|1. All Of My Mother's Names (Summers With Amma)|
|2. Red Earth (As Summertime Ends) (Edit)|
|3. Answered Prayers|
|4. The Song Which Gives The Key To Perfection|
|5. New Moon At Red Deer Wallow|
|6. Praise (Pratah Smarami)|
|7. Wave (Version)|
|8. Mother And Child (Remixed By Jan Bang + Erik Honore)|
|9. Plight (The Spiralling Of Winter Ghosts) (Detail) (Remix)|
|10. Upon This Earth (Remix)|
|11. Big Wheels In Shanty Town|
|12. The Healing Place|
|14. A Brief Conversation Ending In Divorce|
Camphor, the new compilation, is something of a mixed bag. It will definitely not please everyone.
As a whole, the album sounds great. There is a warmth throughout that was not always apparent on the original releases, and, unlike most records released today, the music here has not been compressed to death in the name of maximum loudness. The Rain Tree Crow tracks benefit the most from the remastering - hardly a surprise, given the circumstances under which that album was originally completed.
The selection is where things get sticky. In this respect, Camphor is neither a best-of disc nor a a rarities collection. Conspicuous in their absence are such tracks as "Preparations for a journey", "The women at the well", "Steel cathedrals", "Words with the Shaman", "Blue of noon", and the four tracks left off of Gone To Earth to enable its release on a single disc. Given that this was Sylvian's last project for Virgin, it seems odd that he wouldn't have taken the opportunity to make some of these pieces more widely available.
There are new tracks available on Camphor. The title track will be familiar to anyone who attended any of the shows on Sylvian's recent tours, or who bought a copy of the tour programme. "The song which gives the key to perfection" will be familiar for the same reasons, though its inclusion over one of the above-mentioned instrumental pieces is a bit of a letdown. (An instrumental version of it would have been cool, though.)
The less said about "All of my mother's names" the better, though it does fit better here than it did on Dead Bees on a Cake.
The remixes of familiar tracks are somewhat startling at first. "Wave (version)" is almost unrecognizable until Robert Fripp's guitar enters the picture. "Mother and child" works very well in its guise as a quiet jazz piece, with trumpet replacing the vocals. "Upon this earth" (somehow left off the track listing on the back cover) at first almost sounds like a rehearsal tape with the ambience of the original version no longer present. The remixed Sylvian/Czukay pieces sound either slightly less or slightly more foreign than they originally did. I'm not sure which.
And, of course, Camphor is not strictly an instrumental compilation. In addition to "The song which gives the key to perfection", the Dead Bees on a Cake song "Praise" is also included.
One thing is for sure, and that's that this compilation bears the stamp of its creator. These days, this means that it will be both rewarding and challenging.
As with Everything&Nothing, there are a few new tracks- the title track and Song Which Gives the Key to Perfection- both lovely and probably worth the cost of admission alone (along with the lovely cover, the tinkering Sylvian did as he was about to lose control of his masters & the way Sylvian tries to fashion something new from the catalogue of nostalgia) Perhaps this compilation isn't long enough- nothing from Approaching Silence, The First Day (eg Bringing Down the Light), Words with the Shaman, Bamboo Music, Flux&Mutability, The Stigma of Childhood (Kin) or the wonderful Ingrid Chavez-collaborations on the I Surrender singles...(& it would have been nice to have tracks like Zero Landmine & Linoleum also...)
To repeat myself, the compilation does work very well- perfect ambient music with hints of jazz and world music; Big Wheels in Shanty Town sounds like Peter Gabriel's Passion meets Japan (from the Japan-reform album Rain Tree Crow), while opener All of My Mother's Names is extremely Bitches Brew. There are alternate takes on such songs as Mother&Child and Wave & the rare Pop Song b-side A Brief Conversation Ending in Divorce (which has now found a permanent home on the upcoming Alchemy reissue) We get an edited part of Czuckay/Sylvian's Plight, which merely serves as a taster for the whole thing from 1988; the selections from Gone to Earth (The Healing Place, Answered Prayers, Upon This Earth) feature such great musicians as Robert Fripp & Bill Nelson- though now the original double-set is available once more, perhaps sidestep these selections?
Camphor is a very pleasant compilation, though probably not necessary like Approaching Silence, the new Alchemy, or the brand new Blemish. As mood music it's wonderful and has a lot more thought put into it than the glut of obvious Japan/Sylvian compilations that will follow now he's left Virgin! Personally I'd plump for the limited edition (if you can still get it) or the Japanese version, if you are going to buy this. The kind of music they should play in coffee shops...
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