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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1985's directions in music...
This reissue of 'Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities' is a thoughtful one- comprising the original 1985 tape-only release that saw tracks 'Preperation for a Journey' & 'Steel Cathedrals' released alongside the 'Words with the Shaman' e.p. with the hard to find b-sides to 1989's 'Pop Song' single (found on the deleted 'Weatherbox' set). Much of the work here appeared in...
Published on 28 May 2006 by Jason Parkes

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3.0 out of 5 stars The many faces of David Sylvian
David Sylvian is notoriously difficult to categorise and pin down, but if I were to try, there's a)the vocal work sort of within the pop format, b)the minimalistic vocal work and c)the instrumentals. 'Alchemy' falls into the latter category.

Sylvian's voice is for me such an integral part of his work and more often than not I do feel that his instrumentals...
Published 20 months ago by Torben Madsen


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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1985's directions in music..., 28 May 2006
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities (Audio CD)
This reissue of 'Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities' is a thoughtful one- comprising the original 1985 tape-only release that saw tracks 'Preperation for a Journey' & 'Steel Cathedrals' released alongside the 'Words with the Shaman' e.p. with the hard to find b-sides to 1989's 'Pop Song' single (found on the deleted 'Weatherbox' set). Much of the work here appeared in some form on the 'Camphor' compilation a few years ago...

As a collection of Sylvian's instrumental work, it blends together very well- though anyone who didn't enjoy his other instrumental work (the Czukay albums 'Flux&Mutability'/'Plight&Premonition', the last sides of 'Gone to Earth') may not be that enamoured.

The three-part 'Words With the Shaman'-suite is particularly wonderful- 'Part1: Ancient Evening', 'Part 2: Incantation' & 'Part 3: Awakening (Songs from the Tree Tops)' find Sylvian and brother Jansen advancing on the 'Brilliant Trees' collaboration with Holger Czuckay ('Full Circle' with Liebzeit & Wobble) and Jon Hassell ('Power Spot'). If played directly after listening to Hassell/Sylvian's co-written song 'Brilliant Trees', it makes complete sense. 'Words with the Shaman' is as strong as Eno/Byrne's 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' or Philip Glass' 'Powaqqatsi'. 'Preparation for a Journey' & 'Steel Cathedrals' extend on this, but have been seen by many people as I know as extremly indulgent- personally I think they've dated well and are in need of reassessment. These tracks aren't that far from Penguin Cafe Orchestra or Peter Gabriel's artier work (e.g the 'Birdy' soundtrack) and can be seen to extend on the territory started with tracks like 'A Foreign Place' and 'Canton.' It's nice to hear a blend of ambient, world music and jazz coming together- could this be a post-Eno 'Filles De Kilimanjaro'?

'Pop Song' eventually turned up on 2000's compilation 'Everything&Nothing'- its b-sides were harder to find; it seems apt that they are added to this set (perhaps Flux and Plight ought to be reissued as a double-set?). These tracks were a lot more influenced by John Cage- 'A Brief Conversation in Divorce' reminding you of Cage's 'Sonatas&Interludes', as well as 1981's 'Ghosts'. One of Sylvian's most interesting instrumentals and well worth hearing, if you enjoy avant-garde classical (John Taylor's piano is another highlight). 'The Stigma of Childhood (Kin)' finds Sylvian alone, perhaps alluding (in wordless form) to events dealt with on the recent Blemish (2003) album? It has a similar feel musically to 'Blemish'... This track is probably more Philip Glass/Steve Reich- an interesting direction...I'd love to hear a soundtrack to a film in this mode (perhaps someone should ask Sylvian?). The almost blues guitar is interesting- the missing link between Ry Cooder and the Americana that Sylvian began to explore with 'Every Colour You Are' and 'Blackwater'. These tracks are excellent bonus tracks and make this collection an interesting one- though granted the ambient side of Sylvian doesn't appeal to all. Most definitely worth exploring, if you have an open mind (an index of possibilities, after all...). This set also shows, as an album like 'Laughing Stock', the difference between a pop star and an artist. Wasn't it great in the 80s when people like Hollis and Sylvian decided that pop wasn't enough and opted for avant-garde climes? This is why 'Kid A' isn't that out there...Regardless, the 'Alchemy'-reissue is one of interest and an unacknowledged highlight of Sylvian's 80s oeuvre.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, evocative, meditative, 22 Sep 2006
By 
P. Vallance (Guildford, Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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How do you classify or put into words music that you can connect to physically and mentally rather than just audibly.Like nothing else I have heard, this album literally takes you to higher state of consciousness, relaxation and wellbeing, keeping you completely engaged and enthralled whilst leading you on a spiritual journey, or more, a path of self discovery! I bought the cassette tape in 1985 and after finally getting hold of the CD 20 years later I realised that this album is not just a part of my collection but more a part of me. I cannot rate this album highly enough. If you have ever truly 'contemplated' anything in life then this music is for you.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inner World Music, 7 Jan 2004
A head spinning drift through the gamelan jungle. Very cinematic, smoky and evocative (as all of Sylvian's work is). Not for casual listeners, but of a quality that puts it way above nearly all other so called ambient productions.
Highly recommended if you fancy a bit of armchair travel.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting collection of instrumentals., 25 July 2003
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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This reissue of Alchemy is a thoughtful one- comprising the original 1985 tape-only release that saw tracks Preperation for a Journey & Steel Cathedrals released alongside the Words with the Shaman ep with the hard to find b-sides to 1989's Pop Song single (found on the deleted Weatherbox set). As a collection of Sylvian's instrumental work, it blends together very well- though anyone who didn't enjoy his other instrumental work (the Czuckay albums Flux&Mutability/Plight&Premonition, the last sides of Gone to Earth) may not be that enamoured.
The three-part Words With the Shaman-suite is particularly wonderful- Part1: Ancient Evening, Part 2: Incantation & Part 3: Awakening (Songs from the Tree Tops) find Sylvian and brother Jansen advancing on the Brilliant Trees collaboration with Holger Czuckay and Jon Hassell. If played directly after listening to Hassell/Sylvian's co-written song Brilliant Trees, it makes complete sense. Words with the Shaman is as strong as Eno/Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts or Philip Glass' Powaqqatsi. Preperation for a Journey & Steel Cathedrals extend on this, but have been seen by many people as I know as extremly indulgent- personally I think they've dated well and are in need of reassessment. It's nice to hear a blend of ambient, world music and jazz coming together- could this be a post-Eno Filles De Kilimanjaro?
Pop Song eventually turned up on 2000's compilation Everything&Nothing- it's b-sides were harder to find; it seems apt that they are added to this set (perhaps Flux and Plight ought to be reissued as a double-set?). These tracks were a lot more influenced by John Cage- A Brief Conversation in Divorce reminding you of Cage's Sonatas&Interludes, as well as 1981's Ghosts. One of Sylvian's most interesting instrumentals and well worth hearing, if you enjoy avant-garde classical (John Taylor's piano is another highlight). The Stigma of Childhood (Kin) finds Sylvian alone, perhaps alluding (in wordless form) to events dealt with on the recent Blemish (2003) album? This track is probably more Philip Glass/Steve Reich- an interesting direction...I'd love to hear a soundtrack to a film in this mode (perhaps someone should ask Sylvian?). The almost blues guitar is interesting- the missing link between Ry Cooder and the Americana that Sylvian began to explore with Every Colour You Are and Blackwater. These tracks are excellent bonus tracks and make this collection an interesting one- though granted the ambient side of Sylvian doesn't appeal to all. Most definitely worth exploring, if you have an open mind (an index of possibilities, after all...). This set also shows, as an album like Laughing Stock, the difference between a pop star and an artist. Wasn't it great in the 80s when people like Hollis and Sylvian decided that pop wasn't enough and opted for avant-garde climes? This is why Kid A isn't that out there...Regardless, the Alchemy-reissue is one of interest and an unacknowledged highlight of Sylvian's 80s oeuvre.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Distantly-Viewed High-Speed Trains Screaming across the Plain", 8 Oct 2010
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities (Audio CD)
This 48-minute long CD comprises a selection of tracks recorded between 1984 and 1989. They are all instrumentals with any vocal element being embedded within the radio extracts and/or tapes that occasionally form a stratum within the particular track's texture. This texture consists of what I would call layers of meditation: each is nothing special and yet each second of their presence is uniquely special. Is this music of escape or of actuality? The music, whilst mainly inherently adopting a groundwork of western electronic and acoustic instruments and musical forms, is nevertheless infused with a wide variety of traditional elements from many parts of the globe: from the Far East, Black Africa, even the American mid-west.

There are, in effect, seven tracks on the disc. Some are co-written or co-performed with Sylvian stalwarts such as Steve Jansen, Holger Czukay, Robert Fripp, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Steve Nye is also involved with some of the production. There are a couple of disappointments: `Preparations for a Journey', written and performed by Sylvian alone, sounds very much like music Vangelis was making ten years' earlier; whilst `A Brief Conversation Ending in Divorce' produces an effect exactly in tune (or rather, not in tune) with what the title suggests. But `The Stigma of Childhood' is a haunting depiction of empty spaces, and the segue between the tracks `Ancient Evening' and `Incantation' features a marvellous rhythmic transition from a syncopated beat to something more four-square. `Steel Cathedrals' reminded me of distantly-viewed high-speed trains screaming through the landscape, but I do non think Eurostar will be adopting it soon as their call-signal!

Instead of retreating into the easy world of pop pap that David Sylvian could so easily have done in the mid- to late-1980s and making himself an awful lot of money along the way, I give full marks to this artist for exploring a radically different and interesting soundworld.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favorite album, 29 Nov 2012
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J. P. J. Laugs "JPh" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities (Audio CD)
I have become a Sylvian fan after Brilliant Trees. This surely is one of my favorite instrumental albums ever produced. This album is has a filmy, dreamlike quality, and has kept its freshness through the years (to my ears). I am happy that it is availabe on cd now.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At long last, 4 Nov 2003
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Mr. C. P. Voyce "blatnoi1" (Leicestershire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Having brought this way back in 1985 - on EP - and although i have the title tracks on the import of Brilliant Trees and most of the other tracks on various formats - Video - Cd - Lp - it was a wonderful feeling to have for once all the tracks on one format - well done to who ever thought of this at EMI - you do deserve a pay rise
what can you really say about David Sylvians work ?
Its just brilliant - and the track selection for this (shall we call it an album) is great
I challenge anyone to get hold of a copy of 'Steel Cathedrals' on any format - apart from this album - you just can't - i only have it on Video, enough said - this is timeless music - it sounds as good today 04.11.03 as it did way back in 1985
Treat your ears and BUY THIS ITEM
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4.0 out of 5 stars An alchemy of sounds, 15 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities (Audio CD)
When this record was first released, i was fascinated by the artwork. The music was just as fascinating. I liked the mystical elements and animalistic jungle like atmospheres created. Later on the musical pieces become more urban and recognisable. A good instrumental work
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3.0 out of 5 stars The many faces of David Sylvian, 20 April 2013
By 
Torben Madsen (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities (Audio CD)
David Sylvian is notoriously difficult to categorise and pin down, but if I were to try, there's a)the vocal work sort of within the pop format, b)the minimalistic vocal work and c)the instrumentals. 'Alchemy' falls into the latter category.

Sylvian's voice is for me such an integral part of his work and more often than not I do feel that his instrumentals suffer from being just that: instrumentals. That's not to say that Sylvian is unable to create atmospheric instrumental music. He can. Part 1 of 'Words with the Shaman' and 'Steel Cathedrals' are evidence to that. The latter could have been a truly great track had it not lasted for 18 minutes. 'A Brief Conversation Ending in Divorce' on the other hand is just self-indulgent.

Part of what I think makes a good instrumental is progression, and I don't find much of that in this album. It's meditative - and repetitative.

But credit where credit is due: Since the Japan-days, Sylvian has pretty much released what we wanted to release and in my view he remains one of the few, true artists of his generation.

If you're a fan of instrumental music or indeed David Sylvian, then do give it a try. But it is not for everyone.
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