Singer David Sylvian - real name David Batt - started his musical career in a school band that eventually became Japan, consisting of his brother Steve Jansen (drums), Mick Karn (bass) - who recently passed away - and Richard Barbieri (keyboards). In the beginning the music and also the look of the band was very much inspired by glam rock artists like Roxy Music and David Bowie. The band soon developed a sound of their own, incorporating both electronic and eastern influences in their music. Just when Japan became successful - the single Ghosts reached the third place in the UK charts - the band dissolved in 1982 and Sylvian started a solo career.
In his early career he released four solo albums: Brilliant Trees (1984), Alchemy: An Index Of Possibilities (1985), Gone To Earth (1986) and Secrets Of The Beehive (1987). On these albums Sylvian moved gradually towards ambient music. Next to his solo project David Sylvian also worked together with other artists. First there was the single Forbidden Colors (1983) with Ryuchi Sakamoto, former keyboard player of Yellow Magic Orchestra, known from the soundtrack of the movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. Sylvian released also two albums with Holger Czukay (ex- Can) Plight & Premonition (1988) and Flux + Mutability (1989).
Between 1989 and 1999 Sylvian almost disappeared from the music scene. In 1991 there was a short reunion with the former Japan-musicians in Rain Tree Crow and he released two albums with Robert Fripp: The First Day (1993) and the live album Damage (1994). In 1999 he returned with Dead Bees On A Cake followed by a hand full of albums in the past decade, including Blemish (2003) and Manafon (2009). He also formed the trio Nine Horses together with Steve Jansen and Burnt Friedman that released Snow Borne Sorrow in 2005.
Sleepwalkers is a compilation of his collaborations and side projects in the past decade. Being collaborations they are different from Sylvian's solo work. Some of the tracks have only been released as single; others were released on an album of the collaborating artist. Being a compilation album the tracks are diverse: from folk to jazz and from ambient to electronic music and even experimental. They all have the typical voice of Sylvian in common. Some tracks are electronic; others are acoustic and some both. The music is quite minimal with just the instruments needed to give full focus on the vocals. As an artist David Sylvian has kept on developing and explored new directions. This compilation demonstrates that quite well. For the fans this album compiles all these tracks together. However, for people who are not familiar with Sylvian's music Sleepwalkers is a perfect introduction.
***+ Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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