Gone to Earth – David Sylvian (1986)

David_Sylvian_-_Gone_To_Earth
Gone to Earth (original cover art)

You can’t mention Ryuichi Sakamoto and not mention David Sylvian. The two have collaborated on and off for decades. With Sylvian, the experiments were often closer to pop by virtue of his post modern Sinatra styled delivery. Always the cool and artful crooner, the arrangements in a David Sylvian song often owed some of it’s elegance to Eastern themes while combining the chill of David Bowie or Brian Ferry.

David Sylvian’s solo work was one of my most cherished college musical discoveries in Columbus. Often expensive and usually hard to find, there seemed to be very little written in the American press about this interesting artist/composer/producer in those days of selective media channels. Even worse, people my age at the time did not even know who he was, which made looking for his music in the smelly record stores along High St. all the more frustrating. Invariably, I would find him tucked away in either the goth or new age sections of the store. Neither category summed up his music.

By Sylvian’s third solo album Gone To Earth, many of the musical themes he was beginning to explore with his old band Japan had evolved into a kind of refined art house music. Steve Nye, who produced some Japan albums was at the helm as he helped Sylvian refine his dramatic style with acoustic guitar, piano and assorted synthesizers and horns. While his long time collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto is not featured here, Robert Fripp and Bill Nelson played and contributed by co-writing a few songs.

Gone To Earth featured some of the fret less bass and stylized strings of previous experiments on the title song, but it was the beautiful mid-tempo numbers like “Wave” and the ballad “Silver Moon” with it’s jazz-like arrangements than make Gone to Earth so memorable. Elegance was sprinkled throughout. “Answered Prayers” continued the Zen instrumental themes of Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities by using Spanish guitar juxtaposed against a wall of ominous sounding looping keyboards.

“Silver Moon” even made it to MTV for a brief moment during the late night alternative music show 120 Minutes. The mid to late ’80s was a high point in Sylvian’s solo career as he would craft a string of innovative albums, each building on the themes of the previous one. He teamed up with Ryuichi Sakamoto to follow up Gone to Earth with perhaps his greatest album Secrets of the Beehive in 1987.

Gone to Earth was originally released in America as a 13 track import, then it was reissued into an expanded three disc set that included instrumental music recorded but not included on the original album in many markets.


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