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Vampiry dandy, luxurious glam rocker and delicate mannequinn of some of the most weak and desolated dark wave bad mood, Japan of David Sylvian are one of the most valuable and complicated gem that rock ever gave us. And it’s with their masterpiece Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980), hung over eastern spirituality and western technocracy, that they confirm themselves exotic escapism masters, as well as supporters of krautrock electronic elements, evanescent buzzes of ambient music and the crumbling charm of glam-rock.
The title track, opened by the thin sparkle of a tenacious keyboard and lots of obsessive electronic pulses of Steve Jansen, is a perfect showcase for the haunted and seductive voice of David Sylvian. Thanks to a strong, excruciating chorus that almost sounds like an anthem, Gentlemen Take Polaroids sweats ethnic influences, crystallized into the sacred whisper of the singer throughout the long final instrumental. To add more sensuality to their cold sound structure, Japan intensify the following track Swing with rhapsodic trumpet representations which, even when Sylvian’s voice is both insidious and irresistible, gift the audience with one of the most intense moment of musical epiphany in the album. The synthetic tools of Burning Bridges instead, scan the triumphal entrance of Gentlemen Take Polaroids into the krautrock reign of future, made of metallic phantoms, glacial atmospheres, treated noise surfaces and never ending melodic micro cells. On that note, The Experience of Swimming shows to be emblematic, or rather, evocative and unspeakable, set up like a rolling dance of synths, whose same elegant fluidity is proposed again in The Width Of A Room, a march phased by keyboards in procession.
When the typical necromantic sounds of Japan meet the weak neoclassicism of Nightporter, like a waterfall of piano harmonies that wraps the lyricism vocal of David Sylvian up in a thin gauze, at this point we have come near Taking Islands In Africa, the track that sums up every important moment of the album. The one that maybe comes first is Gentlemen Take Polaroids, because it matches the eastern influences of the album with the synth-wave sharpness, pushed by a soaring vocal melody that catches the ear of the audience with the same indisputable efficacy of the title track.
Federica Romanò – Translated by Beatrice Birolo