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World Citizen - Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian

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Genre: Dance & Electronic / Artist: Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian / Audio CD released 2004-05-24 at Samadhi Sound

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      29.11.2006 21:08
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      Great electronic pop with a message and even more intelligence and that is a rare thing indeed

      World Citizen is further proof of David Sylvian’s politicisation and his disgust at globalisation and the breaking down of barriers between cultures due to capitalistic hegemony, rather than any mutual blending of ideas and philosophies where societies are able to meet and enrich one another.

      It is also a cracking EP. Or single. Whichever you prefer.

      It was also a very welcome piece of music to purchase. Sylvian’s previous album, the deeply difficult (not to mention troubled) Blemish, wherein he used music as catharsis to come to terms with the breakdown of his marriage to poet Ingrid Chavez. Not that it is so much a bitter album (though it is) but the songs are for vocals, dissonant electronics and occasional bursts of equally dissonant guitar courtesy of Jazz guitarist Derek Bailey. World Citizen, though an indignant and angry album also returns Sylvian to a position where he is able to shape music that is more familiarly song based, whilst hooking together strong rhythms (probably courtesy of Sakamoto as much as Sylvian, admittedly) and extending some of his semi-electronica experiments ala the gorgeous The Scent of Magnolia that opened his retrospective album: Everything and Nothing.

      It’s a pretty simple affair all told. There are only really two songs on the EP, World Citizen and World Citizen - I Won’t Be Disappointed, both songs displayed in their truncated and full form. Though we’re treated to a rather fine re-mix by sound artist Ryoji Ikeda also.

      Lyrically, both tracks are also similar and have something of an anti-American bent (being the greatest capitalist power currently rolling over the world; also there are some post 9/11 references: “and the buildings fall in a cloud of dust and we ask ourselves why do they hate us?; well when we live in luxury and ignorance while superpowers practice puppet-mastery”) but Sylvian uses the lyrics not to bemoan but to recognise what the issues are: i.e. that events, however tragic, cannot be considered on their own but in the context of human rights, in history between countries, states, religions and to recognise that, in the instance of 9/11, that it is borne of desperation and long held disgust at Western interfering in states, religions and regions where they have no right to have input, except that they (or should I say us?) believe they have the right because their way is ‘right’. Again, Sylvian recognises a great many truths and that an idea such as patriotism and the symbolic waving of flags are ultimately concerned not with inclusion but exclusion. These are concepts that profoundly exclude individuals and harbour anger, hatred and fear, which can manifest itself in violence, in the refusal to accept differences in outlook, in religion, in states of mind and modes of living. Sylvian considers the symptoms as well as the concomitant results of them.

      But let’s not get off track here as World Citizen -I Won’t Be Disappointed and World Citizen are also fantastic songs. If, like me, you often pay almost no attention to lyrics but to their sound, to the effect of tone and richness of sound then there is much to enjoy. Sylvian is on great form, and his voice seems only to improve as he ages. As a younger man he seemed to sound like a copy of Bryan Ferry and now he has one of the few voices that genuinely exist on their own and can survive listening to a cappella (as it often is on Blemish). On these four tracks Sylvian’s vocals have a real richness and part of the reason why the lyrics never interfere with the music, with the basic song construction, is that he never attempts to sound impassioned in the way that so many singers do when they wish to express indignation or anger or passion. There are no needless look-at-me-and-how-much-I-care melodramatics. The lyrics either effect you or not, and their strength is that he has no need to back them up with excessively heartfelt attempts to evoke an emotional response. Sylvian is too mature and his voice is simply too potent for him to ever have to recourse to such banalities.

      If anything Sylvian’s vocals are restrained, almost a little low-key though they are very much the sound that drives both songs. World Citizen - I Won’t Be Disappointed is the opening track, at least on the European release, and is the more traditional of the two variations (as both songs are really variations on a theme). It has a very simple rhythm, with mostly gentle percussion and a quietly catchy but equally low-key guitar riff. It’s laidback but never to the point of being supine. Towards the midway point it picks up a little in tempo but it never exactly rocks out but then it is very much a pop song though at the same time it’s not exactly pop that you might encounter in the charts. It’s pop in the sense that despite the heavily political bent it is a very accessible song: rhythmical and elegant.

      World Citizen on the other hand, takes a slightly different approach. Again it is an accessible song but it takes on a slightly less easy-going edge. It’s no surprise that it is World Citizen that Ryoji Ikeda chose to remix (at least in terms of the title) as World Citizen delves deeper into the realms of electronica. The percussion is electronically generated, though never intrusive. It provides a steady beat for Sylvian’s rich vocals. There is a granular glitchiness in it, ala less strident Aphex Twin, that crackles around the edges and to great effect. In the background you can hear Sakamoto rhythms and atmospheres, which add to the richness of sound throughout the song. Like World Citizen – I Won’t be Disappointed, halfway through it shifts gear slightly but mainly due to a magnificent yet restrained electronic rhythm Sakamoto introduces that creates a swirling mix that drifts close enough to the surface of the song to beguile us but never so much that it takes over. World Citizen is certainly my favourite of the two song, and the longer version of it is genuinely superior to the shorter (the same is true for World Citizen – I Won’t be Disappointed). It has a sound that is both modern and as influenced by rock as by traditional pop-ness as it is by the more avant-garde end of electronica. It’s a joy to behold and an even greater joy to listen to. I own almost no singles/EPs as I find them frustrating and though the whole single/EP is only about 25 minutes long it’s so strong that you can loop it on repeat and never feel like it’s derivative though you’re only really listening to two song and a remix though there are five tracks on it.

      Ryoji Ikeda’s remix of World Citizen builds on the songs glitchiness and takes it apart further, placing breaks in the music, manipulating the rhythms into occasional low drones. The guitar of World Citizen – I Won’t be Disappointed is split out and from it Ikeda generates short staccato bursts that give way to the heavily manipulated riff from both tracks. Though, intriguingly, he does almost nothing to Sylvian’s vocals, though he does in fact chop and change the order somewhat. Ikeda is clearly careful not to obscure the meaning of the lyrics; instead he plays with the music, matching it to Sylvian’s vocals. It is by turns dense (and perhaps for some heavy going as the glitchy drones ululate and pitch) and simple, ending quite simply with the manipulated, laid back World Citizen – I Won’t be Disappointed guitar riff and Sylvian’s voice repeating ‘World Citizen’. Somehow the remix works though it is hardly as accessible as the variations on the songs that we have already heard. Nevertheless, it reinforces the global theme of the EP. We have Sylvian, born in England (and having lived for a time in the US) working with Japanese Sakamoto and Ikeda. Admittedly, it’s not as global as some of his other work, such as Dead Bees on a Cake, but then there’s not as much scope here.

      OK, this is a short CD but worth every penny. It is perhaps best downloaded or bought from Sylvian’s own shop at his Samadhi Sound website (his own record label), as it’s often a quite pricey £9.99 to buy online.

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 World Citizen - I Won't Be Disappointed [Short Version]
      2 World Citizen - I Won't Be Disappointed [Short Version]
      3 World Citizen - I Won't Be Disappointed [Long Version]
      4 World Citizen - I Won't Be Disappointed [Long Version]
      5 World Citizen [Ryoji Ikeda Remix]