David Sylvian has taken an interesting path through his career. He began his career with Glam Wave band Japan and a vocal range about two octaves higher. They were playing aggressive (almost punk) guitar music on their first couple of albums, but started settling into a groove on their later albums that was reminiscent of Roxy Music or David Bowie. It is this style that he is continuing on his third solo record, Gone to Earth.
Sylvian has plenty of help from his contemporaries, helping and influencing the music throughout. Robert Fripp makes several appearances, but is perhaps most recognizable on the opener “Taking the Veil.” It keeps a rhythmic pattern not unlike some of Fripp’s 80’s King Crimson work and an amazing guitar solo. Sylvian’s rich and resonant baritone is always welcoming and melodic. This is the most accessible song here.
Most of the other tunes are a bit more somber and less lively, but no less interesting. “Before the Bullfight” is the first to feature Be Bop Deluxe’s Bill Nelson on solo guitar. Nelson is always one to impress and it certainly nice to hear him taking solos again, as his career at this time was mostly synthesizer based. This song is slow and gripping, as it moves assuredly and with purpose to the end. Great dynamics helped by Japan’s Steve Jansen’s excellent drum/percussion work.
Sylvian consistently creates strong vocal melodies while sharing the spotlight with some of the more ambient instrumental pieces similar to songs from KC’s Discipline or Sleepless. I especially enjoy the title song “Gone to Earth” where Fripp goes wild with his angular style and the Frippertronic thing he does to make those incredible soundscapes. Major cool factor! “Silver Moon” impressed me as another strong song that has marketable potential.
This is the original CD issue I own, released at the same time as the two-LP set. It does not include all the songs from the second LP, but it does maintain a stronger identity. The songs excised were more soundscapes like the latter part of this CD that contributed to the mood, but were not as strong as the other pieces that were included. They have since reissued a two CD set that I would say is for completists. The first disc is the better of the two and all of that is included here.
This would be recommended for you proggers that like the artists I mentioned here, as well as Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, The Blue Nile; or maybe you hold a soft spot in your heart for 80’s synth pop like Depeche Mode, Icehouse or Ultravox.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 18th, 2011