Fricke's Picks: Steve Jansen


The Invisible Man
In the Eighties British Zen-glam group Japan, drummer Steve Jansen (above, far left) was as important for what he chose not to play — he is practically vapor on marimba in the band's plaintive classic "Ghosts" — as for his irregular heartbeats in "The Art of Parties" and "Still Life in Mobile Homes." On his solo album, Slope (Samadhisound), Jansen is a constant presence on percussion, keyboards and samples — making slow-blooming, Asian-¬flavored atmospheres that seem as fragile as rice paper — while giving the front line to singer-lyricists including Anja Garbarek (the daughter of saxophonist Jan Garbarek), Joan Wasser (a.k.a. Joan as Police Woman) and David ¬Sylvian, the ex-Japan singer and Jansen's older brother. Sylvian's showcase "Playground Martyrs" recalls the exotic whispers of the siblings' old band, while "Ballad of a Deadman," with Sylvian and Wasser in sinister duet, is a cowboy-ninja blues with acoustic guitars plucked like kotos and a strangely rousing hanging-party chorus. Jansen contributes a philharmonic's worth of rhythm, riff and color to the song — and does it all like he's just passing through in a cloud of dust.

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David Fricke

Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke has more than 10,000 albums in his New York apartment. His first record review for the magazine was Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' (RS 290).

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