After the release of Everything And Nothing, word was that a companion compilation of instrumental pieces was to follow. Though its release was necessarily delayed while Sylvian toured for the first time in five or six years, hopes were high, particularly since many listeners' favorite Sylvian instrumentals have either never been released on CD or have never been widely available.
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.