soundstreamsunday: “Live in Japan 1993” by David Sylvian and Robert Fripp

sylvianfrippFinding abandon in structure is what rock is about, but it’s rarely approached with such intentional power as on the live sets that Robert Fripp and David Sylvian played in Japan in 1993, which make up the album Damage and the film presented here, Road to Graceland: Live in Japan 1993. It’s not surprising that one of the great live albums in rock would come from a duo whose very distinct songwriting and voices meshed with such ease, but the precious vein they mined yielded such a small set of work and such little attention — after all, art rock/pop in the early 90s was in a far different place in the popular consciousness than it had been a decade earlier — that the record is nearly invisible today even if you’re fairly well-acquainted with the careers of both men.  This is neither In the Court of the Crimson King (or Discipline) or Gentleman Take Polaroids (or Rain Tree Crow), but a striving towards something that summed higher, capturing two artists with deep histories and still in their prime.  Fripp’s work here, as always, is masterful; a guitarist whose technical ability is matched by a uniquely creative sound and spirit and generosity, he creates space for Sylvian’s profoundly expressive voice and writing.  Sylvian, in turn, doesn’t fill the frame either, yielding his significant presence when necessary to the outstanding band he’s playing with.  This is my favorite pairing of Fripp with a vocalist, because as much as I like the work he did in King Crimson with Adrian Belew in the 80s and John Wetton in the 70s, he and Sylvian have a chemistry that gets to the center of their strengths, and, appropriately — given Fripp’s brief but incendiary participation in the Berlin Trilogy — summons the work of Eno and Bowie.  With Fripp familiars Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, and Michael Brook on additional guitar, the band kills, in a performance as intimate and deep as the emotions and moods that Sylvian and Fripp stir.

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