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David Sylvian – Secrets Of The Beehive

December 10, 2010

It’s pretty difficult these days to review an ambient album without falling into the trap of using the words ‘sweeping’, ‘expansive’, ‘lush’ or even the dreaded phrase ‘a landscape of sound’ over and over and over and over….

So instead of doing that, I present to you my recommended album of the week (potentially month depending on how keen I am on keeping this newly invented trend up since I decided it right this instant at 1:00am).

Now thanks to the joy of SoundCloud and my appallingly slow upload speeds, I kindly ask you to clicky click on the video and allow the song to run its course while you read on:

David Sylvian was the member of a little heard of New Romantic band from back in the early 80’s called Japan. In fact, to be a little clearer, and to prevent sweeping comparisons to other bands of the era such as Duran Duran (still good) or Spandeau Ballet (still awful) – Japan were in fact more of a post-punk group that emerged toward the end of the 70’s. Their early tracks had a bit of a grinding, screechy tone to them with a guitar that tended to snap at your ears like yappy dog mixed with a smooth as butter bass sound synonymous with bands such as Talk Talk and Peter Gabriel.

The way in which they presented themselves however, screamed new romantics, with frilly shirts, ridiculous makeup and general pretty boy features all round. During the late 1970’s then, you could understand why, for the most part, the post-punk scene hated Japan. Thankfully for them though, and for David Sylvian, the wave of new romantics allowed them to finally have a niche of artists they could associate with, even ironically the band always tried to distance themselves from such comparisons.

The reason I mention all of this is simply because I have always had a great love of music from the 80’s (not that awful crap you get on mix CD’s and the like, but you know, the really good elements of 80’s the excessive music videos, the prominence of synth, the introduction of samples etc… ) and I especially love and am constantly fascinated by how the good bands of that era progressed and changed over time not to go with the times, but to go with their creative drives. At the end of this post I’ve included a little ditty called Adolescent Sex (the title track from Japan’s debut album). Listen to it carefully then go back to the song at the top of the page and marvel at how the far the artist has progressed in 9 years.

The album itself follows a very similar path to that of the song linked at the top of the page, Orpheus, but my recommendation comes not necessarily from the quality of the album itself. There are no doubt, better examples or ambient albums with jazz overtones (Talk Talk, The Colour Of Spring to name one sublime example), but here is an album by an artist sadly known by too few, who shrugged off conventional association’s to produce his own style of music. And he’s from South London.

Either way I strongly urge you to listen to a few tracks whilst you put your feet up and read a book and drift along with the guitar, strings and David Sylvians vocal style which is all his own. The ruin it all and listen to the track below (I actually happen to like it, but it is guaranteed to ruin the chilled out mood you were in prior to hearing it!).

Japan – Adolescent Sex

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