The Long Road to Enlightment ; DAVID SYLVIAN HAMMERSMITH APOLLO LONDON

Article excerpt

EVER SINCE he emerged from an unhappy south London childhood in 1978, fronting Japan, glam ugly ducklings in the post-punk era, the boy christened David Blatt has shown remarkable powers of recreation. In recent years, following a path set by his Indian guru, he moved around America before settling in New England with his wife and children. This rare visit to London showed that his musical creativity - assisted by collaborations with Robert Fripp, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Holger Czukay - is still ripe and evolving. And he's received by a devoted following, nurtured over 20 years and eager to bathe in his sumptuous and singular blend of avant- garde jazz, exotic Eastern influences and melodic electronica.

A sleek-hipped figure clad in black, he took to the stage like a recently birthed fawn in the forest, his baleful croon boosted by the sweet propulsion of a band that's grounded by the precise but intoxicating drums and percussion of his brother Steve Jansen. Sylvian views his career as akin to "multiple lifetimes", and as the evening progressed, the wide range of influences he's subsumed to service his brand of prayerful melancholy became apparent.

"Black Water", from the 1991 Japan reunion album Rain Tree Crow, blended splashes of Leonard Cohen's bedsit classic "So Long, Marianne" and the robo-funk pioneered by Bowie in the mid- Seventies. Sylvian was seated, playing acoustic guitar, and his vocal style, based on a determination to conquer the past, recalled both Steve "Cockney Rebel" Harley and Kevin "Soul Rebel" Rowland. …