Review of David Sylvian’s : A Victim of Stars (2012) Compilation

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Review of David Sylvian’s: A Victim of Stars

By: Aura Weaver

English 102

Dr. Jeff Bartone

March 29th,2017

 

 

Overview:

  • Introduction
  • .Thesis: I believe that you should listen to David Sylvian’s: A Victim of Stars because the album is an extraordinary reflection of his musical genius from his active years in music.
  • Overall Opinion of the Compilation
  • Favorite songs on the compilation and why
  • Rhythm
  • Vocals
  • Favorite Song on the compilation: Bamboo Music
  • Rhythm
  • Working with Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Vocals with the music
  • Worst Song on the compilation: Where’s Your Gravity
  • Poor Rhythm
  • Why it isn’t worth being on the album
  • Vocals with music
  • Conclusion
  • Restate of Thesis
  • Decisive factor

Introduction:  

At major points in modern music, there is always that one album or compilation of albums that really piques our very interest. The very album that had gained my interest was the David Sylvian’s: A Victim of Stars, which has some of his best works from 1982 until 2012. The compilation is highly recommended for its sweet, vibrant rhythms that give such a vivid imagery in mind while also David’s rich, baritone voice mixes in with the soothing sounds of the album. In fact, I believe that you should listen to David Sylvian’s: A Victim of Stars because the album is an extraordinary reflection of his musical “genius” from his active years in music.

Overall Opinion of the Compilation:  

Overall, A Victim of Stars is breathtaking and beautiful to listen to if you want a richer taste of music genres. David Sylvian’s music tends to go all around with different sounds and tones to his songs. Prime examples within the compilation include: Jean the Birdman; which provided a ballad towards a demi-god, I Surrender; which is about love and romance, and Wonderful World; which talks about modern problems in the world and common politics. In regards to Wonderful World, Sylvian regarded that it “wasn’t his natural inclination to get into writing protest songs” (Sylvian, n.d.). Wonderful World was a song that he had performed with Nine Horses in the early 2000’s and since politics had been an ongoing issue at the time within the W. Bush administration, he felt as if he should get awareness out through song.  The other songs (as mentioned previously) had proven to speak some sort of message, and many could stand out to you.

In regards to the rhythms centralized on the compilation, the rhythms are also conveyed well with most of the songs.  In CD One of Two, he (Sylvian) “enjoy continued popular success with numerous aloof, oblique records that skipped unsettlingly between several overlapping memories, the lachrymosely filmic Forbidden Colours being the most celebrated, with the puzzling Red Guitar remaining a standout” (Moffatt, 2012). With the parameters of CD Two; his style seemed to be as similar in ways to CD One, yet also had newer methods of rhythm that I will mention can be found in songs like: Darkest Dreaming, A Fire in the Forest, and The Banality of Evil. This is when he (Sylvian) “actually start borrowing from the zeitgeist, all none-more-80’s sax and Pino Palladino-style basslines, then he began to suffer, leading to the genuinely futurist and liberatingly atonal Pop Song, after which the cavalierness [cid] sets thoroughly in, as dramatically showcased…” (Moffatt, 2012).  This had shown me that this compilation was worth listening to for its overall rhythm was just amazing. It still surprises me that when I ask people about this artist that no one had heard of nor listened to him.

On A Victim of Stars, David’s vocals are so well timed with the music’s rhythm. A prime example is in Forbidden Colours that was preformed alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto, a close friend of David’s. “Their Oriental tone, gamelan percussion, wooden and metallic synth textures, and latter’s innovative bouncy electro beats that would prove influential on subsequent generations…” (Bonner, 2012). In fact, it somewhat ties in with modern music qualities through the ways that the lyrics are set up by. Now the music, along with his tone of voice, in Forbidden Colours especially supports the very fact that its sound is “more or less commonplace, an indication of how culture adapts and absorbs the new and unusual” (Bonner, 2012).

Another song to include with vocals would also be Jean the Birdman, which is on Disc Two of the compilation. Sylvian’s vocals slide in well with his idol and fellow friend, whom is a guitarist from King Crimson, Robert Fripp. Fripp performs in Jean the Birdman and two other songs within the compilation.

“Heaven may stone him, but Jean the Birdman pulls it off…” (Fripp& Sylvian, 1993).  At this point in the song, it is where I believe both David’s but also Fripp’s collaboration in the song is at its peak. His voice is not too deep, nor too high and Fripp’s lovely guitar melodies are perfectly dwelled within. I highly recommend that you look more into these songs but others as well that are on the compilation.

Favorite Song on the Compilation: Bamboo Music

Out of all the songs on the compilation, Bamboo Music which is on CD One is absolutely my favorite song due to the wonderful collaborative work between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Steve Jansen- whom is David’s younger brother. There is an interesting message conveyed within the parameters of the lyrics:

“I walk through open fields…Where children sing, Bamboo music. A song of life itself…Played to wind, In bamboo music. We work – working harder still…Down where life begins, From here to heaven. We fight – fighting harder still…Down where life begins, From here to heaven. Building bamboo houses by the million…Lighting fires that only burn inside
Singing bamboo music by the million, Fighting for our life. I walk through open fields…Where children sing, Bamboo music…A glimpse of life itself…Of sun and steel, In bamboo music. We work – working harder still, down where life begins…From here to heaven.  We fight – fighting harder still…Down where life begins, From here to heaven. Building bamboo houses by the million, lighting fires that only burn inside. Singing bamboo music by the million” (Sakamoto & Sylvian, 1982). It is about David walking through a poorer Asian country observing the people singing as they work to find the joy in their lives.

Overall, it has a great rhythm; especially with the collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto. Between Sylvian and Sakamoto, the song “is a masterclass in synthesized restraint, with spine-chilling Eastern melodies sitting comfortably over Sylvian’s post-Japan electronic beats” (Fact, 2013). Listening to the song, you will get a vibe as if you are standing in Sylvian’s position. From the beauty of Steve Jansen’s synthesizing that is used in the song to Ryuichi’s instrumental works to benefit David’s vocals, you will find that they blend aimlessly well.

Listening to David’s vocals on Bamboo Music, gives us a sweet vibe that is a lot like his days back with Japan in the early 1980’s before the group has broken up. In the album, Gentlemen Take Polaroids, David’s voice is rather coarse and thick, yet with smooth definition that you also can clearly hear in Bamboo Music. Since the single came out in 1982, the same year that David had begun his solo career, it was only prevalent that his vocals would still be super close to those from his Japan days. I found them to be quite soothing and upbeat in nature, yet also somber at points. It is something to be rather expectant of when it comes to Sylvian’s musical genius. I highly recommend that if you want to hear a wonderful music that takes you back to the days of Japan, listen to the masterpiece, Bamboo Music.

 

Worst Song on the Compilation: Where’s Your Gravity? 

Out of the other songs on the album, I had found Where’s Your Gravity to be the worst option that was picked to be on the compilation. I believe that simply it did not belong for there were much better songs that David could have placed on it such as: Ride, or For the Love of Life.

“Baby’s putting on her make-up…Her mouth is swollen as a rose. Countdown, she wraps her legs around him. Weightless, she’s taking off her clothes. Candy, colours in her pocket…Bright children hiding in their rooms…Soft toys spread across her pillows. Self-annihilation couldn’t come too soon. Where’s your gravity? Where’s your mind? Share your thoughts with me…Waste my time. Slow down, nothing’s gonna save you. Ice-cream dripping from your spoon. Oh, but come now, you’re always telling stories…Bare-foot, walking on the moon…Wake up, and someone’s bound to tell you. Your pretty face is gone to hell…So find them, something you can trade with. Hand-make something you can sell. Where’s your gravity? Where’s your mind? Share your thoughts with me…Waste my time. Where’s your gravity? Where’s your mind? Share your thoughts with me…Waste my time” (Sylvian, 2013).

The rhythm to me was poor in quality. It was too slow and somber in my opinion to be on the end of the compilation. A song that was more upbeat in rhythm and tone could easily replace Where’s Your Gravity?, to provide more of a pop to the ending of the compilation. I had found that there could have been much better options to add as more of a finish to the album such as Ride, for its positive upbeat in rhythms. Despite that, the song itself could be better if Ryuichi Sakamoto himself was somehow involved in the music with his own synthesizing works. Yet, I still believe that another song could take its place. This song was also based from David himself being “invited to participate in an installation by the visual artist Phil Collins, entitled “My heart’s in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand’s in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught” (after Genet).” (Samadhisound, 2013). This had shown that there was some inspiration behind this song, hence why it was included. Yet, there is always something better that can replace something somber.

Listening to the vocals, I found them too bland and mellow for the song. It did not fit that overall theme of the song, instead seemed so dark and depressing to listen to. Resulting, it had ruined the song. If it had the same tone, lyrics, and rhythm as Ghosts when he (Sylvian) was part of Japan in 1982 and had been both remembered and recognized for being “most fondly remembered for their chilling, minimalist, which reached #5 on the UK Singles list…” (Fact, 2011). Which proves that there are better songs with mellow lyrics that match up with somber rhythms and that could effectively make an ending to the compilation that dominates most or all the other songs.

Conclusion:

Overall, A Victim of Stars by David Sylvian is a grand compilation of his musical genius from the almost three decades that he had been preforming solo music. Based on the general songs on the compilation and its measures through lyrics, voice, rhythm, and collaborative works with other artists such as Fripp and Sakamoto; it is definitely worth checking out and listening to if you want to listen to music that is considerably an implausible beauty. Based from his “active” years in music and the reflection of his musical genius, I believe that you should listen to this compilation if you truthfully want to get a great taste of his music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Bonner, M. (2012, February 28). David Sylvian – A Victim of Stars. Retrieved April 05, 2017,

from http://www.uncut.co.uk/reviews/album/david-sylvian-a-victim-of-stars

Fripp, R. & Sylvian, D. (1993, August 23). Jean the Birdman. The First Day. 

Moffatt, I. (2012). BBC – Music – Review of David Sylvian – A Victim of Stars 1982-2012.

Retrieved April 05, 2017, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/njvh/

Sakamoto, R. & Sylvian, D. (1982, July 1). Bamboo Music. Bamboo Houses. 

Samadhisound. (2013). Do You Know Me Know? Samadhisound. Retrieved April 05, 2017, from

http://www.samadhisound.com/catalogue_singles/david_sylvian_do_you_know_me_now.html

Sylvian. D. n.d.

Sylvian, D. (2013, August 9). Where’s Your Gravity? Do You Know Me Know? 

 

 

 

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