David Sylvian

Playing the Schoolhouse

What is this space, and how is it fixed? This space is filled with sound, recordings of other spaces. The performance of this space returns to the studio, both imagined and real (headphones and speakers) and is fixed to this disc. These particles…

Playing the Schoolhouse is a new piece from David Sylvian, created specially for the Confront label, pulled from an improvisation by Sylvian and composer Jan Bang. The piece draws on found objects; on samples of previous recordings (including work by Otomo Yoshihide, Toshimaru Nakamura and Dai Fujikura), arranged, clipped, processed, arranged. With cut-bells, erasures, crackles, spaces; Playing the Schoolhouse is an accomplished piece of concrète that draws on the landscapes tapped on 2009’s Manofon.

The creaks and seams apparent in the piece give it a crunchy rawness that comes from an essential liveness – and the possibility of failure means that this is Sylvian pushing at the edges of his comfort zone; further than (say) the instrumental Blemish outtake Trauma, or the jagged spaces of the Dai Fujikura collaboration Five Lines. A brave step for such a distinctive vocalist as Sylvian, but a necessary one; the rigour of improvisation combined with the apparent removal of the “I” (and the attendant Je/Moi flicker) points to further riches to come.
Highly recommended.

Clock ticking, chair creaks, tapes, bird song, morning.


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  1. says: Kevin

    I wouldn’t fret. I purchased it and it is singularly the most pompous and self-indulgent thing I’ve ever had the misfortune to waste my money on. David should hang his head in shame that he charged money for this. Anyone with a cheap portable recording device could have recorded these ‘found’ sounds, but not many would get away with trying to market it as ‘art’ and get people to actually buy it. If he or the record label had allowed a snippet to be heard I doubt many would have bought it. It’s not even being described as a piece for an installation or something, which could have perhaps exonerated the paucity of imagination or creativity on display. I class myself as a huge fan and have all (and I mean all) his previous releases, musical and literary but I’m afraid this is a step too far. If David is attempting to shed all his loyal followers then he is going the right way about it. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t ‘get’ it. I write and record music myself (including avant garde and experimental pieces) so I know how very little effort must have gone into this piece, that’s what I find so galling, the thought that David is now ‘dialling in’ his work, safe in the knowledge that he still has enough of a fanbase who snap up his every release. This got a second pressing for god’s sake! The sycophantic review on this website is rather nauseating as well to be honest – “Highly recommended”, seriously?. Each to his own I guess.

  2. says: Kevin

    Although I stand by my opinion on the actual piece by David Sylvian I want to apologise to John regarding my comments on his review. Who am I to judge if somebody actually likes this type of thing. It would be a very dull world if we all created and liked the same stuff.

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