Review : David Sylvian - Sleepwalkers
PitchforkLike many singers who came of age during glam and made their name as the new romantics were wresting English rock from the punks, David Sylvian has a voice-- unashamedly mannered and theatrical and oozing wounded romanticism-- that's both inimitable and divisive. It's also been the only constant in his music over the last 30 years; the man shreds styles as a rule, often as soon as listeners have adjusted to his latest changeup. So hardcore Sylvian-ophiles are usually in it for That Voice, which has grown warmer and deeper and more restrained with experience while still being recognizable within seconds. It's the reliable pleasure that's carried listeners through Sylvian's less-than-fertile periods, the collaborations that didn't quite spark, the styles that proved an ill fit for the singing, all the downsides to his ultimately admirable brand of creative restlessness.
Sylvian's voice is certainly the only constant on Sleepwalkers, a collection of his 21st century non-album collaborations that's coherently assembled, which means it flows like an album, but artistically all over the map, which means the individual songs range from several undeniable keepers to a small handful of wince-inducing missteps. Naturally, it's the missteps which stand out on first listen. Sylvian's singing, though it's more versatile than his reputation for mannered art-rock melodrama suggests, proves very, very awkward when dropped into a slab of George Michael-esque blue-eyed soul ("Money for All", complete with Vegas-y backup singers). The oddity of appropriating the style doesn't necessarily make the song fun to listen to, but it certainly dispels the rumors that Sylvian's hardened into a pop-spurning experimentalist over the last decade.
Some old-school Sylvian fans have been turned off by his 21st century albums, which have stretched verse-chorus structure to its limit while recasting both improv-style instrumental abstraction and avant electronics as a songwriter's tools. Personally I think 2003's Blemish and 2009's Manafon are minor masterpieces, but it's easy to understand why folks who fell in love with Japan's lush, tight synth-rock might not be too keen on the way Sylvian's albums now hide the pleasure of his voice inside the forbidding box marked "free music." If you're in that camp, Sleepwalkers, despite its wildly varying quality, may come as some relief. Here, in addition to the knotty electro-acoustic/glitch stuff, brilliant Blemish-esque tracks like "Sleepwalkers" and "Transit", we also get Sylvian goes country ("Ballad of a Deadman"), Sylvian goes piano bar torch singer ("Playground Martyrs"), and so on....full text
MusicomhPost-Japan, David Sylvian has produced a consistently evolving and increasingly intense series of solo albums, in particular over the last decade. Culminating in 2009's profound, stark and troubling Manafon, these intimate releases have run parallel to Sylvian's simultaneous collaborative work, with a wide and eclectic range of musicians and artists.
Sleepwalkers is compilation of some of the most significant of these collaborations from the '00s. It features reworkings of previously released material (some radically changed, some merely tweaked), outtakes from earlier albums, and one brand new work. It also represents, in Sylvian's own words, the "more playful side" of his body of work.
So, for those whose experiences of his music to date have come from the two previous albums - Blemish and Manafon - there is a lightness of touch and optimism of mood found here that will seem revelatory. Money For All and Ballad Of A Deadman, the latter featuring Joan Wasser and Sylvian's brother Steve Jansen, are both accessible, tuneful and animated. World Citizen - I Won't Be Disappointed, meanwhile, sings of "break[ing] the indifference", while Sylvian even claims to be "optimistically inclined" in the otherwise fairly bleak break-up song The Day The Earth Stole Heaven....full text
DavidsylvianDavid recently completed work on a compilation cd featuring some of the best of his collaborative work of the last decade or so. Entitled 'Sleepwalkers' it contains fresh remixes by David and a new composition with classical composer Dai Fujikura entitled 'Five Lines'.
This 16 track new compilation will be released in September 26th 2010.
Japanese sites announce release date at September, 22nd 2010. (See HMV and CDJapan).
Read more and listen to a sample of the new track Five Lines!
A number of the tracks have been given a subtle remix by David to bring them in line with his personal requirements while others have been given more obvious updates and changes. All the material has been completely remastered.
Sleepwalkers (with Martin Brandlmayr)
Money for all (with Nine Horses)
Ballad of a deadman feat. Joan Wasser (with Steve Jansen)
Angels (with Jan Bang and Erik Honoré aka Punkt)
World citizen - I won't be disappointed (with Ryuichi Sakamoto/Chasm mix)
Five lines (with Dai Fujikura/ previously unreleased)
The day the earth stole heaven (with Nine Horses)
Playground martyrs (with Steve Jansen)
Exit/delete (with Masakatsu Takagi)
Pure genius (with Tweaker)
Wonderful world (with Nine Horses)
Transit (with Christian Fennesz)
The world is everything (with Takuma Watanabe)
Thermal (with Arve Henriksen)
Sugarfuel (with Readymade FC)
Trauma (solo outtake from Blemish)
Compilation produced by David Sylvian.
About the artwork
The artwork of Sleepwalkers is by the Canadian visualt artist Kristamas Klousch, North Vancouver, BC. The cover of the Sleepwalkers album is called Bastet (from 2009). More work and information about Kristamas Klousch can be found at:
In the 00s, DAVID SYLVIAN produced two of his strongest and most solitary statements, "Blemish" and "Manafon". But those records don't tell the whole story. In the same period, Sylvian created a more playful body of work: a series of collaborations and side projects with leading talents of pop and improv, electronic and contemporary classical music. The best of these recordings are gathered here on "Sleepwalkers", meticulously sequenced and remixed: the fruits of one-off meetings and lifelong partnerships, they jump from bliss to intrigue, romance to sensuality, as arch-experiments lead into the lushest pop.
The single "World Citizen (I Won't Be Disappointed)", written with RYUICHI SAKAMOTO, is a sublime example, with an impeccable melody and lyrics warmed by Sylvian's gorgeous tenor. Sylvian has worked with Sakamoto for close to three decades. By contrast, on "Pure Genius", a collaboration with Chris Vrenna aka TWEAKER, he sounds like he's walked into a heist flick, singing the part of a delusional, dangerous bedroom genius. As Sylvian explains, tracks like this "give me a chance to write in a way that's completely non-personal, playful. It's an exercise of some kind, working within the parameters of a given assignment."
Sylvian's longest-running partnership is with his brother, drummer and electronics artist STEVE JANSEN, and two of their projects find their way here: the NINE HORSES trio with BURNT FRIEDMAN, and Jansen's debut album (and Samadhisound release) "Slope". "Sleepwalkers" also spotlights the innovators who contributed to "Manafon" and "Blemish". CHRISTIAN FENNESZ hangs a crackling, shimmering curtain behind the vocal on "Transit", matching his signature mass of sui generis sounds to Sylvian's stately performance, and the title track began with an instrumental handed to Sylvian by MARTIN BRANDLMAYR of POLWECHSEL, soon after the first recording session for "Manafon". Spite crackles in the gaps between the percussion, and onkyo artists TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA and SACHIKO M set the stage for the scathing lyrics in the chorus.
Like 2000's "Everything and Nothing", "Sleepwalkers" is a retrospective of the past decade – but it's also an eye-opening complement to his solo releases. As Sylvian explains, "Some collaborations seem to be a one-off exchange but you can never be too certain of that fact. Others have been long term. Ryuichi comes to mind as, of course, does Steve. And then there's others with whom you hope to continue working as you feel you've barely scratched the surface. Other times offers come out of the blue, welcome, inspired. Regardless, it's wonderful to have so many possibilities to juggle with. Each collaboration seems timely. It's as if there's a rightness to the exchange at a given moment in time."...full text
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