David Sylvian - Approaching silence - 1999


David Sylvian has been one of the most creative musicians for the last two decades though he hasn’t been given a truly due recognition for his works. As a singer, his voice is really low, something that is not usual in rock music, but he has a unique way of singing, his hypnotic voice is a perfect complement to his songs. As a composer, he has a great talent both as a solo artist and in projects with other people like Robert Fripp, Holger Czukay (Can) and Ryuchi Sakamoto with whom he has played melodically and even experimental music.

Since the release of the two jewels he recorded with Robert Fripp ("The First Day" and "Damage"), Japan’s ex-leader hadn’t issued any new works. Well, surprisingly he has now produced two new records that will please all his fans (including me): "Dead Bees on a Cake" a new studio album and "Approaching Silence", a collection of rarities recorded between 1990 and 1994 that came out early this year. This last album is particularly especial because Sylvian doesn’t sing in it at all.


Electronic music constitutes the main part of this album that only presents three pieces for more than 70 minutes of music in a dark and hypnotic style that only Sylvian can create. It is important to notice that the tracks of "Approaching Silence" were written for expositions and installations and, therefore, are mainly ambient. It doesn’t mean that the material is not interesting or that it shows less quality than usual. From the beginning of the opening piece, "The Beekeeper’s Apprentice", and its 33 minutes of hypnotic sounds, you can notice that two styles are present: a German typical electronic and ambient style that reminds of Klaus Schulze and the dark side that distinguishes all of Sylvian’s performances. This time, he only plays keyboards and manipulates samples. His partner on this piece is percussionist Frank Perry, who only plays different kinds of bells.

The second track, the shortest of the album, is "Epiphany", which, during almost three minutes, combines again electronic music with a relatively minimalist ambient style and desperate sampled vocals that evolve into a sort of Rock in Opposition worth Univers Zéro. It’s a pity this track is so short, for it could have been more interesting if it had lasted longer.

However, the last part of the record shows the reason for a very short track. During 38 minutes, "Approaching Silence" develops only with keyboards, samples and Frippertronics. This previously unreleased track was recorded in 1994 by David Sylvian and Robert Fripp in order to be used as a background for a Japanese exhibition. Its style has nothing to remind of what those two great musicians created during their multiple collaborations in studio and live, and doesn’t either come close to what King Crimson did during the 90’s. This track is purely ambient and almost fully instrumental, given that it is only complemented by a few words by Fripp. True electronic and experimentation blended in an only composition. This section could remind of the path followed by Eno and Fripp more than two decades ago thanks to the interaction between the keyboards and the guitar. Nevertheless, the minimalist style, so typical of that era is not the foundation of Sylvian’s style (even though some parts do have this tendency). This musician’s personality is strong and is reflected in his music through the dark ambiance's generated there.


It has to be said that, even if most of David Sylvian’s albums include vocals, here, he only uses keyboards and samples as opposed to his own voice. By the way, these elements, according to the CD booklet, were provided by Holger Czukay, which might be a reason for the German influence displayed in this CD. For electronic music and hypnotic German rock fans, this album could be a very good purchase, because of its balance between ambiance's and sonorities. An album that is worth taking into account in this field.

author - date - rating - label

Enrique Gómez - June 2000 -   - Shakti Records