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David Sylvian - Blemish CD (album) cover


David Sylvian


Crossover Prog

2.94 | 49 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars The modest, collector's-only rating for this 2003 album marks it as an acquired taste, even for fans (like me) of Sylvian's esoteric brand of ambient pop. The singer/songwriter has never been a stranger to minimalism, but unlike the atmospheric instrumental soundscapes of earlier albums he adapts a more radical, home-grown approach to the eight improvised songs here, each one perfectly illustrated by the pastel simplicity of the Zen-like cover art.

And despite the contributions of two guest guitarists it's truly a solo endeavor: produced, composed, performed, engineered, and mixed by Sylvian himself, from the sound of it very late at night, and without wanting to wake the neighbors. There's no percussion anywhere within earshot, although an occasional semblance of rhythm can be heard in the quietly reverberating guitars, and in the background radiation of electronic pops and pulses.

At times (for example during the long, unwinding title track) the music explores the same stark but haunting sonic terrain previously mapped by BRIAN ENO at his most abstract and meditative. But elsewhere ("The Good Son"; "How Little We Need to Be Happy") the music can be almost laughably inscrutable: the post-millennium equivalent of a beatnik poetry reading, with atonal, un-tuned plucked guitars and a freeform sense (to say the least) of melody and timing.

It's hard not to scratch your head in bewildered admiration of an album so far removed from traditional song forms. At one point (in "The Only Daughter") the fractured, overlapping vocal tapes even had me checking my stereo for a malfunction. And the lyrics of "Late Night Shopping" are weird enough (in an early RESIDENTS sort of way) to qualify as comic relief.

In the end the album presents a beautifully realized musical statement, but one demanding more than a little patience to fully appreciate. I'll admit at first it sailed completely over my earthbound head. But with repeated exposure and a receptive pair of ears the most challenging music can sometimes leave the deepest impression.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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