Rain Tree Crow
1. Big Wheels in Shantytown
2. Every Colour You Are
3. Rain Tree Crow
4. Red Earth (As Summertime Ends)
5. Pocket Full of Change
6. Boat's For Burning
7. New Moon at Deer Wallow
9. A Reassuringly Dull Sunday
10. Blackcrow Hits Shoe Shine City
11. Scratchings on the Bible Belt
12. Cries and Whispers
13. I Drink To Forget
Rain Tree Crow was originally intended to be the reunion of new-wave pioneers Japan. The Big Book of Musical Lore tells it that David Sylvian exerted a bit of the ol' creative control during the production process and insisted that the project be re-named "Rain Tree Crow", presumably in an effort to reflect the New Age southwestern imagery brought up by the music, Sylvian's own monumental pretentiousness, or both. The resultant self-titled album is both a fascinating one-off project and a firm testament to Mr. Sylvian's over-wrought ambitions.
Mostly culled from improvisations and jam sessions with very little in the ways of previously written material, Rain Tree Crow makes excellent use of mood and texture, and generally avoids the AM radio lameness so prevalent in Sylvian's early solo work. What it lacks, however, is focus. Utilizing a laid-back, ambient/jazz motif by way of Native American folk music, many of these songs do not go anywhere and peter out before anything truly interesting happens. It is almost as if Sylvian was compensating for his lack of ability as a team player by means of atmosphere, and without strong songs, mood and atmosphere mean bupkis. The album's saving grace comes in the form of "Blackwater" (also the album's sole non-improvised song), an absolutely gorgeous, sleepy ballad redolent of Sylvian's best solo work and one of the best songs the man has ever been involved with. It makes you wish that the rest of album were composed of similar material. There are too many times in which moody, lonesome numbers like "Big Wheels in Shantytown", "Pocket Full of Change" and "Every Colour You Are" are off-set by useless, noodly instrumental tracks like "New Moon at Red Deer Wallow", "Boats for Burning" and "Red Earth (As Summertime Ends)". You also could not ask for a more anti-climactic closing song than the atonal "I Drink To Forget". It is almost as if Sylvian carried an unlimited supply of wet blankets around in an effort to throw them onto any potential good thing he might come up with. However, Steve Jansen's drumming and percussion work is deceptively nuanced and excellent throughout. There are also some choice contributions by Michael Brook and some great fretless bass playing by the late Mick Karn.
With the band dissolving in acrimony shortly before the album's release, it can be safely said that the stars were not entirely aligned for Mr. Sylvian at the time of this particular album's creation. Still, with songs like the overwhelmingly beautiful "Blackwater", this is an album worth finding for the Sylvian completist.
Review by Alec A. Head
Review date: 02/2011