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Manafon: an impression

September 14, 2009

The thing about adopting a name for yourself, as an artist, is that you might spend your entire career attempting to make an art that looks or sounds or feels like that chosen name. I’m listening to David Sylvian’s Manafon for the first time, and I think I can confirm that this is exactly the kind of song that someone called David Sylvian should be singing. It’ll take me further listening to explain exactly why, but I think it’s something to do with the fact that Manafon is all one creeping song, its purposes all hidden, its confessions shifty; Sylvian has never sounded quite so sylvanian, so much like the kind of forest that might grow in the future if all our media and information and small disturbances were left to plant themselves in a waste land and sneak up, centuries later, when no-one is left to scrutinise or subjectivise. There’s a cruel objectivity here, the kind of objectivity found mostly in nature and in the news media, but rarely in art. As I’m typing, Sylvian is singing “his aspirations visited him nightly, and amounted to so little”, in that voice of his that comes to mean more, the more detached the intonation.
sylvian
And needless to say, in the unlikely event that I look as good as David Sylvian when I’ve over fifty, I’ll be rather pleased with myself.

(Particular thanks to my favourite radio programme for allowing me to hear this by playing the record in its entirety!)

(Later edit: I swear that when I wrote this I had no idea that the cover of Manafon looks like this:
manafon — which is probably about as sylvanian as Sylvian could have managed!)

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