Review : David Sylvian - Manafon
PitchforkDavid Sylvian's enjoyed a career common to art-rock-leaning, former English pop stars who've doggedly chased their personal obsessions in lieu of giving their old fanbase what they want, again and again. He's not quite as intractable as, say, old peer Mark Hollis (Talk Talk). For one thing, Sylvian's still releasing records. But from the time Japan ditched the crowd-pleasing glam sheen onward, Sylvian's music has forced his cult to reexamine their ongoing relationship with the master's music every few years.
That's not to say each of Sylvian's reinventions has been total, at least on an album-to-album basis. Manafon is of a piece with the music Sylvian has released in the 21st century, especially 2003's small masterpiece, Blemish. Like that quiet, achingly personal record, Manafon reaffirms Sylvian's aughts-forged connections with the modern avant-garde, be it jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation, post-glitch electronica, modern composition, or the artists who manage to occupy all four worlds while claiming none of them.
A small army of The Wire-friendly types contribute-- sax colossus Evan Parker; Japanese "onkyo" ascetics Sachiko M. and Toshimaru Nakamura; guitar re-inventors on the level (and varying praxis) of Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, and members of Polwechsel; and many more. So this may be overstating the obvious, but pop music it ain't. Even the unearthly minimalism of Japan's "Ghosts" or Blemish's "Late Night Shopping" are more immediate than anything on Manafon....full text
DustedmagazineNews of David Sylvian’s long-awaited new album revealed that he’d be collaborating not only with previous partner Fennesz, but with a bevy of top drawer improvisers from Vienna, London and Tokyo. Since 1984’s Brilliant Trees, Sylvian has sought out distinctive sounds and improvisers to realize his narcotic dreams, his melancholy, and his occasionally bleak, occasionally sentimental visions. In particular, his early collaborations with Can’s Holger Czukay and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp yielded an early fascination with psychedelic textures (even as he would use these to frame, say, a Kenny Wheeler solo). At times, the experimentalism that emerged from these early preoccupations is as prominent as songcraft in Sylvian’s world. His own smoky voice has remained the constant. Whether he’s flirted with love songs, with Carnatic music, or with “downtown” improvisations, that voice – somewhat stately in its articulation and disposition, but also weathered and a bit beaten – always shapes the music.
Manafon seems focused – both thematically and in terms of its effect – on detachment. You might say that this is due in part to the presence of his collaborators, and it’s true that the Tokyo musicians (sine wave specialist Sachiko M, turntablist/guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama, and Toshimaru Nakamura on no-input mixing board) are often associated with such impressions. But while this cast of heavies is quite able to coax the various shades of grey from Sylvian’s increasingly spare songs, it’s Sylvian’s own vision that creates the detachment....full text
MusicomhAfter the first, definitely the second, and most of the third through seventh listens it becomes increasingly obvious that sometime Japan lynchpin David Sylvian is not terribly happy. On Manafon Sylvian almost talks as much as sings about it over 50 testingly honest (honestly testing?) minutes. The sparing, affective strings-and-noise instrumental backing serves to highlight the emotion in the lyrics rather than carry any melody, all of which is built into his affected and oddly loungecore semi-spoken word vocal.
At its best - on Small Metal Gods, The Greatest Living Englishman and Manafon's title track - Sylvian shares his introspective insights, delicately wrapped over a simple, balanced and carefully assembled soundscape. At its worst (much of the rest of it, unfortunately), it's hard to avoid imagining a middle aged divorcee with a hangover crooning in the corner of a pub whilst a Fast Show parody of a DaDa cinema short gets more attention on the telly in the next room....full text
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would you like to live in a dream?