CD Manafon [Digipak] (CD 4680999),
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Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 16
Christoph Amann; Neil Tucker; Toshiaki Kasai; David Sylvian; Sebastian Lexer
Personnel: David Sylvian (vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards, electronics); Christian Fennesz, Burkhard Stangl (guitar); Tetuzi Akiyama (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Otomo Yoshihide (acoustic guitar, turntables); Michael Moser, Marcio Mattos (cello); Evan Parker (saxophone); Franz Hautzinger (trumpet); John Tilbury (piano); Werner Dafeldecker (acoustic bass).
Audio Mixer: David Sylvian.
Recording information: London, England (2004-2007); Samadhisound 2008 (2004-2007); Tokyo, Japan (2004-2007); Vienna, Austria (2004-2007).
Editor: David Sylvian.
If there is a single theme that runs through David Sylvian's MANAFON, it's simply: "No hope...no doubt." Like 2003's BLEMISH, it's a rather difficult record, and its emotional and spiritual cousin. It's dark, fraught with emotional and musical difficulty, nonlinear sounds and improvised music, and lyric themes that express a tension between hopelessness and the love of everyday life. Much of the writing reflects Sylvian's own struggles, though they are often (but not always) relegated to the third person. The studio musicians have either worked with Sylvian before or with one another: they include saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist John Tilbury, guitarists Christian Fennesz and Keith Rowe, members of Polwechsel, and turntablist/guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, among others. There are no drums. It must also be said that the presence of the late Derek Bailey (who worked on BLEMISH) is felt deeply on this recording, which was created on three continents. Despite these vanguard players, MANAFON is not an avant jazz or "new music" record. It blurs all categories beautifully, and while it makes listeners work a bit, its payoff is a dark and luxuriant dream that cascades, floats, hovers, and changes both shape and shade often, and does so seamlessly. Sylvian's voice is front and center; it is so prominent that despite all of the instrumentation, in whatever musical conflagration chosen for a particular track, the voice is almost on its own. His phrases and lyrics were either improvised to fit the live sessions or were written in response to them. There are numerous electronic effects, but they never intrude on Sylvian's voice, which is simultaneously emotionally engaged in the process and yet detached from the actual emotions expressed in the songs themselves--even when they are confessional in nature. MANAFON is a quiet yet forceful stunner, a recording that, if heard, is literally unforgettable.
Record Collector (magazine) (p.109) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Working with the leading lights of improvisational music, here he creates an unsettling, esoteric soundscape."
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