David Sylvian - Everything and Nothing
3 1/ 2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed Dec. 11, 2000
By Tony BonyataHe helped usher in the 'new romantic' movement in rock in the late '70s with his band Japan. Since their demise in 1983 lead vocalist David Sylvian has pushed not only his own music to the edge but his whole creative being as well.
Writer, musician, vocalist, photographer and installation artist, Sylvian's work has been highly prolific, yet unfortunately, with a low profile. Ask most people if they've ever heard the British band Japan, or of Sylvian's solo work and you'll undoubted receive shrugs of uncertainty.
But after 16 years of standing quietly in the shadows of rock's avant garde, Sylvian felt the time was right to release a two-disc retrospective spanning his entire 22-year career, appropriately titled Everything and Nothing. But rather than focusing on just a 'greatest hits' or 'best of' compilation, Sylvian has gathered together old rarities that have been newly remixed, and songs that have never made it to disc.
"I wanted to make it as interesting for myself as possible," explained Sylvian in an exclusive Livewire interview. "There was a wealth of previously unreleased material, what are called outtakes, but I never thought of this as lesser material. These were pieces that weren't completed due to budgetary or time constraints or contextually reasons - they just didn't work with the rest of the material. I couldn't consider compiling a 'best of' in the traditional sense. I've had minor hits with "Red Guitar" and Forbidden Colours" but much of what appeared on the singles didn't constitute my best work. It seemed an appropriate point in time to go back and reflect and create a work of this kind. A work that would act as both a wonderful introduction for people that hadn't heard my work before, but also enhance the catalog that is already out there - that people are already familiar with. So different parties of all kinds can come to the work and enjoy it."
And as Sylvian suspected, Everything and Nothing makes a very strong introduction to his work for the many uninitiated. Culling songs from Japan, such as the eerily smooth "Ghosts," and "Some Kind of Fool," a richly textured unreleased number from their 1980 Gentlemen Take Polaroids sessions, Sylvian helps reflect on a past filled with tight suits and thick eyeliner.
The majority of this collection, however, focuses more on his solo and collaborative work. The powerful "Godman," and tranquilized, yet emotive "Cover Me With Flowers," both from his 1999 sessions from Dead Bees On A Cake album - arguably his strongest work to date, showcase his more recent accomplishments. His collaborative work with others artists such as Holger Czukay - from the German avant garde band Can, Ryuichi Sakamoto - from Yellow Magic Orchestra, jazz experimentalists Jon Hassell and Kenny Wheeler, as well as King Crimson's founding father - Robert Fripp are all featured here, making for an extremely enjoyable experimental ride.
One of the more interesting collaborations featured in this overview is from 1991 when Sylvian regrouped with former Japan bandmembers for a one-off project entitled "Rain Tree Crow." "When the notion of working with the ex-members of the band came up, I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to really explore those relationships further," Sylvian admitted. "We were always working with my material in Japan, and very rarely opened up and improvised together. I really respected the individuals as musicians and I wanted to see what could be drawn out of them in working in this particular process. They were very much up for it and it was a very exciting time working on that project. But the personalities ultimately clashed toward the end of the project and although we were initially talking about doing a second or third album, and possibly touring, it just wasn't to be. Mainly due to external pressures. But I don't regret undertaking the project. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I learned quite a lot in the process."
With its many rarities and remixed numbers this collection is sure to enlighten old fans of both his 'new romantic' period and rich, sensual solo and collaborative work. And for those still unknowingly shrugging their shoulders, Everything and Nothing makes a wonderful starting point for this intriguing artist.
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