THE MUSIC FOR Brilliant Trees released in 1984, was conceived in opposition to the idea of a band with fixed membership and static roles or a composer who dominates the creation of his own work. "It came out of the frustration of working within a band like Japan which was studio bound," Sylvian says. "Very little was improvised except in rehersal when we were first putting a track together. Going into the studio, everything was well formalised. So when Japan seperated I wanted to get something that had more life and spontaneity to it.
"This came out of conversations with Yuka, really," he says referring to his friend Yuka Fujii. "We talked about
painting, which we both love. It was mainly in reference to the painter who's picture appeared on the cover of Oil On Canvas,Frank Auerbach. We were talking about that sense of spontaneity, that presence which exists in his work. In the way he makes a line, a sweep on the canvas, you feel his presence as a state of mind and the emotion and drama of that line. We wondered what would be the nearest equivalent in terms of music. One conclusion we came to was that jazz and improvisation in many ways came closest in style and application. Which is why I tend to give a wide scope in a number of my pieces."
Although the songs on Brilliant Trees had the melancholy, nostalgic air of Ghosts, they also had an exultant open feel. The pop star was discovering, blind perhaps but not deaf, how to make music which breathed. Chords were suggested rather than stated, sounds were ambigously mysterious yet individual; a warm, strong double bass, a soaring pure flugelhorn, a smokey, sinous trumpet. All the unmistakenly the signatures of soloists like Danny Thompson, Kenny Wheeler or Jon Hassell, yet enveloped in a mood that was specifically David Sylvian's.
"I think one of the strongest qualities I have is my ability to create atmospheres," he says. It is an atmosphere of soft distance and of frozen moment cut by Steve Jansen's hard, bright drums/ It drifts like fog or clouds but, unlike the wash of New Age music which demands little and gives less, it is compulsive. It is possible to draw a not overly serious parallel with the ancient orchestral court music of Japan - Gagaky - a heart-rending sound of eerie drones and piercing, steam-like whistles dissected by solemn percussion.
"I do like to put a frame around things," he says. "I like photographs that capture a moment. The mood that they create changes with your mood - with the mood of the viewer. They are static but they can create different kinds of emotion within you. That's a good description of an Auerbach painting. It's like movement frozen within a framework. That's what is visible."