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on 29 January 2014
I bought Manafon even though it had mixed reviews, and loved it. Admittedly one needs to be in the right mood to enjoy the album, unlike 'Secrets of the beehive' or similar that I could listen to at any time.
After a few years of enjoying Manafon, I finally took the plunge for Died In The Wool. If you like Manafon, my guess is you'll like this. If you don't, you probably won't like this. It builds upon the first album (even remixing some of the same songs) and then goes further into the forest.
Sometimes I get bored of listening to the same old music (guitar, melody, choruses, etc) and then I like to fire up this album.
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on 9 June 2011
It's heartening to see an artist so far into his career, still capable of polarising the listening public with new work. Had Sylvian continued to bang out joyless copies of Secrets of the Beehive, as many seem to wish, he would have become an irrelevant caricature long ago. Instead, he has consistently reinvented himself, with each new album offering a surprise. Each time, he loses some fans and gains some new ones. This album is no different. In fact it's quite funny to see people say "Well, I liked Manafon but this is just a step too far!" Fujikura's strings are sublime: they bob and weave, bringing drama and movement where Manafon was trapped in deathly stasis. Harmonically (though not rhythmically) reminiscent of Steve Reich at times, they underpin Sylvian's vocals, adding a rich tonality to these variations not found on the original. The result is a highly rewarding listen. The two Emily Dickinson poems are beautiful, too, but different to the Fujikura material and seem to want to belong to another collection. And that's my only quibble with this record. I wish it was all just Sylvian singing over Fujikura's strings. Of course, that would complete his epic, career-long journey from pop to contemporary concert music. Should he dare? Is a self-confessed "non-musician" allowed to occupy that rarefied territory? The two Dickinson poems -- with their pleasing Nick Drake melancholia, strummed guitar and familiar atmospherics courtesy of Bang, Honoré and Henriksen -- suggest he's hesitating on the brink, just in case there's no way back.
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on 14 June 2011
IMO Manafon is like a beautiful sculpture that's been smashed to bits and left in fragments on the floor. At first it appears like an incoherent mess but as you pick among the shards you suddenly begin to discern that something of remarkable beauty has been created - in some places just a collection of intriguing elements, in others alien and yet oddly coherent patterns. For the most part, Manafon is a challenging listen, but I think definitely worth the effort. It's sparse, a bit dark and sometimes austere but for me, there's also a feeling of richness and joy, or perhaps it's simply the exhilaration of stepping into a world that we don't often get to experience. Died in the Wool, as a kind of companion piece to Manafon, opens up different avenues to explore within the Manafon world, here we see/hear more detail, a little bit more colour, a little bit more depth and texture that Manafon left obscured in shadows and silence. To my ears Died in the Wool is a more accessible starting point, it offers a bit more in the way of conventional musical form (useful if, like me, you're not really an aficionado of free improvision) 'I Should not Dare' is especially lovely.
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2011
Fact: David Sylvian has the most beautiful voice in popular music
Fact: Sylvian is prone to frame this voice with discordant unsettling music.

`Blemish' and `Manafon' were not really for me. Maybe my ear is not discerningly avant garde enough for these productions or maybe, and I prefer to believe this more likely, I simply view these albums as wasteful. Sylvian's voice can melt the hardest of hearts but in competition with a cacophony of sound it cannot shine.

I bought this album because the `Blemish' remix offering produced quite a few gems and I was hoping this might be the case with `Died in the wool'. Alas, not so.

Sylvian's voice is very much to the fore here but the music, free form strings and electronica, is consistently clattering incoherently away in the background. Admittedly, the music is far lower in the mix than the vocals but it is nonetheless a constant distraction and ultimately, for me, makes the album unlistenable.

The simplest way to stress my view is to imagine David Sylvian standing in the kitchen of a busy restaurant singing acapella!

I expect many will dismiss this review because they fall into the avant garde category and see traits in the music that I do not. Fair enough! Let it be known however that I do love the man and the greater body of his work. Though I dislike this album I respect his ongoing efforts to test musical boundaries and I can therefore award no less than 3 stars.
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on 27 June 2011
Another remix type album that again in most instances improves on the original ideas,the album itself stays well within the mood it sets and demands undivided attention to be really appreciated.The added disc 2 has a instrumental album and is closer to the realms of soundscapes,unfortunately this doesn't appeal to myself.The art work is again different and insinuates a fresh approach one I dont feel is entirely executed in the album itself.Mr Sylvian is always very listenable but I'm not sure how far the improv'improve on ,can be taken.
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on 9 June 2011
David Sylvian's career has been characterised by constant change - occasionally punctuated by a sudden sharp jolt (think Obscure Alternatives to Quiet Life or Tin Drum to Brilliant Trees). I'm sure he lost and gained fans at every turn. He lost me around the Robert Fripp/Dead Bees on a Cake era.
With Blemish, he won me back.

Died in the Wool is an album of two halves. One half Manafon remixes, courtesy of Dai Fujikura. These are all very well done. In some places so well done, it's difficult to spot what the changes are - they all just sound so right. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not. For my money the best remix, is the boldest - Snow White in Appalachia. The string arrangement is outstanding.

The other half consists of new work. The Manafon reject "Anomaly at Taw Head" - I could live without. The Emily Dickinson tracks (I should Not Dare in particular) are lovely. They suffer a little from constraints of Dickinson's style of writing such short poems. So both tracks have a predictable format, Sylvian singing initially followed by an instrumental section. But this is nit-picking really. The quality of musicianship on display more than makes up for the constraints of the format.

Died in the Wool and The Last Days of December are heartbreakingly beautiful songs and right up there with the best he has ever produced. Lyrically, they are incredibly strong, dark stories. They hint at more well know stories, but give the listener enough space to interpret the words in different ways. Something he has always been good at, but which was maybe lacking in a track like Manafon. Dai Fujikura contributions on both tracks are key and this bodes well for their future work together.

All in all, it is a great album. Like Manafon, the musicians who contributed created some amazing sounds. Special mention to Christian Fennesz, who's work seems made for Sylvian's voice. As for the the man himself, DS is just going from strength to strength. The vision and confidence he has in his music at the moment shines through. This album means he will lose some fans and pick a few here and there. So, no change there then!
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on 29 October 2013
This is one of the most creative and thought provoking works that i believe David Sylvian has made. It takes the listener across landscapes of mountainous wood, cold terrain and back. The sounds generated are beautiful and memorable, as are the lyrics.
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on 15 June 2011
Blemish and then Manafon divided the cult of Sylvian. Those who wanted him to remain their own personal Jesus felt betrayed and those who applauded risk taking, boldness, creativity and a sense of moving forward, held onto his coat tails for the ride. He is a man energised. Like Eno before him, he is a serial collaborator. He has worked with many of the people that Eno did or associated with in the 70s avant garde scene; Fripp, Tilbury, Bailey, Nye and Toop to name but a few. But since Blemish, he (Sylvian) has sought out his own contemporaries and the result has been a sustained burst of creativity in many fields that shows no sign of abating. As with Manafon, for me, this record will take a long time and many, many plays before yielding it's true worth. Stick with it/him. There's a long way to go yet.
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on 31 May 2011
David Sylvian's MANAFON (2009) appeared as a collection of disciplined art songs that relied on his collaborators to inform not only their textures, but their forms.
Those players - Jan Bang, Evan Parker, John Tilbury, Dai Fujikura, Erik Honoré, Otoma Yoshide, and Christian Fennesz among them - created airy, often gently dissonant structures for Sylvian's lyrics and melodic ideas.
"Died in the Wool" (MANAFON Variations) re-employs these players (with some new ones) in the considerable reworking of five of MANAFON's compositions. There are also six new songs that include unused outtakes, and two poems by Emily Dickinson set to music and sung by Sylvian. The new music here relies heavily on Sylvian's association with Fujikura: he composed, arranged, and conducted chamber strings that are prevalent.
Where MANAFON's "Small Metal Gods" was orchestrated by acoustic guitar, laptop, electronics, bass, and cello, this one employs a string quartet that provides greatly expanded harmonics, which underscore the desolate power in Sylvian's lyrics.
On "Snow White in Appalachia", strings shift the tune's original sonic gears into diffused, vaporous sonorities.
On the title track, Fujikura uses a composed clarinet sample to introduce John Butcher's saxophone, a mixing board, an all-but-unrecognizable guitar, cymbals, and samples to stretch a narrative melody to its ghostly breaking point. Dickinson's poem, "I Should Not Dare", is a standout: its gentle, accessible melody, accompanied by Sylvian's acoustic guitar, is made sharper by Fennesz's electric and samples from Honoré. Parker adds a gorgeous nocturnal saxophone line and Bang provides an unusual string arrangement to create the feeling of deep longing across great distance.
"A Certain Slant of Light", also by Dickinson, is less formal but more moodily cinematic with its layers of samples. A delightfully fragmented redo of "Emily Dickinson" completes the sonic re-creation of her image as this set's Muse.
On "Anomaly at Taw Head", Fujikura's string abstractions - introduced by Parker's bluesy saxophone and Tilbury's minimal piano - add dimension to Sylvian's open field melodic structure.
The underlining poetic is tense, but seductive.
There is a bonus second disc, too, in Sylvian's 18-minute sound installation "When We Return You Won't Recognize Us".
It is a stellar, ambient work featuring Arve Henricksen, Butcher, the Elysian Quartet, Eddie Prevost, Toshimaru Nakamura, and Gunter Muller.
It should be listened to on headphones to grasp all of its intricacies.
"Died in the Wool (MANAFON Variations" showcases Sylvian's restless discipline in expanding his music's parameters, and those of song itself, while offering even greater opportunities for his collaborators to influence its creation. T. Jurek

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on 26 May 2011
This is a beautiful album full of interesting music. His voice is has wonderful as ever but for me it's the music here that is the real deal.

Yes, it is different and electronic but with wonderful human touches with strings and trumpets. There are some touches of melody like the trumpet soundbites, occasional acoustic guitar and the string arrangement. The Manafon tracks are wonderfully reworked into new pieces and then add the other new six tracks and you have a completely new album.

Yes, he is out on his own, some would say not in a good way but we have Dead Bees on a Cake and I for one am pleased he continues to experiment and not do the same thing over and over again. He has never done that and hopefully never will.

Who knows what he will do next.

This is a great album, listen with an open mind and there is a lot to discover.
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