David Sylvian – Manafon

January 01, 1970





On Manafon erstwhile
Japan frontman David Sylvian seems to have crafted something both
improvisational and quiet, bruising, distant and avant-garde yet not without
melody or easily contained mood shifts. And as different as any of his recent
works are from those of his past.


The tune “Small Metal Gods” is hum-able, plucked and tender
– filled with the clicks and wood bumps only the best of Manfred Escher’s ECM’s
vinyl recordings might feature. There’s even something queerly political about
“SMG” – its mentions of laborers at no pay – itself a unique bit of play from a
man not usually known for such. There’s a lot of that wry wriggling in his
lyrics here; Emily Dickenson, dead rabbits, even the things that fill his
11-minute “The Greatest Living Englishman” – a life of “melancholy blue, or a
grey of no significance.” This may be suicide but it seems so blackly funny I
can’t help but snigger.


Perhaps that’s because Sylvian’s vocals have a softer
brighter flutter to it than in the past, a voice that finds sympathy in the
sub-tone squints of a tenor saxophone, the abstract twinkle of a piano’s
Satie-esque still life and the squeak of strings from an acoustic guitar to a
wayward violin. And that voice makes the burr behind the desperate poetry sound
that much more fleeting, ample and odd rather than merely maudlin. The
“exhaustible indifference” he sings of in “Snow White in Appalachia” can be
heard in his own hollowed out hoot, accompanied by the barely there
blip-and-scratch of a tape-loop gone mildly wonky. That’s more fun than I imagined
from Sylvian.


Standout Tracks: “Small
Metal Gods,” “The Greatest Living Englishman,” “The Rabbit Skinner” A.D. AMOROSI


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