With "Blemish," David Sylvian may finally be able to cast off the shackles of "ex-Japan vocalist" (as if anyone still remembers Japan) and fully claim his rightful position as one of the most thoughtful and musically brave eccentrics since Brian Eno. With an outsized musical intelligence that's morphed from foppish to indulgent to iconoclastic in his near 20-year solo career, Sylvian has ingested the influence of two decades of collaborations with the likes of soundscapers like Robert Fripp and Holger Czukay to arrive at a fully realized vision of dark beauty. Although his resonant voice is still slightly off-putting in its, err, pretentiousness, Sylvian's deft touch at sonic architecture and enveloping atmospheres is at its peak with "Blemish." Here he sucks up the improv guitar of Derek Bailey on three tracks and the electro-acoustics of Christian Fennesz on another. The rest is all Sylvian-sculpted sonics and, particularly on the spacious swell of the 13-minute title track, it's luxuriously claustrophobic in a way that's creepy and comforting.
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