Nine Horses is the project that brings together brothers Japan David Sylvian and Steve Jansen, recruiting Burnt Friedman in order to make their musical vision complete. Initially Nine Horses was apparently intended as a one off affair and, with the release of 2005’s Snow Borne Sorrow, little more was expected from the project. Yet here we are with a new album.
Except that this isn’t really an album at all. It’s an album in length only: Money For All is, for all intents and purposes, a very, very bloated single. But there are different kinds of bloated. This is the kind of bloated you get after having eaten a top notch roast, not the kind of bloated that follows stuffing your face with a go-large MacDonald’s.
The Banality of Evil, Wonderful World and Serotonin all featured on Snow Bourne Sorrow and find themselves remixed here. For Sylvian fans the real gems are the new tracks, all three of them, and you get two of them remixed for your aural pleasure as well – bargain.
Money For All takes the rich double bass notes you’d find on Sylvian’s Mother and Child (found on Secrets of the Beehive) and marries them to a thumping electronic bass drum and a guitar that sounds as if it’s been made from cat gut and a biscuit tin. It is a foray into jazz tempered electronica a la Four Tet, and Sylvian’s lyrics are as always witty and informed, with a distinctly political edge to the song.
Lines such as “wipe your nation’s shame from you, it’s not where you’re born, it’s the things that you do” or “Let revolution fill the air, let’s show that monkey how much you care” resonate heavily with the leaden tone set by the relentless guitar loops and thump of the drums. The backing vocals of Berverlei Brown and Andrea Grant bring an almost spiritual element to the song that is both sinister and inspirational. These elements all conspire to make Money For All one of Sylvian’s most pleasing works in recent years.
Get The Hell Out is slightly more up-tempo and with horn loops it takes on an almost hip-hop feel, albeit hip-hop sung by a velvet voiced crooner. Despite being up-tempo, the subject matter is dark to say the least. Seemingly about an abused woman by the name of Caroline, Get The Hell Out swings from being coldly delivered in the verses, to being full of warmth and love during the choruses. It’s a perfectly executed piece of storytelling songwriting not unlike the tales of woe that Lou Reed served up on Berlin, except for the glimpses of warmth to be found in Sylvian’s writing.
The minimal Birds Sing For Their Lives is a collaboration with Stina Nordenstam. It leans heavily on her vocals, and her voice is perhaps an acquired taste. However, it suits the song perfectly, hanging like a spider web over the quietly meandering backing track, always threatening to break as the track builds in intensity. It’s understated, but following the impact of Money For All and Get The Hell Out, it’s a welcome change of pace.
Elsewhere the remixes of the older tracks are captivating, but the originals found on Snow Bourne Sorrow are where the hearts of these songs remain.
Money For All is a slightly unusual return for Nine Horses, but it’s a welcome one nonetheless. Hopefully we can expect new material soon.