5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Film Bleached of Colour Yet Still with a Leading Role
, 24 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Manafon (Audio CD)
Maddy Costa in `The Guardian' described this album as "a forbidding proposition", but then went on to say that with the right approach it "becomes mesmerising". David Sylvian's latest album to date (2012) is certainly a radical departure, and will unfortunately disappoint listeners on their first hearing, who might then give up and move on to something else. It disappointed me too. But each subsequent play made me appreciate more the value of this stunning work.
The music is still subtly crafted, as one would expect, and this despite the paring down of instruments - and indeed, a paring down of sheer instrumental notes. And Sylvian's voice has matured with an honest, haunting quality. But how to adequately describe the music to be heard on this set is a problem for this reviewer. Why did Sylvian adopt such a sparse approach to songs, which if re-arranged differently could become standard pop-rock fodder. The one word that formulated in my mind to concisely explain Sylvian's approach here is `brave'.
Slow folksy ballads from a real or imaginary locale are sung with minimal instrumental accompaniment (and I mean minimal). Yet great care and attention, as always, is given to this, including electronic sampling effects. Each track adopts the overall minimalist form but each is different - indeed one is, curiously, an instrumental.
Sylvian sings stories of lost and losing people - "There's a man down in the valley, trying to stop time in its tracks" - and of lives "without purchase, no story to tell ... Here lies a man without qualities." These last lines are from a song called `The Rabbit Skinner', and with a drawing on the inner sleeve of Sylvian holding a dead rabbit, one wonders if we are to infer that the skinner is Sylvian.
The CD's song titles say it all: songs of `Emily Dickinson'; of `Random Acts of Senseless Violence'; of the man who would never be `The Greatest Living Englishman'. In this latter, Sylvian comments how "It's such a melancholy blue or a grey of no significance", and indeed the whole album is like watching a film bleached of colour but one still with a strong leading man. The only poor episodes for me lie at the album's heart with the half-minute pretentious `125 Spheres' and the subsequent `Snow White in Appalachia'.
But these are mild longueurs in an album full of depth, sincerity - and, yes, delight! Brave man!
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