David Sylvian Sings “Let The Happiness In”

Listen to this track by solo Japan founder and pop music envelope pusher David Sylvian. It’s “Let The Happiness In”, a single from his 1987 album Secrets of the Beehive. The record scored a top forty showing on the British charts that year.

David Sylvian Secrets of the BeehiveSylvian joined on this track by renowned trumpeter Mark Isham who helps to give the song its Miles Davis-style vibe, and by Sylvian’s long-standing musical cohort by this time, Ryuichi Sakamoto who plays synths, and is responsible for the low-brass arrangement that helps set the scene so well.

This is one of those songs that sets a sombre mood, but is ultimately hopeful. A part of the sombreness may be down to Sylvian’s voice, never an instrument completely without shades of grey. Even the scene is somewhat melancholic; a lone figure by the seaside, and on the cusp of deciding what kind of day it’s going to be.

I think too that this song is ultimately speaking to an important aspect of the human condition, too. Continue reading

Japan Featuring David Sylvian Performs ‘Ghosts’

Listen to this mesmorizingly haunting track from Britain’s Japan, a band formed in the mid-70s, and flourishing in the early 80s.  The song is ‘Ghosts’, an left-of-centre hit featured on the band’s 1981 album Tin Drum,  a record that represents the height of their creativity, and effectively the end of their partnership under the Japan name.

Japan was one of the bands inspired by David Bowie, Marc Bolan, New York Dolls, and of course, Roxy Music to whom this band was compared probably because of singer David Sylvian’s voice which is closely associated with that of Roxy singer Bryan Ferry.  Yet, by the 1980s, they had branched out along stylistic lines of their own, embracing minimalism, world music, and the contrast between electronics and exotic instruments.  At worst, they were described as a sort of cerebral Duran Duran, seeing as both bands were of the ilk that was called the ‘New Romantics’.

Yet, in some ways they paved the way for a band like Talk Talk, who also started off in a traditional rock pop vein only to throw it over for a warmer, and more spacious sound, not afraid of silence, and relying on subtlety more so than on traditional pop hooks.  This song, ‘Ghosts’ encapsulates this approach nicely, juxtaposing electronic sounds against the organic touches of marimba, and with a sort of Chinese feel in the textures underneath Sylvian’s plaintive lead vocal.

Atmosphere is the song’s most powerful element, and the arrangement the band has created is structured so as not to get in the way.  This is notable, seeing as it was created and released in a decade in which production on many contemporary albums  is very, very frequently getting in the way of the songs.  This band knew the value of space, and this song, actually a top 5 single, proves the rule.

Despite the artistic bravery of this single, their biggest hit chartwise, the band suffered internal tensions between principles David Syvian and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Mick Karn.  The group broke up months after the song scored success.  The band would reconvene later in the decade under the name Rain Tree Crow, something of a short-lived project. Sylvian of course would launch a solo career by the mid 80s and into this present decade, collaborating at times with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Marc Ribot, Bill Frissell, and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, among others.

For more information about Japan, check out this Japan fan page.

And for more information about David Sylvian, investigate davidsylvian.com

Enjoy!