Thursday, 25 July 2013

Cassette experiment day 118 - Rain Tree Crow 'Rain Tree Crow'

Apparently there's a 'boutique hair salon' in Durham (Ascend hairdressing if you must know! - other boutique hair salons are available) that offers, for the princely sum of £68, a Brazilian Blow Dry. I have absolutely no idea what a Brazilian Blow Dry is, but I'm trying very hard not to get a mental picture.

Our cassette experiment subject today also includes 'treatments' - a word that always makes me shudder when I see someone credited with it on an album. It's the long threatened/promised featuring of the one and only album by Rain Tree Crow, which goes by the imaginative title of ‘Rain Tree Crow’. To many, this was the long-awaited return album by Japan. But not to everyone, it would seem. David Sylvian decided that he didn't want this to be called a Japan album, thereby possibly denying it at least 75% of the sales it might have otherwise achieved.

In many ways David was right, because despite the presence of Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri, this isn't really the long-awaited ‘return of Japan’ album. The fact that the insert explains 'The majority of the material on this album was written as a result of group improvisations. There were no pre-rehearsals.........' seems like a device for deliberately down-playing expectations.

Which all means that it comes as a pleasant surprise that the album is rather better than you might expect - it's true that it seems to act as a musical repository for all of the unusual musical instruments that the boys picked up on their many trips eastwards (at one point Richard plays a water wheel - presumably a name for a musical instrument rather than an actual water wheel, but you may find it difficult to determine with any real certainty).

Many of the tunes here tend to just wash over the listener in a not unpleasant manner, but the standout tunes are the seven minute rhythmic opening track, 'Big wheels in shanty town' and the wonderful 'Blackwater' which, among the other relatively un-commercial fare on offer sounds completely and wonderfully out of place.

There are some (not entirely unexpected) pretentious titles here too, you know you're not going to get a catchy three minute pop single from a track called 'New moon at red deer wallow' or 'Blackcrow hits shoe shine city'. And one of the strangest titles of all, 'Scratchings on the bible belt' sounds not unlike the whole kit and caboodle is played on a (very comprehensive) set of pans.

On this same track David plays a banjo. For some reason I find that very difficult to imagine. And someone called Michael Brook shows up with 'treatments', which presumably doesn't mean a Brazilian Blow Dry. Maybe it does involve hot stone massage. Or, and I hesitate to use the word, ‘cupping’.

Label - Virgin

Year – 1991

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