The controversy over David Sylvian's forthcoming Manafon album - a conversation with…


3 Sep 2009, 20:43

A conversation with my younger self...

David Sylvian
Brilliant Trees

(Aged 17) "Sylvian does jazz? Good poppy stuff on side 1, but what's this on side 2? Only three tracks? Long(ish) instrumentals.That rhythm on Backwaters is a bit weird. Brilliant Trees is melodic again, but the end instrumental goes on a bit..."

(Aged 42) "Absolutely classic album. Side two lasts the test of time. Vocals are immense."

Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities

(Aged 18) "Only on cassette? What's that about? Sound quality is crap on some pieces. Great long impro pieces, can't see me listening to this too often. Nice idea but where are the songs?"

(Aged 42) "Thankfully we got it on cd eventually. The poor sound quality in some parts just adds to the character and ironically was way ahead of its time - how many current hi fidelity cds have crackly noises on them? Beautiful meandering pieces. Probably listen to this more than Brilliant Trees now"

Gone To Earth

(Aged 19) "Disc one is brilliant - some great poppy numbers. Bill Nelson and Robert Fripp - respect. The track "Gone to Earth" is a bit atonal for me. But what's disc 2? Some self-indulgent instrumentals? It's a sin not to use that voice"

(Aged 42) "Disc one is still brilliant. Wave is one of my all-time favourite Sylvian tracks and the title track is again way ahead of its time. The melodic vocal cpntrasts brilliantly with the jaggy guitar. The quiet second disc stands up well to its poppier brother in terns of listenability."

Secrets Of The Beehive

(Aged 20) "Here we go, a new Sylvian album. The single, Let the Happiness In wasn't what I was expecting but it's starting to grow on me. Some lovely acoustic guitars and Ryuichi on piano. Some unusually violent lyrics are creeping in to Sylvian's works."

(Aged 42 "I started off thinking this was better than Gone to Earth, but I've reversed that opinion. I probably only really listen to Let the Happiness In now - lovely brass! Some of the other tracks are a wee bit samey. Still like the harsher imagery of some of the lyrics."

Plight and Premonition

(Aged 21) "What the hell is this? It goes on for hours and goes nowhere! Don't think I'll be listening to this much!"

(Aged 42) "Well, I was right, but I have listened to it more than I thought I would!"

Flux and Mutability

(Aged 22) "See above, although I was starting to 'get it' a bit more"

(Aged 42) "I think there's a bit more variety in F&M than P&P, but it's not a great album for iPod!"

Ember Glance

(Aged 24) "Jeez, what a price! Beautiful packaging and great concept, but not very listenable."

(Aged 42) "For once I agree with my 24 year old self"

The First Day

(Aged 26) "Woah. Sylvian does a rock album. After a few listens I am well into it. Some of the Fripp sections are a bit self-indulgent."

(Aged 42) "I over-listened to this album. Probably only listen to Darshan these days."

Dead Bees on a Cake

(Aged 32) "Six years since a Sylvian album? Hope it's got lots of melodic vocals on it... oh, half the songs have melodic vocals, and the other are, well, disappointing."

(Aged 42) "Some great highs a and low lows - Darkest Dreaming and Praise among two of my favourite Sylvian pieces and Praise doesn't even have him singing on it! All of My Mother's Names sounds like it's been chucked together."

Approaching Silence

(Aged 32) "Nothing for Six years then two come along at once! However, this is just a filler album. Might listen to it once."

(Aged 42) "Don't know if I even listened all the way through once!"


(Aged 36) "This is difficult to listen to. Lots of crackles and beeps and more angry harsh lyrics. Not sure about this."

(Aged 42) "I have come to regard this album as one of Sylvian's finest. It shows a desire to push the limits of his creativity.It's challenging, damn right it is, some of the music is atonal and difficult, but behind it all are those songs, heartfelt and personal, that betray his frustration and despair at the time."

The Good Son Vs the Only Daughter

(Aged 38) "Some fine remixes but not a patch on the original"
(Aged 42) "Agreed"

Snow Borne Sorrow

(Aged 38) "This sounds quite pleasant. I might get into this."
(Aged 42) "My least favourite Sylvian album. The vocals all sound similar. I'm not a fan of Friedman's contributions.It reminds me of coffee table music - have it lying around with a copy of Cosmo or whatever the bright young things are reading these days for show, but don't play it for goodness sake!"

When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima

(Aged 40) "This is a bit like Ember Glance - probably works well in the exhibition but not really one for regular listening."
(Aged 42) "Agreed"

So what's the point of all this? To show that Sylvian often does what we don't expect and it can take us a wee while to work out whether or not we like it, but often it grows on us and takes us over.

Which brings me to Manafon. I've only listened (and watched) the video for Small Metal Gods but I'm excited. I can understand people wanting a return to the days of Sylvian's "proper songs", I was probably in that camp myself in the past. But Blemish and Manafon promise to have much more longevity than traditional pop records. Blemish is rich and deep and Manafon promises more.


  • lourivara

    Very interesting reviews.

    4 Sep 2009, 12:03
  • momosupermo

    Many thanks!

    4 Sep 2009, 23:35
  • Warsie

    This is the most strange and original review I've seen in my life XD It's great! But it's true, people used to critic new material of their favourite artist because they like old stuff and they expect something similar. Sylvian is unpredictable, his albums are different and interesting... I hope Manafon will be different too!!. I only listen Small Metal Gods and it sounds like Blemish songs (and Blemish to me is my least favourite album) XD *Greetings* :D

    5 Sep 2009, 23:50
  • catachresistant

    Great journal, fantastic idea. I have no doubt that Manafon is going to be something very special.

    9 Sep 2009, 17:56
  • momosupermo

    Ooh - my copy of Manafon has been... ulp... "shipped":)

    11 Sep 2009, 0:01
  • Babs_05

    What a great journal! Agree with catachresistant, fantastic idea. I haven't kept up with all of David Sylvian's releases, I've missed a few, but in the main, I pretty much agree with you. Brilliant Trees and Gone To Earth are my favourites and I've found the rest a bit hard to like, even if I appreciate the artistry.

    12 Sep 2009, 20:19
  • momosupermo

    Babs, u have a lovely shoe:)

    12 Sep 2009, 20:27
  • komododragon01

    I see Mr Sylvian has now fully morphed into the sinister Count Olaf,at 51 its about time you stopped the preening & posing, you need to practice what you preach, & ditch the conceited plink plink fizz of your self indulgent doleful film score style music and move to the next stage, & write something with real meaning & point.(Orpheus was the last one)The only people who buy your albums now are the desperate old japan fans who are still obsessed with your visage ,the ones who wet themselves at your concerts when you deem it fit to throw them a bone by playing one of your old japan records.Whilst i admire you as an artist its about time you snapped out of these neverending inward looking angst & solitude horse shit .You can surround yourself with accomplished & regarded musicians but you are only kidding yourself if you think you are celebrated by your intellectual peers turning out this shite.I feel i have to say this to you as i believe if someone else had said this to you 20 years ago you could now be a modern poet.Theres still time though, just let your hair down,ditch the uber cool/cold & embrace the banal/frivolous for a change, try it you may just like it and more to the point so may we.

    16 Sep 2009, 8:03
  • sveeterz

    Jesus Fuck Shit. For decades I almost loved David Sylvian but he always came up a bit short for me in the most frustrating way imaginable. Then came Blemish which made me cum in my shorts. The perfect combination of singer songwriter and outside music. Blemish remains one of my all time favorite recordings after thousands of listens. Today Sylvian offered me Manafon. It is getting even more polarized reviews than Blemish. Good God how many reviewers fucking despise it. It makes me weep with joy. I am so glad Sylvian was led into this realm. There's nothing like it for me. Samuel Beckett meets the Beatles meets Anthony Braxton. Everything I love about the arts in one sublime package.

    17 Sep 2009, 3:27
  • DominoDub

    A nice bit of work !

    28 Sep 2009, 19:07
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