|· Still not the album weve all been waiting for, but close.
David Sylvian doesnt disappoint his fans he goes out of his way to antagonize them. But at last his schemes have backfired and, quite by accident, he has produced his most consistent and listenable album in over 15 years.
It probably looked good on paper: take a few days off work on your next "proper" album to sketch out some tracks in your home studio, three of them collaborations with the notoriously abstract free improv guitarist Derek Bailey. With desultory lyrics more spoken than sung and tuneless backing music closer to Oval than Eno, the result should have been Sylvians trademark mix of the intriguing and the profoundly irritating First Day repeated for the blip-and-glitch generation.
So what went wrong? Well, his first mistake was to hurry. Like many aging pop geniuses (Kate Bush and Paddy McAlloon spring to mind), Sylvian seems to have great difficulty in leaving a good idea alone given another year, hell rearrange it five times, and invite all his friends and neighbours in to bury it in post-production over-dubs. On Blemish, we get just the bare bones.
This leads to mistake Number 2: putting his voice front and centre on every track. Even Sylvians most severe critics do not question that he is one of the most remarkable vocalists of his generation, not just for the haunting timbre of his voice but also for his intuition for the most minute inflections, a quality that has rarely been seen since the golden age of jazz and soul. He also has an uncommon gift for melody and thoughtful lyrics. Because of this, he generally prefers to record ambient instrumentals.
No one can accuse Sylvian of making a serious effort at songwriting on Blemish, by far the least composed of his many pop albums the lyrics are almost random jottings, apparently chosen for their lack of inherent musicality. Yet the result never fails to astonish, as in his diffidently yearning ode to late-night shopping ("Tell me what we need, write a list or something").
For all its minimalism, this is not lo-fi. Had it not been for Sylvians track record, I could almost believe that he had spent a few years listening to the most starkly crepuscular of ECM jazz recordings (Anders Jormins Xieyi, Maya Homburgers Ceremony) and painstakingly penned a response to them in his own idiom there is such a respect here for silence, and empathy with the smallest, most brittle sounds.