"This is like the end of the Japanese era, and I'm
gonna split pretty soon," says the initially cagey
character as we sit down at a table in an Aoyama cafe. With
only a hint of wistfulness, he adds, "So that's
why I thought I should talk with Metropolis-it's
kind of goodbye from me to Japan." The "it"
in question is Communion, an album that reprises much of the
music Englishman Jan Linton composed in his decade in Japan,
just released here by Receptor Tune.
Hailing from Manchester, Linton-affectionately dubbed
"Dr Jan Guru" in Japan-grew up listening
to the synth-pop and New Wave that swept England in the '80s.
The influence shows in his preference for synthetic sounds,
his heady, unabashedly emotional songwriting, his resonant,
vibrato-inflected voice that recalls Jim Kerr from Simple
Minds, and the appearance of friend and collaborator John
Taylor, guitarist with Duran Duran.
Communion, it turns out, was recorded partly at John Taylor's
digs in Hollywood, says Linton, and features a John Taylor
composition, "King Porn." But the album is not
as rooted in the past as this might suggest. The influence
of contemporary dance music also abounds, as indicated by
record company Receptor's description of Linton's
style as "ambient rock."
The sardonic "Coffee Shop Buddhist," for instance,
is an electro-rock steamroller that marries distorted guitars
to clinical beats, the cover of David Sylvian's "Nightporter"
gives it a house flavor, and "Dark Entries"
is all distorted, punishing jungle breakbeats. Despite Linton's
obvious '80s influences, Communion is less a "retro"
album, than an integration of some currents in pop of the
past two decades with present-day club music.
Thematically, the album's title is suggestive of its
lyrical content. "Actually only the first song, 'Coffee
Shop Buddhist,' is political/confrontational,"
says Linton. "I would say the others are mostly spiritual
appeals to people." But Linton also retains a sense
of humor: "The third-to-last track, 'Infinity
Perpetual,' pokes fun at this, and even at myself."
It turns out, in fact, that many of the songs are re-workings
of material that was originally released on a previous album
in Japanese. "I thought this is a chance to redo some
of this and erase the Japanese that confused some people in
the past and just keep it straight English," he explains.
In an indication of the global nature of the music business
today, the route to the album's release was circuitous.
"I got this record deal through a UK label for distribution
in Eastern Europe through a Russian company actually,"
says Linton, who notes that previous records have been well-received
in that part of the world.
Meanwhile, the musician is busy fulfilling the terms of his
Japanese record deal. "I'm actually making two
new albums simultaneously," he says. "The other
one will be out in the summer-that's the remix
of this. And then there's another I've got up
Then it's splitsville; Linton says he's moving
back to England. "Everybody tells me I should,"
he says cryptically. But like many an expatriate, he's
hedging his bet, adding as a final caveat: "I've
got an offer from a Japanese major that still stands."