Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 11/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri have often been overshadowed by the rest of the former members of Japan-- David Sylvian's career has been a thing of astonishing leaps and bounds, and Mick Karn, having the most unique voice on his instrument in his generation, gets a lot of attention, and justly so. But along the way, Jansen and Barbieri have crafted a series of albums-- admittedly their stab at Japanesque pop (The Dolphin Brothers) was by and large a failure, but the rest of their material is noteworthy. In particular is "Stone to Flesh", the only album the duo produced which I feel really satisifes the enormous potential the pair bring.
An album of atmosphere and mood, each of the six pieces (all between seven and ten minutes) generates an atmosphere and swirl as layers of synths come and go. Jansen's trademark percussion drives things forward-- Jansen also reminds us that in addition to being a master of taste and character as a percussionist ("Closer Than 'i'"), he also also capable of setting up driving rhythms that never fall into the track of getting in their own way ("Sleepers Awake"). Additionally, Jansen sings on three cuts-- his voice reminiscent of his brothers but a bit more fragile and somewhat more limited. Jansen ever barely seems to get above a whisper, but the effect can be as startling as his brother (this is not, by the way his first album as a vocalist as indicated in Amazon's description-- he also sang on the aformentioned Dolphin Brothers project).
It's hard to describe the album without falling into the usual ambient cliches, but nonetheless the touch of world influence, particularly in the rhythms and the downright Turkish sounds of "Ringing the Bell Backwards" is obvious, still, this is closer to ambient music, even the vocal tracks.
In it's own way, "Stone to Flesh" is a masterpiece. It will not appeal to everyone as its low key groove isn't everyone's thing, but fans of Sylvian, Porcupine Tree's more ambient works, Eno, or even Gabriel will find much to enjoy here. Highly recommended."