The Wire - Steve Jansen "The Occurrence Of Slope" (DVD)

16.06.09

Epiphany Works DVD

This performance of Slope, the first solo album by Japan co-founder Steve Jansen, took place in February 2008 at Tokyo's Meguro Persimmon Hall. It's an exquisite multimedia mixture of live playing, video and projected imagery, all finished in high taste but without gloss or blandness.
David Sylvian's SamadhiSound label is an expansive lake of sound unto itself. Artists like Jansen, Sweet Billy Pilgrim and Sylvian himself are hardly identikit, but there is a sense of a shared ethos, shared waters. Echoes of Miles Davis and Talk Talk recede the further you venture. Slope's placid and glittering surfaces belie busy and dangerous undercurrents, the blissful meld of interleaved musicianship are undercut by an undeniable, melancholy drag.

Against a backdrop of naturalistic/abstract imagery that feels transcribed from the sound, Jansen navigates through "Grip" and "December Train" on keyboards but primarily using drums as a lead instrument, intricately dictating the pace. A bowler-hatted Keigo Oyamada on guitar is especially fine, adding wavering, turquoise flourishes. Meanwhile, guest vocalists appear remotely, their faces projected onto the back screen, their appearances heavily stylised. Anja Garbarek, for instance, daughter of Norwegian saxophonist Jan, adds her own matt tones to "Cancelled Pieces", while Thomas Feiner's weatherbeaten vocals traipse across "Sow The Salt". Inevitably, however, it's Sylvian himself, bleached out on a white backdrop, reduced to eyeballs, nostrils and lips, who highlights on the crumpled, harrowing "Playground Martyrs" ("Everyone shares in the sins of their fathers"), a hugely poignant counterweight to any preconceived lack of surface dissonance on Slope.

The second part of the DVD, "Swimming In Qualia", a collaboration between Jansen and visuals woman Shoko Ise, is relatively pacific respite following the performance of the album, with the musicians getting to stretch their improvising legs within the loose bounds of the composition.

DAVID STUBBS



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