Thursday, January 02, 2003


Audio CD: ‘Damage’
Artists: David Sylvian and Robert Fripp
Released: 10 September, 2001)
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Venture CDVE958

To my lasting regret I somehow failed to get round to buying a ticket for Robert Fripp and David Sylvian's 1993 Royal Albert Hall concert on the 'Road From Graceland' tour. (That and Miles Davis's last showing in London a couple of years earlier. If only.) Still, this is the next best thing. A fine re-engineering of the 1994 live album, lacking only the extensive techno-riffery of 'Darshan' - a surprising omission given the opportunity created by a re-release.

'Damage' (rightfully the title track) is, without doubt, my favourite song of all time: a lingering, aching, remorseful piece of percussive-less balladry. Fripp's red-grey sky of a soundscape hangs evocatively in the air, punctuated by Sylvian's tremulous lyrics and some judiciously restrained bass courtesy of Trey Gunn. The sense of loss is overwhelming, but somehow there is hope in the void. The respectful pause-before-applause at the end says it all... less is truly more. All this and the only slightly less wondrous 'First Day' too.

On the original boxed CD these gentle, translucent songs book-ended the other, punchier tracks. That made perfect sense, but so does re-ordering the list (as is done here) and beginning with 'God's Monkey', which states the overall terms of engagement. Pat Mastelotto provides a firm rhythmic pulse around which Gunn weaves pleasing, legato bass to complement Sylvian's wispy vocal effects. Frippian guitar trickery appears and disappears, but does not dominate. The overall impact is in the careful balance of musical elements. Melodic ideas predominate, but in a restrained way as the beat goes on.

This album is an overture to an ambient post-rock of compelling vision and intelligence. Wait till the small hours and turn the lights low.

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