Record Collector - Nine Horses "Snow Borne Sorrow"

29.11.05

Since his move to the States the former Japan mainman has made a habit of making difficult albums like 2003's 'Blemish'. Tired of working alone, Sylvian has now drafted in brother Steve Jansen (also ex-Japan) and electronic composer Burnt Friedman to form the group Nine Horses. A chamber work where horns, bass and acoustic piano frame nine exquisite song moods. 'Snow Borne Sorrow' is a man back on form and doing what he does best - singing. Sylvian has busied himself on making his most commercial music since his debut solo smash 'Brilliant Trees' back in 1984.
The opener 'Wonderful World' sounds like vintage Sylvian with that swinging acoustic bass of old. It also features Swede Stina Nordenstam on second vocal. Another Scandinavian, Arve Henriksen contributes trumpet on a clutch of songs that are mindful of 1987's 'Secrets Of The Beehive'. The percussion, horns and reeds of 'The Banality Of Evil' are so discreetly placed that at first you think a really complex track sounds like simplicity itself. Acoustic guitars chug, Techno beats hit and that voice just carries you. Of course, Ryuichi Sakamoto pops up on 'Atom and Cell' and the title track to add strange piano sounds. Sylvian even tilts into psych on 'The Day The Earth Stole Heaven', only to twist into international beat music on 'Serotonin', with Friedman adding wonderful sequencing passages. By the Autumnal closer, 'The Librarian', you know that Sylvian is back at what he does supreme - singing in a group context. Brilliant.

MARK PRENDERGAST

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