Rain Tree Crow

Group Portrait Of Japan

Japan: (left to right) Steve Jansen, David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri and Mick Karn in London, England in 1982. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

Occasionally we come across a band, an album and a track that all share the same name. If my memory serves me correctly, the Vinyl Connection blog site gave a technical term for this nominal trinity a few months back, but I have been unable to track it down. So please forgive me if this post is somewhat imprecise and long-winded.

Rain Tree Crow was a new name for the synthpop/new wave band formerly called Japan. As RTC they released just one album in 1991 and, after my introductory paragraph, you won’t be surprised to learn that its title track was Rain Tree Crow.

This track is only just over 2 minutes long. It feels like a preface to this incarnation of the band and an overture to the album. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric song. Somewhere in the distance a gentle breeze blows through hollow pipes, wind chimes tinkle in the restless air, branches tap on woody trunks. And all around us David Sylvian’s rich resonant voice provides a commentary to a shadow play: rain falls, a tree grows tall, a black crow settles on the puppet theatre’s stage. The story has begun.

The play unfolds through a series of art rock songs and instrumentals with soft textures and itchy rhythms. The whole album is a triumph of composition and production – lovely melodies layered over varied, but never distracting, backing tracks. There’s no need to submerge the listener in a sea of synthesised strings or to assault our ears with the screams of tortured guitars. This is music Crotchety Man will never tire of.

The most arty of the tracks on the Rain Tree Crow album goes by the glorious title of New Moon at Red Deer Wallow. Instead of David Sylvian’s voice we have the deeper, even rounder tones of a bass clarinet. It reminds me of Hidden Orchestra‘s Archipelago album and John Grant’s  Down Here. I just love it.

At the other end of the style spectrum there’s an almost-pop song. Blackwater was released as a single and it rose to number 62 in the UK singles chart in March 1991. It’s one of those haunting tunes that leaves soothing echoes bouncing around in your cranium long after the sounds have faded away.

The three extracts I’ve given here summarise the Rain Tree Crow album reasonably well but they are no substitute for the full 13 track, 48 minute experience. So take Crotchety Man’s advice: welcome the rain, hug that tree, cherish the crow. Together that trinity will take you to a holy place of timeless contentment.


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