Ten years on from their breakthrough album Tin Drum, members of Japan reconvened for this lovely one off reunion. Bravely not cashing in on the Japan name despite the success of the single Ghosts, reaching No.5 on the UK chart in 1981, it seems that David Sylvian had moved on. In the ten years since Japan split he had released Brilliant Trees (1984). A UK No.4 album, Alchemy: Alchemy An Index Of Possibilities (1985) was cassette only. Gone To Earth (1986) reached No.24 and Secrets Of The Beehive (1987) reached No.37.
Two releases with Ryuchi Sakamoto saw him crack the British charts at No. 30 with Bamboo Houses (1982) and Forbidden Colours (1983). Music from the Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence film that starred David Bowie, Jack Thompson and Sakamoto himself reached No.15. Despite Rain Tree Crow being the same personnel, Japan were a distant memory. Perhaps the other band members would have preferred to use the old name but in retrospect this was a better idea – if art is your goal.
Although I’ve struggled with his last improvised releases, Sylvian can do little wrong for me. I love his voice and his vision and this album is no exception. Apart from Mick Karn on bass, Richard Barbieri on keys and Steve Jansen on drums, Bill Nelson guests on the opening track, Big Wheels In Shantytown, and Black Crow Hits Shoeshine City. There was only one single from the album, the gorgeous Blackwater, reaching No.62 on the UK chart. Other names you might recognize are sax session musician Gary Barnacle and session guitar player Phil Palmer.
The album was hardly commercial but based on reputation and despite the different name still managed No.24 on the UK chart. Ultimately it’s a wonderful album of experimental sounds and captivating moods with Sylvian’s voice appearing here and there amongst the instrumentals and the songs.
Sadly, influential bassist Mick Karn died of cancer in 2011. Barbieri and Jansen have worked together as the Dolphin Brothers as well as making solo albums. Barbieri has also been a long term member of Porcupine Tree. If you didn’t know, Jansen and Sylvian are brothers, growing up as David and Stephen Batt.