David Sylvian
Alchemy - An Index of Possibilities


4.0
excellent

Review

by Aaron W. STAFF
December 19th, 2016 | 18 replies


Release Date: 1985 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It is impossible to achieve the aim without suffering.

It can be said that ambition is what drives oneself to reach for the top, or it can be said it is the reason for our being. Ambition is what drives us to become great and to reach for the impossible. It’s ultimately an aspect that makes each and every one of us human. The fading, wispy strains of the title track of David Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees seemed quite like a transition in the making; the ambition of Sylvian evolving once more from the ambience of the second half of that album . Sylvian was onto something with the extended workout that capped Brilliant Trees, which came as no surprise when just a year later, Alchemy – An Index of Possibilities was released. Originally just available on the cassette format and in limited quantities, Alchemy was the direction Sylvian wished to move forward in in the wake of his successful debut. Further striving to experiment, Sylvian eschewed his vocals in favor of making the project fully instrumental to expand upon what Sylvian described as “the musical footnotes to some of the themes started earlier on Brilliant Trees”.

Alchemy is remarkably straightforward in its approach and doesn’t cut any corners throughout its duration. Being limited to the relatively lo-fi cassette format didn’t exactly allow for Sylvian and co. to really let loose without compromising the limitations of cassette, hence the short duration of the album itself. Each of the three compositions all share a common vibe – meditative, concise and spacious, the organic sound of the pieces all lend itself greatly to the mood the songs were trying to establish. ”Words With The Shaman”, featuring the key members of Brilliant Trees, lay out a sonic palette that seamlessly weaves in and out of its three sections to create a piece very reminiscent of the second half of Brian Eno’s Before and After Science. ”Preparations for a Journey” strays from the tribality of its preceding track to create a quick and effective soundscape of sharp and gliding Frippian guitar amidst the faint murmurs of percussion and glimmering synthesizers. ”Steel Cathedrals” however, arrives broodingly and takes its sweet time in getting started. The increased use of synthesizers and subtle touches of piano alongside simmering guitar give away the presence of not only Ryuichi Sakamoto, but that of Robert Fripp as well – at this point, Sylvian practically had created a supergroup just for this track.

Whereas the previous two pieces dove head first into their themes, ”Steel Cathedrals” full-on expects patience from its audience, to immerse themselves in the sounds that emanate from their speakers. Captivating and encompassing an array of moods to keep its subject at bay, Alchemy was perhaps an index of possibilities that could result in this left-field diversion from commercial acclaim. While it meant progress on Sylvian’s end, the end result was a confounded record label that expected another ”Red Guitar” or the template that made his past endeavors successful. But what did he care, for this just drove him to go in a unprecedented direction.



Recent reviews by this author
Swans Leaving MeaningFlying Lotus Flamagra
Xiu Xiu Girl with Basket of FruitPaddy McAloon I Trawl The Megahertz
Keith Fullerton Whitman GeneratorTim Hecker Konoyo
user ratings (28)
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it is



"Preparations for a Journey" (movie): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1opeoPreq_U

"Steel Cathedrals": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kgDmTQ4vIg

"Words With The Shaman": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMe1bcs75Co



AnimalsAsSummit
December 19th 2016


4736 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review, i love sakamoto's work on the last track

Digging: Polykroma - Radiaphane

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah, i've seen some peeps say Steel Cathedrals doesn't really go anywhere but it's probably a precursor to the ambient stuff on Gone to Earth if anything





which is kind of a bummer because the ambient half is the weak spot of GTE

Tyler.
December 19th 2016


17723 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fuck man i gotta get on this. good re tho pos cause im excited to check

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's better than the second half of gone to earth



so that should mean a hard 5 for you

Tyler.
December 19th 2016


17723 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it better be or else

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

listen to it then bitch



more attitude like that and gone to earth won't be happening

Tyler.
December 19th 2016


17723 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

production is fantastic so far

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah if you dig this, the second side of the Pop Song EP is for you

FullOfSounds
December 19th 2016


15772 Comments


good stuff dude

AnimalsAsSummit
December 19th 2016


4736 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

the 13 track version of gone to earth is a bit stripped down, fripp. you may like it; i think if has the best ambient tracks on it from the original. my fave version tbh.

CaptainDooRight
December 19th 2016


4274 Comments


Pos

This was on apple
Music so added to library

Digging: Hallas - Conundrum

CaptainDooRight
December 19th 2016


4274 Comments


dug preparations for a journey

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ye boi cap





about the edited version of GTE, I kinda disregard it since it came out in an era where labels either couldn't be bothered to put out the full product or couldn't afford an extra CD since CDs were still limited.

TVC15
December 20th 2016


10316 Comments


Tyler's av still throws me off lmao

Digging: Failure - Fantastic Planet

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 20th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

too fabulous

DoofusWainwright
December 20th 2016


19991 Comments


Need to check this, tight review Fripp.

Also, 5'd the Pyg

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 20th 2016


19288 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

right choice on the 5



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy