Steve Jansen - The Extinct Suite album review

Rarefied atmospheres from ex-Japan man

Steve Jansen - The Extinct Suite album artwork

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When the multi-instrumentalist released the album Tender Extinction a year ago, he successfully married his love of ambient, suggestive abstraction with propulsive, song-based material: both elements delighted fans of his former work with Japan, Rain Tree Crow and Nine Horses.

Now he reinterprets that work with radical restlessness. The more orchestral flavours are extracted and threaded together with fresh themes to create a wholly new instrumental. It’s structured as one track, which lasts – get this, prog lightweights – 55 minutes. Like his frequent collaborator Richard Barbieri, Jansen seems now more intrigued by the possibilities of atmosphere than melody, filling the room with implicit and gently evocative moods, shades and hints. While some of us were overjoyed to hear the emotional pull of the tunes and voices on the source album, this reimagining gets under your skin gradually. Like David Sylvian’s latter-day work, it’s devoutly minimal, yielding up crackles and flickers over near-subliminal drones, and more like an Eno-esque gallery installation than anything so crowd-pleasing as popular music. Yet there are phases where strings flow over the sound design with Gorecki guile, lacing the art with real heart.

Chris Roberts

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.