David Sylvian seems to have made a career out of retiring from his
‘80s pop star image. After a twenty-year relationship with Virgin
Records, Sylvian got bored with the popular music forms he had worked
with and ventured down the rabbit hole of ‘microsound’ (as heard on
2003’s Blemish). Like Bjork, he was fascinated by this new frontier
of digital buzzes and clicks, and went on to work with the new
generation of experimenters such as Christian Fennesz. And in a
further abandonment of popular forms Sylvian has allied himself with
the random tooters and scrapers of the improvising scene (and
produced a video documentary on the subject for the deluxe mail order
version of this new release). With Sylvian’s intimate vocals being
nearly the only melodic element in these new pieces, Manafon is
definitely a difficult listen of the art music type. The nine tracks
are quiet, slow, withdrawn - quite unlike anything he has done
before. But if you can manage to make the break from expectations
based on his previous work, you may find that this new stark Sylvian
is an artful look at the life’s ordinary struggles, inspired by
reclusive poets like Emily Dickinson and far from pop’s hollow gestures.
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