Oh well, I can tell you what will happen when a lot of the reviews will have been published: there will be writers who will miss that "persona" of Sylvian who created albums like BRILLIANT TREES or DEAD BEES ON A CAKE; and there will be some writers (hopefully the majority!) who will love this song cycle (I'm quite sure the great Richard Williams will like this album very much, the man who has just released the fine book THE BLUE MOMENT about the groundbreaking atmosphere of Miles Davis' KIND OF BLUE and its long echoes). The reason for such controversial reactions: the voice is the only instrument that is carrying the melody.
There are no grooves, no classic harmonies that supply the perfomance (the flights) of the voice. The music comes from the free improv-scene (Evan Parker, Christian Fennesz a.o.) and creates strangely spidery textures you might never have heared before as a "background" or environment for a singer. Pop beyond Pop, modern chamber music with a touch of jazz and the Japanese art of playing sine waves and turntables...
The moods are exquisite, the lyrics enigmatic, and the singing has that kind of nakedness where artists risk a lot. This is music that belongs to the same class as the late Talk Talk albums and Scott Walker's TILT or THE DRIFT. It is a good thing that there are still some guys on the planet who are looking for new horizons and who are not so much interested in repeating a formula that will constantly please the conservative part of their audience.
When Sylvian recorded BLEMISH, he discovered new areas for his songwriting - MANAFON is the best continuation of that path you can imagine. Although this music is at times raw, violent, tender and melancolic, it has a rewarding impact on everybody who is ready to follow this rare combination of free playing and deep melodies. In his fine review in MOJO Mike Barnes writes about the fact how surprisingly well music and voice are moving around one another though they come out of totally different worlds.
By the way, the deluxe package contains Phil Hopkins' excellent black-and-white film AMPLIFIED GESTURE. I had the opportunity to see a pre-screening of it at the 5. PUNKTFESTIVAL in Kristiansand at the beginning of September. You do not hear Sylvian singing a single note in that film, but you listen to well-chosen instrumental passages of the music as well as to all the great stories of the pioneers of the free improv-scene from Japan, England, and Austria who made a living thing like MANAFON possible with their passion and love for a music without safety nets.
With all due respect - and knowing that some words are simply used too often in the description of music, this record is stunning, beautiful, heartbreaking and, yes, kind of blue. Nothing less.