Though David Sylvian has long been an avant-pop seeker, he has entered
territory that even his early heroes David Bowie and Brian Eno never
braved. "Manafon" -- the follow-up to 2003's prickly, post-divorce
album, "Blemish" -- again features improvisation as a core element of
both the composition and performances, relatively rare in rock. But the
new disc refines this process, resulting in Sylvian's most poetic whole
since 1987's "Secrets of the Beehive." Various European jazzers and
Asian electronica artists contribute to the sparse yet resonant
soundscapes, which can take a few spins to appreciate. But Sylvian's
arresting imagery and mahogany voice in such highlights as "Small Metal
Gods" and "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" have a lasting, hypnotic
power, like a drug that never quite wears off.
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