The combination of songs and atmospheric instrumentals makes for an attractively...
Colin Buttimer 2007-12-13
Steve Jansen may not be a familiar name unless you have a taste for '80s art pop and are the sort to pore over liner notes. That's because Jansen is probably best known as David Sylvian's brother. Sylvian was the lead singer of Japan and, since the early '80s, has developed a reputation as a respected solo artist. Jansen has played drums and percussion on many of his brother's releases, as well as working with other ex-members of Japan in a variety of guises. This, however, is Jansen's first work as leader in a career spanning almost three decades.
The album steals in with fragile percussion from which rises a pensive melody. This first track, "Grip", is skeletal, insect-like, troubled by subtle breezes. It sounds impressively contemporary, one foot planted even in the near future and by its end it has developed a febrile majesty. "Sleepyard" is dreamier still, flecked with dust motes and girded by nostalgia. It's the first of six tracks to feature guest vocalists. This time it's Tim Elsenburg of the redoubtable Sweet Billy Pilgrim. Later tracks offer up Anja Garbarek, brother Sylvian and Joan Wasser aka Joan As Policewoman. Thomas Feiner's contribution is the only slight mis-step, offering up an approximation of Tom Waits' brand of lugubrious yearning that is a little too close for comfort. The combination of songs and atmospheric instrumentals makes for an attractively varied experience.
Slope makes clear the extent of Jansen's contributions to his brother's work. Gently reminiscent of a Sylvian release in its sombre variety and shot through with hints of Jon Hassell's Fourth World sophistication, Slope nevertheless has a character and art all its own. It's an impressive work that makes this listener wonder why it has taken Jansen so long to get to this point and hope that it will encourage him to continue developing this delicate, beautiful music.