David Sylvian: Blemish (Samadhi Sound)

Picture this: a cave where bumpy walls are lined with glazed marble; built-in single flashing strobe lights and black lights flicker with each beat.

The majority of Sylvian’s fans are loyal ones to say the least. The former lead singer of Japan has encountered a few hits and misses over the years in making music and influencing bands like Duran Duran. It’s continually refreshing to see such artists still keeping their fans happy, although a great number of others lose interest just because airplay was next to nil.

Picture this: a cave where bumpy walls are lined with glazed marble; built-in single flashing strobe lights and black lights flicker with each beat. With each turn, while sustaining the same dark but polished atmosphere, the matter of the same bumpy walls changes from granite for a series of moments, then broken glass for more. Eventually, it ends up being a journey of different textures and characteristics with the same haunting implications. Sylvian’s Blemish is this minimalist shadow-laden journey. Rich in texture, it is a seismograph reading set to musical prose.

“The Heart Knows Better” is an avant-garde covered wagon ride of soft-spoken confrontation with the self in regard to the affection of another and the risk of loneliness as the viable option: “And every night is wedding night in my head,/my eyes are closed but I can see the sky stretched overhead,/the mattress on the floor, I see faces at my door.” It’s okay to be by yourself as long as you have a clear imagination of the consequences of a relationship without sounding jaded in favor of relaxed.

Sylvian seemingly raided his storage locker of various musical instruments, including the mandolin-like sound for the interlude “She Is Not” and the acoustic guitar for “How Little We Need to Be Happy.” “Happy” uses the distinctive technique of the playing of random guitar chords, which ends up sounding as if a toddler was hired to play it just before naptime. It probably doesn’t sound as flattering in this review, but Sylvian makes it work because it matches the torpid vocal arrangement which accompanies.

Blemish not only exhibits traditional instruments played in nontraditional ways, but also includes the well-placed usage of a sample of a rumbling shopping cart for the stand-out track, “Late Night Shopping.” This is the track to enjoy through headphones for the complete effect since Sylvian made the effort of providing the rhythm via simple handclapping. “Tell me what we need, write a list or something,/we don’t need to need a thing, late night shopping.” Sylvian still knows his way around a synthesizer as well, many will be happy to take note.

Blemish is available as an import or from Sylvian’s Web site at www.davidsylvian.com.

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