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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Film Bleached of Colour Yet Still with a Leading Role, 24 Feb. 2012
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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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Initial post: 1 May 2015 18:29:54 BDT
J. Higham says:
Nice review. I just bought the album recently (2015) and totally agree with your remarks. I've been (still am) a fan of avant-garde music and especially with sound manipulation such as this. I loved Japan and bought much of David Sylvian's work, in fact I bought this one just because somehow I'd never got round to getting copy at the time it came out. I'm surprised their was - and still is - so much animosity over Sylvian's choice to become more involved with the UK's improv scene. One gets the idea that many fans feel he 'sold out' by not making another "Gone to Earth".

As for this album I find it excellent, and as you say if you give it a few listens you gradually get more into the details of the music and the minimalism. However, I feel that David Sylvian could have (should have) mixed his voice a little lower and brought the instruments a little more to the fore. This would have given the music a more 'involved' feeling when listening - in my humble opinion. If you don't know his latest release check it out as I feel he really hit the nail on the head this time - There's A Light That Enters Houses With No Other House In Sight. [Cd Digipak].

Thanks again for your review.
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