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Blemish is ex-Japan frontman David Sylvian's long-awaited follow-up to 1999's Dead Bees on a Cake. That album was, in part at least, a celebration of his love for wife Ingrid Chavez and couched in suitably blissful and luxuriant jazz/ambient tones. Blemish, by contrast, is a fraught, wracked and occasionally embittered affair, a more difficult though equally rewarding listening experience. The opening title track, for example, is a lengthy and anguished excursion, its lyrical theme of estrangement set to a broody, quivering guitar chord and punctuated by moments of musical violence.
There are three bold collaborations with veteran British improv guitarist Derek Bailey, whose spare, atonal haiku tones will present a challenge to those who turn to Sylvian for comfort listening. The scratchy, CD-skipping effects of "The Only Daughter" are also calculated to disconcert the listener, while "Late Night Shopping" is shot through with disquieting intentions and laced with sinister strains of avant-garde noise. This, however, is a brave album and in its own way as beautiful as its predecessor in its starkness. --David StubbsSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
It’s not an album to dip in and out of at all but demands an attentive listen right through. You need to have had your nerves jarred by the discord properly to appreciate the gentle hopefulness of “a fire in the forest” at the end. The overall effect is decidedly strange but compelling.
The normal band of musicians one associates with Sylvian recordings is entirely absent -- no Robert Fripp, brother Steve Jansen, Mark Isham etc. The new musical style has much to do with the extraordinary approach of avant garde jazz guitarist Derek Bailey, who features heavily. Nevertheless devoted Sylvian fans will pick up echoes from earlier recordings and will probably get the logic of where he’s at and how he got there.
A must buy, then, for the devoted follower, but not a particularly logical starting place for anybody new to David Sylvian’s work.
It's an album of contradictions then... which is fitting, given the atmosphere in which it was conceived, with Sylvian playing off the notion of heartache, loneliness and solitude by recording much of Blemish by himself in his home studio. The album, according to Sylvian, was written, produced and performed over an unbelievably short period of time (about six weeks) and that sense of urgency is apparent in the breathless delivery and the random stream of lyrics, which really seem to suggest the occasional sting of bitterness and remorse, as opposed to characters or scenarios.Read more ›
Blemish is Sylvian's first release on his own label, and it's hard not to see it as a statement of independence. There are reference points here to previous songs, but none come easily, and though the production still emphasises Sylvian's vocal performances, there's less reverence for the voice here; at times sampled and chopped up in a way that surprises.
Here too is the spirit of adventure that has characterised some of Sylvian's instrumental collaborations - songs improvised around jagged guitar tracks recorded a continent away from the vocal, and on "A Fire in the Forest" a unsettling re-working process more in the spirit of Momus's recent "Oskar Tennis Champion". Elsewhere Sylvian's lyrics take on an oblique sense of detachment reminiscent of Scott Walker on "Climate of Hunter" or even a less dark "Tilt".
Ironically, it's on this final track that Blemish also comes closest to Sylvian-by-numbers, with less of a distance between vocal and musical backing. Here the atmospherics cradle the singer in a way reminiscent of the best tracks on "Gone to Earth". A flower of delicate and tender beauty in a garden of thornier delights.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very arty, very Sylvian. For his die hard fans I would suggest, not mainsteam.Published 14 months ago by MARK HAMMERSLEY
`Blemish' (2003) was Sylvian's first studio album in four years. Whereas `Dead Bees on a Cake' lacked focus, Sylvian has here eschewed superfluity and got down to basics: some... Read morePublished on 4 Nov. 2013 by Nicholas Casley
imho, this is Sylvian's greatest achievement todate. Its an extraordinary piece of work. Geniunely inspired, direct, raw, emotionally complex, compelling.Published on 5 May 2011 by LR
Honest and totally self absorbed. This album took Sylvian from the comfortable niche that he had found for himself and defined him as a true artist of original worth. Read morePublished on 7 Feb. 2011 by Thomas Jerome Newton
I hated this for a long time, not because of the music but because of the lyrics. Put simply Sylvain is one of those who associate being avant-garde with adopting that ridiculously... Read morePublished on 28 Jan. 2011 by Chris
I love it, some do and some don`t....
This review will change nothing in that respect, I only post it in the hope that it will push the average star mark... Read more
If you're into Sylvian in a 'Brilliant Trees' or Fripp collaboration vein you could be in for a shock. Blemish is very minimalist, personal, and very strange. Read morePublished on 13 Mar. 2009 by R. Harvey