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Steve Jansen - The Extinct Suite album review

Rarefied atmospheres from ex-Japan man

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.