David Sylvian Biography

David Batt, 23 February 1958, Beckenham, Kent, England. Sylvian’s androgynous image and ethereal vocals made him a prominent figure in leading new romantic band Japan. Just before their break-up in late 1982, he branched out into a new venture recording with Ryûichi Sakamoto of the Yellow Magic Orchestra (with whom he had already collaborated on a track from Japan’s Gentlemen Take Polaroids). The duo’s ‘Bamboo House’ reached number 30 in the UK and the collaboration continued the following July with ‘Forbidden Colours’, the haunting theme to the movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence reaching number 16. Sylvian’s own ‘Red Guitar’ reached number 17 the following June, but he soon gained a reputation as an uncompromising artist, intent on working at his own pace and to his own agenda. Released in June 1984, the atmospheric Brilliant Trees reached the UK Top 5 and was widely acclaimed. Over two years elapsed before the double album follow-up Gone To Earth, which fared less well. Sylvian returned to the pop fringe with ‘Let The Happiness In’, but his love of experimentation was still present, as collaborations with former Can member Holger Czukay on the ambient collections Plight & Premonition and Flux + Mutability emphasized.

Sylvian subsequently joined former Japan colleagues (minus Dean) on a 1991 reunion project under the moniker of Rain Tree Crow. Another collaboration with Sakamoto in 1992 with ‘Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II)’ briefly dented the charts, after which Sylvian worked on an album and toured with Robert Fripp. After moving to the USA, Sylvian began work on his long overdue new solo album. Dead Bees On A Cake finally appeared in February 1999. An instrumental collection, Approaching Silence, appeared later in the year, and in 2000 Sylvian made available a collection of previously unreleased material on the double disc Everything And Nothing.

Even with less than first class songs, Sylvian possesses a voice so good that it flatters anything he touches. This informed his brutally stark 2003 recording, Blemish, an unsettling collection dealing with vaguely hinted at personal upheavals in the artist’s life. Sylvian’s next project saw him collaborating with brother and former Japan colleague Steve Jansen and avant-electronica artist Burnt Friedman as Nine Horses, with the trio completing the excellent Snow Borne Sorrow in 2005.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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