere. The latter in particular, a sprawling, ambient-like piece that wonderfully evokes the image offered by its title, sees the contribution of both Jon Hassell and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Elegantly brooding, almost decadent, "Brilliant Trees" is a sophisticated album that will appeal to people whose vision of prog is broader than 15-minute epics, mellotrons and odd time signatures. A great debut by an intelligent, challenging artist, and a very rewarding listen.

Raff | 4/5 |


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