Like much of David Sylvian's 21st-century work, Manafon is a forbidding proposition. Entrenched in the improvisational avant garde, it offers nothing in the way of conventional rhythm and few demonstrable melodies. Adopt a suitably furrowed brow, however, and the album becomes mesmerising. Sylvian's subjects are life's loners and losers, and he regards them with a wry detachment and acute sympathy that is echoed by his collaborators. The effect in the album's 11-minute centrepiece, The Greatest Living Englishman, is devastating: every musical phrase feels strangled and thwarted, while Sylvian delivers the suicide note of a man whose life is "such a melancholy blue, or a grey of no significance".
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