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Manafon

3.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 15, 2009
$28.55 $2.46

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Editorial Reviews

2009 album from the acclaimed British vocalist and former member of Japan. David Sylvian is a man apart. In a thirty-year career that spans the New Romantic movement, ambient works and Progressive Rock, and mature and esoteric Pop, Sylvian has tested popular styles and bent them to his own vision. On Manafon, Sylvian pursues "a completely modern kind of chamber music. Intimate, dynamic, emotive, democratic, economical." In sessions in London, Vienna, and Tokyo, Sylvian assembled the world's leading improvisers and innovators, artists who explore free improvisation, space-specific performance, and live electronics. From Evan Parker and Keith Rowe, to Fennesz and members of Polwechsel, to Sachiko M and Otomo Yoshihide, the musicians provide both a backdrop and a counterweight to his own vocal performances.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Small Metal Gods
  2. The Rabbit Skinner
  3. Random Acts Of Senseless Violence
  4. The Greatest Living Englishman
  5. 125 Spheres
  6. Snow White In Appalachia
  7. Emily Dickinson
  8. The Department Of Dead Letters
  9. Manafon


Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 15, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: SAMADHI SOUND UK
  • ASIN: B002GJ3OAG
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,259 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Cartwright on September 17, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I'm sure there will be more opinions in the negative with David Sylvian's new album " Manfon ". This is definitely not for every Sylvian fan . If you want David's melancholic lilting ballads, you've got " Secrets of the Beehive " or " Gone To Earth ". If you want glam, you've got Japan's " Obscure Alternative " and " Adolescent Sex ". If you want perfectly manicure pop, you've got " Tin Drum " and " Gentlemen take Polaroids ". But if you want an artist such as David Sylvian to mature and find new ways to keep themselves true....you've got " Blemish " and now " Manafon ". If I may make a comparison to Miles Davis, a man who searched and strove towards forging new ways of expression, new ways of rebellion, and at times wrestled with his artistic and personal demons. He continually struggled with himself and the public to make new music almost everytime. This artist NEVER stood still, and I'm sure lost and found listeners along the way. And in this day and age where music is manufactured in little plastic cases, all looking and sounding the same, safe as houses....with pop singers too afraid to say how they really feel ( or if they have anything to say at all ). Well I'm happy knowing that David Sylvian is in charge of his own creativity and is not afraid to show what he is feeling and communicating at this given time. At no point did I find this album a " smooth ride down the Nile on a hot summer's day ". Rather I was shocked in the same way it's sister album " Blemish " did a few years back. But with repeated listenings, I found a way to understand and appreciate the work. Music can either be a part of your furniture ( no real listening required ) or it can grab you attention forcing you to listen to it in different way. Manafon does this. So if you are up for charting unfamiliar waters, this album is for you. If not 1978's " Sometime's I feel so Low " beckons you !
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Format: Audio CD
I have just listened to Manafon the 5.1 version for the 4th time today and find the whole thing mesmerizing....incredibly poetic....its quite brutally beautiful.This sort of Artistic expression brings up the subject of Artist producing his/her vision without any regard for audience expectations.....its up to the listener to keep up or adapt...not for the Artist to produce what the audience expects etc.....most definitely challenging but highly compelling
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How long has it been since "The Secrets of Beehive"? Twenty years? It seems David Sylvian's wheel of time is once again positioned in a very similar way than what was evident on that album. Two things. Like on that record, poet's experience and creativity is again the main issue. Another land mark from that same era. Few years later in "Ember Glance" exhibition book Sylvian refers to art as way to help heal the emptiness and neurosis of contemporary existence. In my opinion the same is achieved in this latest record, but in a very subtle way.

But maybe I am assuming too much here? After all Sylvian himself only says that the record is the twin sister of "Blemish" and that they both are contemporary takings on the genre of chamber music.

But there are also differences. Blemish is more of a duo, a duo of Sylvian's voice having a dialog with either Bailey's guitar or with the sparse electronic background. Here the size of the group is bigger, from three participants to combinations of 8 players.

But there is also another difference. As revolutionary as the discovery of Blemish was, there was also problems of loss of intensity within that record, especially at the second half of it. For me the record seems to lose its grip with the listener in "Late Night Shopping" and "How Little We Need to be Happy". In my opinion this is due to the fact there is actually two (wretched?) storylines in that record. One is the dialogue between Sylvian's wry storytelling and Bailey's guitar and the other is the discourse between him and the electronics. The two storylines do not come together and that leads to this loss of intensity at the second part of Blemish.

Nothing like this happens in "Manafon". It is masterfully played and masterfully constructed.
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There is no doubt that David Sylvian is one of the most creative musicians since the late nineties. His new album, "Manafon" bears out his rich imagination and daring pursuit of original experimentation. This time though his effort has not worked as expected. In spite of the huge talent of the musicians accompanying him, one does not get to feel that they do their best to deliver a good performance, and it seems that "improvising" turns out to be a license to make nonsense noise. No matter the content of Sylvian's lyrics, it does not seem that they cohere with the sounds created for the occasion. Hence my three stars, an expression of my mild dissapointment, something very unusual on my part when I engage Sylvian's works.
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Format: Audio CD
It's well established that human beings are pattern-loving creatures, even able to convince themselves that they find patterns in instances where patterns emphatically do not occur (constellations, easy; this music, no need). As many of the negative reviews here attest, the utter absence of traditional musical patterns can prove quite disorienting -- even disconcerting -- for many, especially when the listener's purpose is simply reduced to one of fulfilling his or her pre-existing, subjectively preferential expectations. And, given how predictable and familiar most music already is, driven as it is into formulaic, narrow stylistic genres with the sole purpose of guaranteeing the commercial acceptance of artificially described and descried niche audiences, the time to move on surely arrived a while ago. After all, there are now some countless millions of readily recognizable songs and recordings available, meaning that Sylvian poses absolutely no threat to conventional music-making. Though he does offer much more promise.

With "Manafon", Sylvian takes many more steps into the directions set by immersions in sound and improvisation mapped out by "Blemish" and "Naoshima". His recent collaboration on "Cartography " by Arve Henriksen includes a few pieces that revealed some of these techniques within more conventional musical settings. But "Manafon" goes on to more radical ends, with a heritage that must acknowledge the highly staged "Orpheus, The Lowdown" by Peter Blegvad and Andy Partridge and the remarkable body of work assembled by Bryan Day and his "Shelf Life", "Eloine" and other improvising units.
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