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DAVID SYLVIAN

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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David Sylvian biography
David Alan Batt - Born 23 February 1958 (Beckenham, England)

It is difficult to describe David SYLVIAN's music. It is ambient, dark, although not heavy with sombre vocal and very experimental playing. David SYLVIAN was born as David Batt in Kent, England on February 23, 1958. In 1974 he formed Japan, initially a glam rock band, which eventually evolved into a stylish synth-pop group. After a quite successful career, Japan was dissolved in 1982. SYLVIAN's first solo album "Brilliant Trees" was released in 1984 featuring besides others Richard Barbieri (ex-Japan) and Holger Czukay (ex-CAN). "Brilliant Trees" is a very atmospheric record, mixing funk, jazz, and ambient in beautiful although eclectic music.

David SYLVIAN's next solo album was "Gone to Earth" with Robert Fripp, Mel Collins and SYLVIAN's ex-Japan colleagues Barbieri and Steve Janson. Although brilliant like his previous record, it was less accessible thus got less favourable response from critics. In 1987 SYLVIAN released his most successful and critically acclaimed album "Secrets of the Beehive". A fine and gentle record made with the help of Ryuichi Sakamoto with beautiful songs and elegant arrangements.

After three solo records, David SYLVIAN undertook a number of collaborations with other musicians. In 1988-89 he released two albums with Holger Czukay. In 1993 saw "The First Day", one of the greatest prog records with Robert Fripp, which was followed by a live version "Damage", which also featured Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, would-be members of KING CRIMSON. The superb "Dead Bees on a Cake" followed in 1999; "Approaching Silence", a collection of instrumental material, appeared later that fall. In fall 2000 SYLVIAN returned with the double-disc "Everything & Nothing", which made for an excellent introduction to some of SYLVIAN's projects.

In 2003 David SYLVIAN released "Blemish", a minimalist records, where he plays with Derek Bailey and Christian Fennesz.

DISCOGRAPHY:

1984 Brilliant Trees - 2003 Brilliant Trees (remastered)
1985 Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities
1986 Gone To Earth - 2003 Gone To Earth (remastered)
1987 Secrets Of The Beehive - 2003 Secrets Of The Beehive (remastered)
1988 Plight and Premonition (with Holger Czukay)
1989 Flux + Mutability (with Holger Czukay)
1989 Weatherbox (5 disc box set, includes all previously released solo albums)
1991 Ember Glance - The Performance of Memory
1993 The First ...
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DAVID SYLVIAN Videos (YouTube and more)


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Secrets of the BeehiveSecrets of the Beehive
Caroline 2007
$3.52
$5.99 (used)
Victim of Stars 1982-2012Victim of Stars 1982-2012
Virgin 2012
$6.16
$5.45 (used)
Alchemy-Index of PossibilitiesAlchemy-Index of Possibilities
Remastered
Caroline 2007
$6.21
$6.96 (used)
Dead Bees On A Cake (Expanded Edition)Dead Bees On A Cake (Expanded Edition)
Virgin Int'L 2018
$25.92
$33.28 (used)
Approaching SilenceApproaching Silence
EMI Europe Generic 2000
$9.73
$1.99 (used)
Gone to EarthGone to Earth
Caroline 2007
$8.29
$7.09 (used)

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DAVID SYLVIAN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

DAVID SYLVIAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.75 | 103 ratings
Brilliant Trees
1984
3.24 | 48 ratings
Alchemy - An Index Of Possibilities
1985
3.75 | 106 ratings
Gone To Earth
1986
4.14 | 179 ratings
Secrets Of The Beehive
1987
3.82 | 39 ratings
David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Plight & Premonition
1988
3.20 | 34 ratings
David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Flux + Mutability
1989
3.79 | 102 ratings
David Sylvian & Robert Fripp: The First Day
1993
3.85 | 82 ratings
Dead Bees On A Cake
1999
2.62 | 29 ratings
Approaching Silence
1999
2.94 | 46 ratings
Blemish
2003
3.70 | 10 ratings
The Good Son vs The Only Daughter (The Blemish Remixes)
2005
4.00 | 48 ratings
Nine Horses: Snow Borne Sorrow
2005
3.94 | 28 ratings
Nine Horses: Money For All
2007
3.91 | 11 ratings
When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima
2007
3.65 | 35 ratings
Manafon
2009
2.43 | 16 ratings
Died In The Wool (Manafon Variations)
2011
4.74 | 12 ratings
David Sylvian, Jan Bang, Erik Honoré, Sidsel Endresen & Arve Henriksen: Uncommon Deities
2012
3.50 | 9 ratings
There's A Light That Enters Houses With No Other House In Sight
2014

DAVID SYLVIAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.14 | 69 ratings
Damage - Live (with Robert Fripp)
1993

DAVID SYLVIAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

DAVID SYLVIAN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.78 | 9 ratings
Weatherbox
1989
4.31 | 36 ratings
Everything And Nothing
2000
3.27 | 7 ratings
Camphor
2002
4.64 | 5 ratings
Monster - Original Soundtrack
2004
3.87 | 19 ratings
Sleepwalkers
2010
4.00 | 1 ratings
A Victim Of Stars 1982 - 2012
2012

DAVID SYLVIAN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
The Ink In The Well
1984
4.00 | 1 ratings
Red Guitar
1984
5.00 | 1 ratings
Pulling Punches
1984
4.25 | 4 ratings
Words With The Shaman
1985
4.00 | 2 ratings
Silver Moon
1986
5.00 | 1 ratings
A Little Girl Dreams Of Taking The Veil
1986
4.00 | 1 ratings
Let The Happiness In
1987
3.00 | 1 ratings
Orpheus
1988
5.00 | 1 ratings
Pop Song
1989
3.47 | 15 ratings
Darshan
1993
4.13 | 8 ratings
David Sylvian & Robert Fripp - Jean The Birdman
1993
4.00 | 1 ratings
I Surrender
1999
3.00 | 2 ratings
Godman
1999
4.00 | 1 ratings
Wonderful World
2006
4.00 | 1 ratings
Do You Know Me Now?
2013

DAVID SYLVIAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Flux + Mutability by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.20 | 34 ratings

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David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Flux + Mutability
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

3 stars The seecond collaboration between Sylvian and the Krautrocker Holger Czukay confirms the format of Plight and Premonitions: a vynil with one track per side. Of course the side A is "Flux" and side B is "Mutability". There are also a couple of guests more respect to the previous album. Flux is an ambient track which, despite some dissonant sounds in the background, has a strong newage flavor. In particular the flugelhorn played by Marcus Stockhausen reminds to the trumpet of Mark ISHAM in his excellent "Tibet". David's guitar is very in background and the track is built around a lazy percussion. Background voices, speeches and what seem mantras, the African flute played by Jaki LIEBEZEIT (from CAN as Czukay) add an oriental touch to the suite. I think I can name it as "meditative music". Liebezeit is also the only guest appearing on side B.

Mutability is missing the percussive element so it's even more relaxing and meditative. Guitar softly sliding over a keyboards carpet. This track can be compared to some of the works of ALIO DIE. Apparently it goes nowhere and sounds like a fluid exercize about harmonies. A good soundtrack for uncommented images. I would use it to comment coloured landscapes, gardens, waterfalls, nature in general. Maybe somebody has done it already, who knows?

Take it if you are in a meditation mood.

 David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Flux + Mutability by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.20 | 34 ratings

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David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Flux + Mutability
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The more accessible half of Holger Czukay's two ambient collaborations with David Sylvian followed closely in the footprints of its sibling album "Plight & Premonition", released one year earlier. Both recordings created a delicate, dreamlike aura bathed in lush yet understated atmospherics. But the additional support here by Czukay's bandmates from CAN turned this session into an unofficial Inner Space reunion (the finished album hit the market exactly one month before the final Can LP "Rite Time").

Like its predecessor the new album was more of a sustained mood piece than a true compositional effort, with every instrument and effect layered carefully and creatively into a fragile web of musical clairvoyance. Sylvian's primary contribution had to be the drifting heat-haze synth bed. Czukay provided the distinctive pinpoint guitar accents and his patented sampling cues: stray Middle Eastern radio signals; a snippet of Latin high mass, and so forth.

All beautiful stuff, well beyond the Peak of Normal. And the overall effect is more spellbinding than the similar abstract doodles of Sylvian's many other off-trail solo soundscapes. But because the music was more obviously grounded here than on the mirror-image "Plight" album, it lacked the same air of timeless mystery. My own assessment was in fact completely turned around after revisiting the music two decades later. This one had more of an immediate impact than its older brother, but in the long run didn't have the same legs.

Author and professor David Toop said it best, in his liner notes for the recent (and recommended) double-disc compilation of both albums in one package: the later album is "perhaps more satisfying for those who like to have a road to follow."

 David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Plight & Premonition by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.82 | 39 ratings

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David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Plight & Premonition
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

4 stars I'm reviewing an album 30 years after having bought it. At the end of the 80s I didn't like Japan so I don't remember how I actually went to buy an album by David Sylvian. I also knew CAN only by name, so it wasn't for Czukay for sure. I suppose that what raised my curiosity was the album having one track per side. In the same period I was into KLAUS SCHULZE's Dune, so this might have been a reason.

The album was quite a surprise. I remember to have forced myself in listening it in one shot. Japan were a new.wave electronic band, so I was expecting at least some electronic drums. Nothing at all. "Plight" is a keyboard driven soundscape with some flute-like sounds and progressions of notes that remind me to Claude DEBUSSY. It's dreamy. Listening to it I'm still able to create mental images of ice, white woods, but also elven, fairies and magical beings. This is surely influenced by the track subtitle: "spiralling of winter ghosts". With a bit of imagination it could bring the listener into space, or in the deep of the ocean.

Fans of the pink period of TANGERINE DREAM know what I mean. Some passages are darker, other are just relaxing. Some sounds have a far east flavor. This is the matter dreams are made of. An "astronaut like" voice closes the track, but I'm unable to understand the language he speaks.

"Premonition" is opened by another voice. Female and likely speaking in German. With the Vyil one doesn't realize how much the two tracks are interconnected. Effectively it could be just one single electronic suite. Probably it was conceived in this way, This track is lighter. The far east flavor is enhanced by the subtle dissonances of the untuned (synthetic) piano which adds variations to a base mainly made of major chords.

I remember walking in an airport in a morning, just after an intercontinental flight, stoned by the jet lag. Tired but relaxed with the announcements coming from the speakers like I was still sleeping. This track brings that sensations back to my mind. I hope it can give the idea. Some tracks by VANGELIS have a similar mood.

Calling it electronic ambient music is not wrong but it's reductive. I have the impression that all the dissonances, the balance between the various keyboards and electronic effects doesn't sound improvised. There must have been a lot of work at least in the engineering and mixing phases.

An excellent addition (if you like ambient music)

 David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Plight & Premonition by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.82 | 39 ratings

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David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Plight & Premonition
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The first of two matching albums made by poet-composer David Sylvian and Krautrock wild-card Holger Czukay was an exercise in attentive listening, for the musicians in the recording studio and - even more so - for unwary record buyers (like me in 1988) who might have been expecting something else entirely.

Where were the comic-relief French horns? The clever cut-and-paste radio-wave surfing? Instead of another "Cool in the Pool" hodgepodge of sampled pop flotsam, we got an album of music adrift in the aether: a pair of Eno-inspired ambient dream studies, dense with random atmospheric effects but at the same time lighter and more evanescent than early-morning dew at sunrise.

At first exposure it may not resemble anything more than a soundtrack to the best night of sleep you ever had. But each of the two long tracks was meticulously crafted and full of incident, albeit presented with subtle, almost intuitive care. Melodies and rhythms exist, but were slowed down and stretched out to a point almost beyond the threshold of perception.

In retrospect the album plays better as an unbroken composition, with the tentative "Plight" (mostly assembled by Czukay in his home studio laboratory) blossoming into the even more lovely "Premonition", the latter actually recorded live without overdubs. Heard together, the two halves complete a single piece of music sounding as natural and sustaining (and as easy to ignore) as the pulse of blood moving through your heart at this exact moment.

The passage of time has only improved the experience, and added some necessary perspective. Consider this: when the album was released in 1988 (two full years after it was recorded, thanks to record company cold feet), the music charts were topped by Bon Jovi, George Michael, Van Halen, and the score to the movie "Dirty Dancing". Measured against those platinum yardsticks, the Sylvian-Czukay collaborations have to be considered minor miracles of restraint and integrity.

 Secrets Of The Beehive by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.14 | 179 ratings

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Secrets Of The Beehive
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

4 stars The jazzy piano and the very warm voice of David Sylvian open the album. "September" sounds like a night club in NewYork (or the idea that I have of that, never been there). It's few more than 1 minute but it's enough to understand that this is a very good album.

"The Boy With The Gun" persists in the same atmosphere. The jazzy impressions come from the contrabass. The period is clearly identifiable: a song from the 80s with some connections with the more artsy side of bands of that period, JAPAN included.

"Maria" is sung with baritonal voice. It's quite dark and it reminds me to Richard Wright's ZEE. Sad and atmospheric. Personally I like it a lot.

Time for major chords: "Orpheus" is made of an incredibly good sequence of non-trivial passages. The pause of silence before the instrumental section makes you wishing more, and it arrives immediately after. There's some genius in this song. It ends with 3 quick chords totally unexpected.

"The Devil's Own" proceeds with 3 minutes of mainly piano and voice. Tere's no longer a night club. This is something different, but the Howe-like guitar starts the following track. In the 80s I've paid some attention to Suzanne VEGA. Call me mad, but I think that not only this song has similarities with some of her more intimate songs, even if I don't think she has never added an instrumental part of spanish guitar in songs of this kind like the excellent "When Poets Dream Of Angels".

Contrabass, piano and jazzy atmospheres are back with "Mother and Child". One of the best album's tracks. "Let The Happines In" starts with brass and the contribution of Mark ISHAM's trumpet is huge. This is even better than the previous one. Mainly based on two chords it could remind to David BOWIE.

"Waterfront" remains on the same soundscape as before. On this track, the similarities with ZEE are evident. Of course I don't think Sylvia has taken inspiration from that album, even if I consider it underrated. This is an album from the late 80s and what Wright did in 1984 was just a shy attempt to renew his offering.

The first release of the album end here. But my Japanese reissue has the two bonus tracks below:

"Forbidden Colours" is very famous. The theme was used as movie soundtrack and was actually a big hit. Very few to say about this song: It's impossible that anybody hasn't listened to it before. Thanks to Ryuichi SAKAMOTO.

It's time to close the album. The last about three minutes are entertained by "Promise". Classical guitar and warm voice. Also this song could feature on a movie soundtrack (if it effectively hasn't, I don't know). A bit too "sweet" compared to the rest of the album, so the organ at the end brings some sadness back.

Listen to it by night, on a sofa, with a drink.

 David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Flux + Mutability by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.20 | 34 ratings

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David Sylvian & Holger Czukay: Flux + Mutability
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars My conscience won't let me give this 4 stars despite enjoying a lot of this. We get two side long suites with David Sylvian adding guitar and keys(no vocals!) and Holger Czukay adding guitar, bass, electronics and vocals. Fellow CAN members Liebezeit(percussion, flute) and Koroli(guitar) help on track one. We also get flugelhorn on track one and samples. The thing is we get a lot of ebb and flow throughout both tracks that I like but man it's so samey, especially track two where there is virtually no change in the sound for 21 minutes. I just found myself getting annoyed long before it ends.

"Flux: A Big, Bright, Colourful World" opens with electronics and samples before percussion and manipulated vocals arrive along with spacey guitar. The vocals come and go along with some picked guitar. A pretty good sound here, kind of drifting with the spacey guitar, electronics and percussion. Some flugelhorn after 4 minutes. The flugelhorn is back after 6 minutes. Koroli before 6 1/2 minutes as his "sound" is unmistakable. He will come and go too. Some various vocal samples after 9 minutes. Flute at 10 1/2 minutes then more vocals and Koroli before 12 minutes. At 15 minutes it sort of dies but not quite as the spacey sounds start again but slower this time.

"Mutability: A New Beginning Is In The Offing" has these melancholic spacey guitar sounds along with an electronic atmosphere that pulses slowly and I'm sure there's more. It is an otherworldly sound but it continues for the whole 21 minutes.

Glad I finally got to spend some time with it and it comes across as an Electronic album more than anything else. Not a fan of the cover art either and 3 stars is all I got.

 There's A Light That Enters Houses With No Other House In Sight by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.50 | 9 ratings

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There's A Light That Enters Houses With No Other House In Sight
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by Lewian

4 stars The first thing you should ask yourself if you want to know whether you'll like this album is whether you like the cover. As the cover, the music on the album is dark and mysterious with contours somewhat difficult to make out. The clearest contours come from the voice of the poet Fritz Wright, who recites some of his poetry here, which inspired this album. He has a quite expressive, calm and deep poet's voice, just right for his lyrical mood pictures. David Sylvian writes, on his website: " Franz, it has to be said, was gravely ill and stoically riding a considerable wave of heavy medication." The voice indeed sounds a bit as if he is fighting his way through the poems, which even adds weight, I'd say. Luckily we can read "Franz Wright has defied expectations and all prior prognoses and has returned from the precipice that is terminal cancer to a precarious, but passionately lived and thoroughly exploited, state of grace."

The music is a single long piece, it could be classified as somewhat minimalist experimental avantgarde music, dark, but with a very emotional , breathing character. It features a well balanced mix of freedom and recurring structures, mainly from the omnipresent pianos, never done in a formalist and rigid way. One could even call it "swinging", if this wouldn't create totally different associations. While something is always is motion, the motions are subtle, like a very gentle wind breezing through the scenery. The atmosphere doesn't change a lot through the about 64 minutes but there is enough variation to keep the attention up. Sounds are very important; the piano and guitar sound very natural and the many samples and electronics add to the "dark forest" mood; nothing of this sounds cold, intellectual and artificial.

This really belongs to the realm of contemporary art music but there it stands out for being emotional, lively and not academic. I think that this works perfectly as what it sets out to be. It is an extremely fascinating composition, but it needs listeners who are open to this kind of free atmospheric musical landscape. Don't look for songs, melodies or clear rhythms.

It is long ago now that David Sylvian started to leave conventional pop and rock music (be it progressive) and set out for less inhabited, stranger spheres. "There's a light that enters houses..." is a very mature work and very rewarding. It is a clear 5 stars for me personally and I'd call it a masterpiece indeed, but it's not "progressive rock" by any means, so the 4 stars description fits it better.

 Blemish by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2003
2.94 | 46 ratings

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Blemish
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by Dobermensch
Prog Reviewer

2 stars This is possibly the dreariest and least listenable of all Sylvian's releases. I don't care what any music snob says, I much prefer the last three 'Japan' albums to any solo release by David Sylvian.

I''m still a big fan of his first four solo albums, but from 'Dead Bees on a Cake' onwards he sounds like a spoiled child, crying and whining at the theft of a bag of jelly-babies that a bigger boy stole from him after stamping on his feet in a school playground.

The bloke may just have had a marriage split and is attempting to exorcise a few demons, but that's not something I want to listen to as entertainment.

There's a lot of strange glitchy and digital electronic effects on 'Blemish' and that's not necessarily a good thing. They're random and tuneless. I don't know what on earth has happened to David Sylvian during the last ten years or so. A once brilliant singer songwriter has plumbed the depths of misery and despair that no reasonable listener can tolerate or have any time for. Certainly not me, that's for sure.

'Blemish' sounds half-hearted and disinterested within itself displaying no discernible direction or raison d'etre. Derek Bailey's fractured stabs of atonal guitar do nothing to increase my interest. I've never heard an album where the lead singer sounds so dissociated and separate from proceedings.

An added star just for the fact that there's a lot happening on a subsonic level if listened to whilst wearing a good set of headphones. At the end of the day, it's instantly forgettable, poorly structured and is a mile removed from his monumental scores for 'Brilliant Trees' and 'Gone to Earth'.

You'll be hard pushed to hear such continual moaning and grumping anywhere in the Prog Archives. And you thought Leonard Cohen was a miserable git? What a dirge.

 Secrets Of The Beehive by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.14 | 179 ratings

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Secrets Of The Beehive
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars David Sylvian's style of ambient pop takes the laid-back, almost sedated tone of the slower sections of Japan's Tin Drum and strips out the orientalism (and, indeed, anything reminiscent of human cultures whatsoever) to craft something wholly unique. It is not an accessible album and at first seems cold and unappealing, and will require several listens to reveal the warmth hidden within. Many will find this worthwhile, especially if you after something calming and soft to play in the background; those who know David Sylvian as a New Romantic frontman may find themselves bored with this artier and more serious incarnation, however.
 Died In The Wool (Manafon Variations) by SYLVIAN, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.43 | 16 ratings

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Died In The Wool (Manafon Variations)
David Sylvian Crossover Prog

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Tiresome, inches away from boring.

The consequence of self-indulgence. David Sylvian's, self-aquired musical language does not save these "Manafon Variations" or the crumbs of that previous album, of being irrelevant. Even his best "discoveries" work against the music. The usually inviting and mysterious songwriting, is reduced to "raw" emotionless experimentations, that should never have been brought outside his private personal collection.

No attractive melodies, forget whole songs. His usual, charged with emotions, introspective "atmospheres" , sound as empty as repetitive. And the "melancholic" lyrical world it presents, is more exclusive than inclusive, therefore uninteresting for third parties. Go backwards and listen to the original "Manafon", that one is worth the ticket. This one not.

For "die hard fans" only.

Disappointing **2 PA stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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