Japan didn’t reform but all the members reunited in 1989 and spent a year or two improvising and recording music. The result was a self-titled album by a new band called Rain Tree Crow originally released in 1991. David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were joined by Be Bop Deluxe guitarist Bill Nelson and session guitarist Phil Palmer. On Universal.
Vinyl LP £17.75 6795341
180g vinyl reissue LP on Universal.
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New Romantic clothes horses Japan didn't ever reform following their 1981 dissolution but in 1989 the four members along with Bill Frisell album reconvened to spend some time improvising the music that would become Rain Tree Crow.
The opening Big Wheels In Shanty Towns immediately suggests that this is going to be a very different beast from their earlier work but a lineage can be traced from the more improvised tracks on Tin Drum such as Sons of Pioneers. Though the track has its moments it does feel a little too improvised and lacking direction. Sounding a lot more Japan-like (or more accurately David Sylvian-like) is Every Colour You Are which stars his wonderful chocolate brown voice. It's also notable for something hitherto unnoticed, Steve Jansen's stunning drumming. It's interesting that this album came out at the same time as Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden as the overall feeling is very similar, particularly in Jansen's rhythmic and inventive percussion work.
The album always seems to me like a partial success. It often strays a little into New Age territory, lacking the sort of focus that makes albums like Spirit of Eden so successful. It has, though, one ace up its sleeve in Pocket Full of Change which again is dominated by superb drumming. Here the band show where, perhaps they could have headed if they continued working together -a beautiful blend of proto post rock. Lead track Blackwater too is one of David Sylvian's best post Japan moments - and something that rivals the stuff off his Secrets of the Beehive high water mark but sadly this reunion was all too short and the four members splintered back off into their solo projects.
8/10 Ross Holloway 26th October 2019
David Sylvian, what a self defeating idiot, I mean really this is the sixth Japan album, and had it been released under the name of Japan it surely would have been a much greater success. As an arch Japan fan who really wanted them to come back I didn't even buy this at the time, because the fall out between the band members and the fact it wasn't released under the name Japan, made me cry.
Not that I mourned for their mascara smudged past, but for their most excellent music. The way they could play so connected as a unit, the way you can only really play if you learnt together as kids, as desperate working class kids looking for a way out. Between the demise of Japan and Rain Tree Crow David Sylvian made some excellent solo records. As did Jansen-Barbieri (especially 'Worlds In A Small Room'), and Mick Karn made some interesting records ('Dalis Car', odd but almost classic). But Karn's solo album immediately prior to this ('Dreams If Reason') where he reunited with Sylvian for two tracks illustrated that Sylvian's shy baritone, was never better when accompanied by Karn's unique sinuous bass playing.
This album isn't quite up there with 'Tin Drum', or 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids', or 'Quiet Life', but it has some wonderful moments that pointed the way to what should have been Japan albums seven and eight, more mature, sell out shows, the critical acclaim that they were surely due. The track 'Blackwater' is simply sublime, and there should have been more from them. It's great, but there really should have been more. I still feel sad.
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