(October 2010) Up in the ranks of Sylvain’s finest, and certainly one of the most innovative releases of 2010, Sleepwakers is an exclusive collection of collaborative work. Featuring compositions by Nine Horses, as well as work with long term writing partner Ryuichi Sakamoto, there’s plenty of other partnerships on show here – think Christian Fennesz, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, Arve Henriksen and contemporary classical composer Dai Fujikura. Full of intricate detail and elaborate expression, this work, at differing points, features classical embellishments, intelligent composition, vibrant ballad and oriental delicacy – enough to produce almost too many standout tracks to mention.
To open, "Sleepwalkers" exhibits the endearing naked spirit so closely associated with Manafon. The vocal melodies are tightly sculptured alongside those random sounding, yet most precise percussive expressions. Well-structured beats laid with striking acoustic ambience; producing a depth and intensity that melts into its own decay of reverb. "Money for All" is guided by a plucked oriental sounding backdrop, smoothed over with waves of clarinet, all falling into an exotic embrace. Serene backing vocals steer, while an injection of harmonica from Sylvian shakes up the energies, as do the subtle snippets of funk guitar, taking it into a zesty swing. "Ballad of a Deadman" has a slight southern feel. Diverse vocal harmonies from both Sylvian and Joan Wasser dominate the track with soothing violin offered as accompaniment. "Angels" see’s the voice set against tribal beats, stirring faintly in the background alongside bendy bass, while "World citizen’s" shimmery cloud expands around a simple chord structure. Featuring the most dramatic string orchestration by Dai Fujikura is "Five Lines." The cast of eclectic, precisely placed cries and answers, tease and contrast in the form of high-pitched violin, with viola and cello undercurrents, all accompanied by Sylvain’s expressive vocal. "The Day Earth Stole Heaven" features an attractive acoustic guitar offset with a memorable bass line, acoustic drums and alluring tones of the saxophone. "Playground Martyrs" transmits a cool glow maturing from its lonely piano, before a perfectly contented acoustic guitar ballad follows with "Exit/Delete." "Pure Genius" is an exquisite work; its bass reaches down from dark clouds, immediately flooded with the haunting ambience in its tune; incidentals adding to its exotic appeal. Building into electronic scratching fuzz that rips into its surroundings, while the acoustics of the drums create a reverb that suggests an unrefined coating.
Overall, Sleepwalkers features what must be some of Sylvian’s finest work, pulled from many areas of the musical spectrum; a gradual understated luminosity that interacts graciously with some glaring features.
Jus Forrest, Contributing Editor.
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