Steve Jansen: Tender Extinction album review

Sublime solo album from former Japan man.

Album artwork for Steve Jansen's Tender Extinction

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There’s a track here – a breathy cello, synths and strings instrumental – called Memory Of An Imagined Place. Jansen’s music from his days with Japan onwards has always carried the melancholy romanticism that title implies. Like monochrome arthouse films, his sound designs resonate with suggestion and nuance. Yet while there are prayerful passages of ambient elegy on Tender Extinction, there are also songs and collaborations which burst into rich colour. The brilliant Perry Blake, no stranger to a Scott Walker-esque ballad, joins Jansen for the yearning Her Distance, while Tim Elsenburg of Sweet Billy Pilgrim croons and co-writes the memorable Give Yourself A Name.

Nicola Hitchcock is somehow both frail and fulsome on Faced With Nothing. All guests bring their A-game to the park. Throughout, Jansen – playing multiple instruments – paints canvases which find a fine line where the music drives matters but the listener’s imagination is allowed creative leeway. Long-time fans will catch the odd rhythm or vibe which reminds them (in a good way) of Rain Tree Crow; newcomers can enjoy an album that’s cool, classy and compelling.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.