Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Album Review: Rain Tree Crow

This was a short-lived ‘group’ who released one album in 1991. It was to have been released under the Japan name but David Sylvian insisted on using the name Rain Tree Crow. Although the name itself isn’t great, it’s kind of appropriate that the Japan name wasn’t used as the music is more of a departure from the old group. The rest of the band were put out about this and didn’t speak to Sylvian for several years.

Sylvian dominated this particular “project” which was very much in keeping with his solo work. The cover photograph of a blasted landscape suits the mood of this nocturnal album. The first track, Big Wheels in Shanty Town however is a complete misstep, sounding very much like the band were jumping on the ‘world music’ bandwagon. A vast improvement is the 2nd track, Every Colour You Are, which is, like a lot of the best tracks on this album, brooding, mope-along mood music. Sylvian is in fine voice here and on other tracks such as Pocketful of Change and Blackwater.

The rest of the album is dominated largely by instrumentals, where the band “faffs” about in a sort of AOR, atmospheric way, and it works well. The titles are fantasically pretentious (New Moon at Deer Fallow, A Reassuringly Dull Sunday), not to mention some of the ‘credits’ – treated piano, Steve Jansen and Mick Karn on wine glasses (I kid you not!) on the track I Drink to Forget. There are also moody vocal interludes (Rain Tree Crow, Boat’s for Burning), the second of these featuring the brooding quiet threat “strike the match, stand well back, this boat’s for burning.” Overall the album is a triumph, and in my opinion, better than any of Japan’s previous work.