Gaz-Eta - David Sylvian "Manafon"

20.02.10

Despite many accusations that have flown David Sylvian's way as a result of this record [not enough face-time for his collaborators, too sombre, etc]; this is ultimately a David Sylvian record. Perhaps the expectations were that if Sylvian was to assemble cream of the crop amongst the eai masters and put them in one room [or at least within the confines of one record], then an other-worldly, super-charged musical session would emerge. People must remember, the leader and the person in charge here is Sylvian. It's his direction that drives these pieces into a coherent whole. His voice hasn't changed much since the previous release. Still as wistful and wilting as ever, the crackling desperation and loneliness permeates these songs through and through. Development of the songs is always gradual. Sylvian doesn't reveal entire path of any of these numbers immediately. He wants the listeners to come along for the ride and stay with him, all the way through to the end. Where to start with the players on the record? John Tilbury's delicate handling on the piano on "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" is nothing less than haunting, while Keith Rowe's guitar picking is fruitful in its assessment of time and space. Christian Fennesz contributes heavily throughout the record - specific colours of his laptop are heard interspersing with other musicians - while Toshimaru Nakamura's input on his no-input mixer are limited to only a couple of numbers. Franz Hautzinger's subtle, heavy-breath trumpet contribution on the title track along with string section - bassist Werner Dafeldecker, cellist Michael Moser, guitarists Keith Rowe and Christian Fennesz - add loads of character and weight to the piece. Silence plays a crucial role on the record. Nothing is left to chance as the spaces in between the breaths, in between the next instrumental intrusion run deep. Wherever one turns, Sylvian wears sorrow [loneliness? eccentricity perhaps] on his sleeve. Eeriness of "Manafon" is haunting and gorgeous in its appearance. This is a stunning record in every sense of the word.

TOM SEKOWSKI


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