Archives for posts with tag: David Sylvian

Blemish, 2016– Blemish, 2016 –

The title for the above construct comes from the title track of David Sylvian’s 2003 album, Blemish.  You can hear it here.

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have a blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest.

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David Cook and I have a new blog called Zzzounds! on which we are reviewing each other’s record collections one disc at at time.

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Happy New Year!

Thanks for all the comments, likes and views – have a great 2017!

The Heart Knows Better, 2014– The Heart Knows Better, 2014 –


Late Night Shopping, 2014– Late Night Shopping, 2014 –


Damage, 2014

Damage, 2014
Acrylic paint, inkjet print, collage
© Richard Guest 2014


In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg erased a drawing by Willem de Kooning. He wanted to bring drawing into the “all whites” (he was making completely white paintings at the time). He had been making drawings himself and erasing them. But they just looked like erased Rauschenbergs. It just looked like nothing to him and he realised the drawing had to begin as “art”. For it to be an important piece, Rauschenberg decided it had to be a de Kooning (who was an incredibly important painter at that time). Rauschenberg bought a bottle of Jack Daniels and knocked on de Kooning’s door. He prayed that the other artist would not be at home and that the attempt would be the work. But de Kooning was at home. After a few awkward moments, Rauschenberg told de Kooning what he had in mind. de Kooning said he understood what Rauschenberg wanted to do, but that he was opposed to the idea. Rauschenberg hoped that de Kooning would refuse, and that the attempt to win de Kooning over would be the work. But then de Kooning said, “OK, but I want it to be something I’ll miss. I want to give you something really difficult to erase.” He gave Rauschenberg a drawing made with charcoal, oil paint, pencil, and crayon. Rauschenberg spent a month erasing the drawing.  When it was done, he asked Jasper Johns to write an inscription, which would form a label for the drawing. He wrote: Erased de Kooning Drawing, Robert Rauschenberg, 1953. The drawing was framed in a simple gilded frame. It is now in the collection of SF MoMA.


Every Colour You Are, 2014– Every Colour You Are, 2014 –


Damage, Every Colour You Are and Blinding Light of Heaven are all tracks from David Sylvian and Robert Fripp’s album, Damage (2001). You can listen to the title track here.


Blinding Light of Heaven, 2014– The Blinding Light of Heaven, 2014 –


Modern art to me is nothing more than the expression of contemporary aims of the age that we’re living in…The thing that interests me is that today painters do not have to go to a subject matter outside of themselves. They work from a different source. They work from within.

(from an untransmitted interview with Jackson Pollock for Sag Harbor radio station, 1950)

Everything and Nothing

Everything and Nothing, 2012

This was taken in Beckenham, UK.

Everything and Nothing  is a sort of greatest hits album by David Sylvian.

It was released in 2000 and collects together some of his greatest songs (post Japan), along with unreleased material. Sylvian’s career has had a trajectory comparable in some ways to Scott Walker’s – in recent years his work has been willfully difficult and stunningly beautiful. Everything and Nothing is pre-difficult and if you fancy dipping a toe in the water, I would recommend this as a place to start. The songs on here are sumptuous, artful and filled with longing.

Track-listing and album details can be found here.

My favourite track on the album is the first: The Scent of Magnolia.

In our house this CD can be found: dining room, top shelf, right-hand bookshelves.

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Thanks to John and Deanne and Terry for title shenanigans and Richard at CK Ponderings for being a super-cool collaborator. Our next collaboration will be posted tomorrow – watch this space.

Blemish (I), 2012

Blemish (II), 2012

Blemish (III), 2012

These were taken in Beckenham, UK.

Blemish  is David Sylvian’s sixth solo album. It was released in 2003.

It’s a pretty solo affair – the avant-garde improvisational guitarist, Derek Bailey (RIP) appears on a couple of tracks and Christian Fennesz does his fizzing,  popping, exploding thing on another, but it’s mainly David Sylvian (on his own in a very small cabin up a mountain – that’s how I see him). The album is sparse, electronic, spacious and employs Sylvian’s mournful croon and bruised lyrics to great effect.

David Sylvian’s career is often compared to Scott Walker’s and if you were to join in, this would be David’s Tilt (my favourite Scott album). But he’s not Scott Walker and Blemish is a wholly unique experience – harsh, brittle, bright and beautiful. As evidence, and thanks to the piratical machinations of the internet, I offer you the title track (but beware it’s over 13 minutes long). If that’s a bit too much, here’s Fire In The Forest (much shorter).

In our house, this CD can be found: dining room, right-hand bookshelves, second shelf down.

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Thank as always,  John and Deanne and Terry for title shenanigans and Richard at CK Ponderings for being a super-cool collaborator. Our latest is due this Sunday.

Untitled digital photograph, 2011

At first look, this gathering looked very violent and pagan. It turned out they were council workers on a charcola-making mission. They generously allowed me to take a few shots.

A Fire In The Forest is the eighth track on David Sylvian’s 2003 album, Blemish. You can read more about it here. It was his first great album of the new millenium, and Manafon was just around the next bend. Both strongly evocative of “the woods”.

Untitled digital photographs (2008)

Approaching Silence is the title of a David Sylvian album from 1999.

Manafon (2009) by David Sylvian

“Sculpture must always obstinately question the basic premises of the prevailing culture. This is the function of all art, which society is trying to suppress… “  – Joseph Beuys (quoted in Michael Archer’s Art Since The 60s, Thames & Hudson, 2002)

In 2009 David Sylvian reactivated his solo career. He was bearded, long-haired, and dangling a dead hare from one clenched fist (if you believe Manafons  inner sleeve portrait by Atsushi Fukui). Ruud Van Empel’s disquieting forest scenes, Study in Green no. 1,  5, 8 (2003) and Study in Green no. 16 (2004) strangely lit, and skewed of perspective were the cover art. Contemporary interviews made mention of Sylvian’s retreat to a hermitage in the woods. The whole package seemed to suggest that in the time since 2003’s Blemish David Sylvian had become pop’s own Unabomber.

To the casual Sylvian-watcher, the bomb was about to go off; what was hidden in the grooves of the record was not standard pop fare. From Manafon’s opening moments: what sounded like a tabletop being scraped with an upturned cup it was obvious the comfortable dynamics of pop had been dispensed with.

Small Metal Gods begins with a collision of aural textures: acoustic bass lopes forward and occasionally rubs up against muted studio chatter, the crackle of old vinyl and what sounds like someone playing sheet aluminium with paint brushes. Then the vocal comes in. David is reaching for something – it’s almost a shout. “It’s the farthest place I’ve ever been; it’s a new frontier for me.” The voice is hoarse. Behind it, the bass continues its slow progress, and the other instruments do their fragmentary thing, finding a space for themselves in the mix. His voice is naked and vulnerable – the music not so much accompanying as undermining it. There’s no cohesion. This is not the attack of pop. There are no verses in Small Metal Gods, no choruses, just tiny incidents: nothings, voids, uncertainties. A chorus of voices humming oohs and ahs forms a melodic coda as the song fades out.

Back in 2009 Small Metal Gods was seen as the most commercial track on the album, and a video was shot to accompany it. David didn’t appear. Instead a host of miniature passenger jets etched slow flight paths around the interior of an apartment.

There is no precedent in pop for the material on Manafon. The instrumentation was entirely improvised in the studio, David later gently tweaking it and adding improvised vocals. The resulting music is fragmentary, like a rustic, malign hip-hop with no beats. There are snatches of sounds, notes that threaten to coalesce into melodies, but they hover forever on the brink – never taking that step.

In other moments, the strums, plucks, bleeps/ scrapes and voice knot together, only to unravel the next moment leaving nothing but a memory of their meeting.

If it wasn’t for the mix of players: Berkhard Stangl (guitar), Werner Dafeldecker (acoustic bass), Michael Moser (cello), Christian Fennesz (laptop, guitar), Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixer), Otomo Yoshihide (turntables), John Tilbury (piano), Evan Parker (saxophone), Marcio Mattos (cello), Joel Ryan (live signal processing), Keith Rowe (guitar), Franz Hautzinger (trumpet), Tetuzi Akiyama (electric and acoustic guitar), and Sachiko M. (sine waves), and David Sylvian’s prominent vocals the album would maybe sound like straight jazz improvisation.

Instead, the tropes of pop song-writing and improvisatory music lie smashed on the floor of David’s cabin. More interesting as shards. David Sylvian describes Manafon as modern chamber music. I think it’s more like a form of sculpture, where the art is not in the composition, but in the act of bringing diverse elements together and allowing them simply to coexist. (When he was asked what he would be contributing to the early recording sessions, David said, “Nothing.”) In this, Manafon reminds me of the work of Joseph Beuys: his installations of fat, felt, lead or stone augmented with chosen objects like hats and dead flowers. Each element brings with it associations, references that reach beyond the work into the wider world. They create a two-way transmission: the associations enrich the work and the work enriches the world. Manafon works in the same way: the noises and notes standing in for Beuys’s physical materials.

There’s an open and ‘vulnerable humanity to Beuys’s work that’s also present in Manafon. On Manafon, a sense of withdrawal informs the central aesthetic. This sense is made acute by the disconnect between voice and instrumentation and the fact that most of the songs are not “about” the singer; they’re third-person narratives. Both have a distancing effect. And yet the loneliness, the isolation seems all the more personal for the absence of autobiography. Perversely, by seemingly withdrawing from his work, David Sylvian has made his most intimate album to date.

ched storyline.

Art by Ruud Van Empel, Design by Yuka Fuji