Once described as ‘the world’s most beautiful man’, the object of a cult-like following, David Sylvian’s iconic status has always had an uneasy if intriguing relation to his post-Japan trajectory. From the autumnal ruminations of Brilliant Trees through his relatively upbeat collaboration with Robert Fripp to the sparse, improvised and ravaged Manafon, his has been a journey far into uncharted musical and psychological hinterlands and a dismantling of all worldly claims.
It’s this process of refinement, reclusivness and disillusion that Arena attempts to unpack for his 55-page pamphlet. But whereas the 33 1⁄3 series of books are allowed enough space to breathe and bring in context when discussing their particular album, Arena’s attempts to map out Sylvian’s philosophical, literary and spiritual reference points come across as harried almost to the point of unintelligibility. Jumping back and forth across his subject’s discography, throwing wild claims and allusions, mostly from Hindu texts, to see what sticks and offering revelations such as Sylvian is not suitable for karaoke. It’s a bold if undisciplined endeavour that pays no heed to the sensuality of Sylvian’s music or voice and constantly refers to ‘The Japan’, suggesting an editor is also absent from these pages.