David Sylvian + Ryuichi Sakamoto: Forbidden Colours – UK – CD-3 – 
- Forbidden Colours [1983 version] 4:42
- Bamboo Houses [12″ ver.] 5:26
- Bamboo Music [12″ ver.] 5:41
Today I was at a loss to pick a blog topic, so in those times, it may be time to revisit the CD-3 Files. I go to my box and pull a CD from it at random. We’re lucky today as it’s something that i have not heard in ages! In 1988 when the 3″ CD came [briefly] onto the scene, Virgin Records, was alone among the labels for really embracing the format vigorously. Not only did they release singles on the format, but even better, they also re-issued some of their classic 12″ single catalog on the plucky l’il discs! So my pre-CD-3 dream of finding my favorite 12″ singles now on the format actually came true.
“Forbidden Colours” is all over my Record Cell. I seem to have a performance of the song on about a third of my Sakamoto collection! All of the piano and instrumental albums seem to feature a performance of the stately melody. Then there’s the versions on Sylvian’s albums and singles. But this is the only place where I actually have the “hit single”version of the track! I must listen to the later version included as a bonus track on the sumptuous “Secrets Of The Beehive” as my primary version. So much so that this original version on this CD-3 now sounds exotic to me. The shimmering synths of the intro sound more crystalline than the pure strings or piano I’m used to on the other performances. And the percussion sounded much more sharp and echoic; being synthetic. The ending of the song was far more familiar as the strings began to swell into the arrangement. The pained grandeur of it all was an ideal fit for David Sylvian’s wheelhouse.
The two B-side on the original 12″ of “Forbidden Colours” were not included here, perhaps since they were Sakamoto only tracks from the “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” OST. Instead, Virgin wisely compiled the 12″ A/B sides to the first Sylvian/Sakamoto 12″ single, from 1982. “Bamboo Houses” was recorded and released the year after “Tin Drum” was JAPAN’s swan song, and wow did it sound it! Sylvian’s brother, Steve Jansen was still programming the percussion, and this slotted tightly into the zone that was still smoking hot from the previous year’s “Tin Drum.” The beats were complex as on that album, with off-meter accents that were startling, but quickly were normalized into a kind of jazzfunk. The rest was all synthesizers by the duo [and Jansen] and the only acoustic touch was the marimba from Sakamoto. The first third of the song was instrumental, followed by a middle movement where Sakamoto recited lyric in Japanese while animalistic growls burbled in the synths. Finally, Sylvian joined in at the song’s midpoint to add his distinctive poise.
Even better was the B-side to “Bamboo Houses,” called “Bamboo Music.” When I first saw that track ages ago, I wrongly assumed that it was merely an instrumental version of “Bamboo Houses.” No, it was a different song entirely. It was of a piece with “Bamboo Houses” but more fluid and languid while still sporting the same sort of rhythm that the A-side had. Sylvian’s vocal was out of his high croon era when things were…smoother than in 1981. Yet the rhythms still had the complex time signatures which gave “Tin Drum” its undying power. The resulting song almost played out like the single that never happened between “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” and “Tin Drum.” Which is to say, JAPAN perfection, if you’re me. Your mileage may vary.
In 1988, this CD was a must-have for having the “Bamboo Houses” 12″ tracks on CD, but by now, they have also manifested on various Sylvian compilations, but only appear in concert on “A Victim Of Stars 1982 – 2012″ from eight years ago. Even if I get a copy of that [and I should] I’ll still keep this CD-3 since it’s a CD-3! I have about 40-60 of the little discs, and can’t imagine divesting myself of any of them. Especially since they take up so little room! It actually makes me a little sad when I consider that a CD-3 had the potential for 20 minutes of CD quality in a tiny package. It was the perfect medium to replace the 7″ and the 12” …and look where that got us. Sigh.
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