I think of snow.
Not only because of Atuishi Fukui’s delightful cover painting.
It took barely two listens. Less, maybe. The old flame – changed, though not beyond all recognition – had me again.
Now I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve succumbed. (Even though it can’t be many. I know that, as yet, it can’t be more than four; but I’m already in that aeonic time you fall into when you encounter something loved. Life is now inconceivable without it, so I imagine that is has always been there). You keep putting it on. You lose yourself, easily, lose track of which track you are listening to; no beat to mark out time, no verses, no choruses, only insistently hesitant vocal refrains, unhurried by rock’s adrenal urgencies, only words that are dream-disconnected, dream-cryptic, dream-vivid.
In the ice desert, the slightest peturbation produces massive affect….
Recall the trembling stillness that opens Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden ; the feedback shimmer of ‘How Soon is Now.’ Imagine them denuded of even the attenuated r and r release that they are allowed there; imagine their seemingly infinite protraction .
Sylvian’s Blemish , astonishingly, really is every bit as entrancing as Marcello and – the still absent – Penman say it is. Atonishing not because I distrust their judgement – very much to the contrary – but because I feared their wordsorcery had conjured a phantom/ phantasy that no record could live up to.
There’s nothing quite like Blemish : nothing in Sylvian’s back catalogue, nothing elsewhere. It’s been described as ‘vocal ambient’ , an accurate enough description, technically, but a little too anaemic, not quite seductive enough. The same writer called it ‘formless’, which is terribly misleading. Far from being chaotically unfocused, Blemish has a glacial poise, a near-absolute tension.
And it is nearly all guitar. Imagine that!
Derek Bailey’s scrabbles. Christian Fennesz’s glitchescapes. And mostly, the troubled waters, the uneasy flatline of Sylvian’s playing.
Undercurrents. ‘The Good Son’, before Sylvian sings. Bailey scratching away like a deranged music box. Hints of Kubrickian (Ligeti/ Penderecki) atonal dread.
And then the voice….
Don’t try to make sense of it.
It falls on me, on my face, and my pulse is so slow now, I’m slowly delirious, barely distinguishable from the landscape, and that’s what I love, out here in the white cold the flames are so bright. And it falls, until there’s not much of me left. It falls on me and I’m falling into sleep, or deeper….
I think of snow.