David Sylvian may have only released two proper solo albums in the first decade of the 21st century, 2003's Blemish and 2009's Manafon, but he's hardly been slacking off. Sleepwalkers gathers 16 tracks covering 10 years, focusing on his many collaborations and side projects.
Given the length of time covered and the number of famous guests involved--from art-pop singers Stina Nordenstam and Joan As Policewoman to modern-jazz trumpeter Arve Henriksen and modern composer Dai Fujikura, through longtime musical collaborators Ryuichi Sakamoto and Steve Jansen (his brother and former Japan bandmate)--it's not surprising that this is Sylvian's most musically varied release in years.
What's impressive is how well it hangs together as a whole, even encompassing songs as diverse as the Scott Walker-goes-to-Nashville "Ballad of a Deadman" and the icy pops and crackles of the Fennesz collaboration "Transit." Also, there's an interesting and uncharacteristic earthiness here, from the casual profanity of the title track's chorus to the naked emotional honesty of the spoken-word "Thermal." And if that's not enough, the almost funky "Money For All" is the closest Sylvian has come to a conventional pop song since Japan's Quiet Life back in 1980.
As always, Sylvian's beguiling baritone--an instrument that seems to be getting better with age--garners most of the listener's attention at first, allowing the subtleties of the arrangements to be teased out later.
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