The David Sylvian that fronted new wave pop band Japan wore luminescent hair and glam make-up; on the cover of his solo debut, 1984's Brilliant Trees, he was stylish and refined, a gentleman popster. But the illustration that introduces 2003's Blemish sends a different message: he's bedraggled and unshaven, his far-off expression turned haunted. The new millennium has seen a more serious Sylvian, several steps further along on his musical journey and seeking new sounds to explain new traumas.
While Japan started off as one of many '70s New Romantic bands, they made an unpredictable break with their hit Ghosts - a searching and evocative single where spare rhythms and fleeting electronic sounds lay under Sylvian's smouldering tenor. Writing 'Ghosts' was a turning point for me, Sylvian recalls. So much of what we created with Japan was built upon artifice. With that song I'd felt I'd had the breakthrough I was looking for. I'd touched upon something true to myself and expressed it in a way that didn't leave me feeling overly vulnerable. In the coming years I'd forget about all notions of vulnerability, opening up the material to a greater emotional intensity. I knew that I had to find my own voice, both figuratively and literally.
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