Album Review – David Sylvian


David Sylvian -‘A Victim Of Stars 1982-2012’ (EMI)

Like Green Gartside, Elvis Costello or David Byrne (to pick three names), David Sylvian is one of a handful of artists who rose to fame in the late 1970s (in his case, fronting Japan) and who has continued to make vastly original music on his own terms, making quantum leaps over the decades. In Sylvian’s case, a similar comparison might also be made to that of Talk Talk; both acts produced music that at one point could turn up on ‘Hits of the 80s’-type compilations, but progressed to show a pastoral side, incorporating jazz and ambient sounds, and even touching on modern classical.

On a simple level, it could be said that this album is a compilation of Sylvian’s work over the last thirty years once Japan had split up, up to the present day. But it’s a fascinating journey listening to how he has evolved over that time, with that gorgeous tenor voice still in place. The 2CD compilation starts of with a remix of ‘Ghosts’, Japan’s biggest hit (still astonishing even now to think that this piece of music oculd have been a bone fide hit ) which is sympathetic to the original (to the point of being barely indistinguishable, to these ears, at any rate) and concludes with the one new track ‘Gravity.’

Along the way of course, there’s a number of highlights that everyone should hear. His collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamato ‘Forbidden Colours.’ ‘Let The Happiness In.’ ‘Pop Song.’ ‘Jean The Birdman.’ The exquisite ‘I Surrender’ (all nine minutes of it) from 1999’s Dead Bees On A Cake.

It’s not all easy on the ear, by any means -‘The Only Daughter’ is a wonderful but challenging piece of music (‘song’ suggests that these are clinging to a conventional template, which he has done progressively less and less over the last thirty-five years). But it’s worth being challenged by. And it’s worth reminding yourself of one of the most orginal talents, collaborators and singers that Britain has ever produced.


A Victim Of Stars 1982-2012 is released on EMI on February 27.

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