Brilliant Trees

Brilliant Trees
David Sylvian-Brilliant Trees (album cover).jpg
Studio album by
Released 25 June 1984[1]
Recorded 1983–1984
Studio
Genre
Length 39:37
Label Virgin
Producer
David Sylvian chronology
Brilliant Trees
(1984)
Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities
(1985)
Singles from Brilliant Trees
  1. "Red Guitar"
    Released: 21 May 1984
  2. "The Ink in the Well"
    Released: 6 August 1984
  3. "Pulling Punches"
    Released: 22 October 1984
Alternative cover
2003 remastered edition
2003 remastered edition

Brilliant Trees is the first solo album by the British singer-songwriter David Sylvian, released in June 1984. The album peaked at number 4 on the UK Albums Chart and has been certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry for sales in excess of 100,000 copies.[2][3]

History

Produced by Sylvian with Steve Nye, Brilliant Trees was Sylvian's first full-length release after the break-up of his band Japan in December 1982 (though former Japan members Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri both appear on the album). AllMusic called the album "an eclectic affair fusing funk, jazz, and ambient."[4] Additional musicians on the album included Holger Czukay, Danny Thompson, Jon Hassell, Mark Isham, Ronny Drayton, Kenny Wheeler, Phil Palmer and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Sylvian and Sakamoto had previously collaborated on the singles "Bamboo Houses" and "Forbidden Colours", and continued to collaborate at various points in their careers.

Brilliant Trees was recorded August 1983 at Hansa in Berlin, and over about 6 weeks in London at the end of 1983 and the beginning of 1984. With the majority of vocal overdubs completed at The Church Studios in Crouch End, Sylvian and Nye then relocated to Air Studios to begin mixing.[5]

Lyrically, the album includes references to writers, thinkers and artistic figures who were influencing Sylvian at the time, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. For instance, the song "Ink in the Well" references Cocteau's film Blood of a Poet and Sartre's novel The Age of Reason. Many of the lyrics also express Sylvian's searching explorations of spirituality in different forms.

In a 2012 interview, Sylvian said:[6]

"I decided to pull together a group of musicians for the recording of Brilliant Trees. I didn't want to work with session artists because I wasn't used to that. Bands are generally very passionate about the work that they produce and, on the few occasions I've worked with session musicians, the passion wasn't there. You didn't feel a real connection between their contribution and the work itself. And that's understandable. So I wanted to work with a series of artists that I respected and I would tailor the arrangements of the songs around their involvement. So I had specific roles for everybody that I invited to work with me on that album, but I wanted one wild card, something unpredictable, and Holger Czukay was that person for me. I really adored what he had done with his first solo album, Movies. I still think that it's a work of genius. I think that's an utterly stunning record. I just said, 'Come along and we'll see what happens', and we got on famously and he became a very close friend of mine, and what he contributed to the album was kind of what I was looking for, which was mainly supplied by the IBM Dictaphone that he used to play back samples. Samplers in those days were completely inflexible. But he'd found this IBM machine – two of them – in a dumpster outside an office building in Cologne, and he could move the playback head of the Dictaphone across the tape at random speeds, and so it really made it a marvellously flexible instrument."

Release

The album peaked at number 4 in the UK, the highest chart position of Sylvian's career to date,[2] and contains his biggest solo hit, "Red Guitar", which reached number 17 on the UK Singles Chart. In 1994, ten years after its release, the album was certified Gold by the BPI for sales in excess of 100,000 copies.[3]

In 1991, the album was reissued in the US as Brilliant Trees / Words with the Shaman, which included the three part single "Words with the Shaman" as bonus tracks; these songs were also included on the cassette-only album Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities. In 2003, a remastered limited digipak version of Brilliant Trees was released. In 2006 it was reissued in a standard jewel-case. The album cover for both releases was altered to a cropped photo of Sylvian with new type fonts.

In February 2019, as part of a redesigned monochrome sleeved vinyl reissue batch of his 1980s albums, Brilliant Trees was released in a gatefold sleeve, once again with a new set of type fonts. No new mastering was done for this; the 2003 remaster was used.

Critical reception

Brilliant Trees was well received by the contemporary British music press. "Sylvian has grown up," wrote Sounds critic Carole Linfield. "He's left art school, gone through the grey and come out in a spectrum of pastel shades that entrance and enthral. Gone is the clichΓ©d imagery that once haunted Japan... in its place is a solo artist who deserves more respect than his beautiful face often allows." In an enthusiastic review, Melody Maker's Steve Sutherland, who had previously been critical of Sylvian's work with Japan, concluded that "Brilliant Trees inadvertently attains the stature Sylvian's always sought. It's a masterpiece."[16]

Richard Cook for NME described the album as "private and intolerant – really, an astonishing statement from one in his position – but it is a transformation of thought into music which involves the finest skill, an uncanny talent".[17] Betty Page for Record Mirror described it as "all oh-so-fragile but meaty at the same time, obviously occasionally un peu pretentious, but very painstakingly crafted and built up with great care and affection."[12]

Track listing

All tracks are written by David Sylvian, except as noted.

Personnel

Musicians

Technical

  • David Sylvian – producer for Klangfarben Productions, mixing assistant
  • Steve Nye – record producer for Klangfarben Productions, sound engineer, audio mixing (1, 3–5, 7)
  • Peter Williams – sound engineer, mixing assistant mixer
  • Nigel Walker – mixing (2, 6)
  • Matt Butler – assistant mixing (2, 6)
  • Yuka Fujii – photography

Charts

Chart (1984) Peak
position
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[18] 96
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[19] 50
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[20] 7
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[21] 16
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[22] 37
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[23] 33
UK Albums (OCC)[2] 4

References

  1. ^ "Brilliant Trees". David Sylvian : Expect Everything And Nothing Less. 14 March 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "David Sylvian | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart.
  3. ^ a b "BRIT Certified Award – David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b Hayes, Kelvin. "Brilliant Trees – David Sylvian". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  5. ^ Reynolds, Anthony (2018). Cries and Whispers. Burning Shed.
  6. ^ Wallace, Wyndham (19 March 2012). "David Sylvian's Guide To The Work Of David Sylvian". The Quietus. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  7. ^ Stubbs, David (April 2019). "David Sylvian: Reissues". Classic Rock. No. 260. pp. 92–93.
  8. ^ Sweeting, Adam (5 September 2003). "Pop on the verge of a nervous breakdown". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Eccleston, Danny (April 2019). "Ghosts busters". Mojo. No. 305. p. 100.
  10. ^ Sodomsky, Sam (23 February 2019). "David Sylvian: Brilliant Trees / Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities / Gone to Earth / Secrets of the Beehive". Pitchfork. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  11. ^ "David Sylvian: Brilliant Trees". Q. No. 208. November 2003. p. 135.
  12. ^ a b Page, Betty (30 June 1984). "Hi ho Sylvian". Record Mirror. p. 20. Retrieved 28 February 2021 – via Flickr.
  13. ^ Considine, J. D. (1992). "David Sylvian". In DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly (eds.). The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Random House. pp. 688–89. ISBN 0-679-73729-4.
  14. ^ Rimmer, Dave (7–20 June 1984). "David Sylvian: Brilliant Trees". Smash Hits. Vol. 6 no. 12. p. 19. Archived from the original on 20 October 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2021 – via Google Sites.
  15. ^ Bonner, Michael (March 2019). "David Sylvian: Brilliant Trees". Uncut. No. 262. p. 49.
  16. ^ Martin Power David Sylvian: The Last Romantic Omnibus Press 2012, chapter 9
  17. ^ Cook, Richard (4 August 1984). "David Sylvian: Brilliant Trees (Virgin)". NME. Retrieved 28 February 2021 – via Rock's Backpages.
  18. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 303. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 8532". RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  20. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees" (in Dutch). Hung Medien.
  21. ^ Okamoto, Satoshi (2006). Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  22. ^ "Charts.nz – David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees". Hung Medien.
  23. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees". Hung Medien.

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