Fricke's Picks: Steve Jansen

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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.