Manafon (album)

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David sylvian manafon.jpg
Studio album by David Sylvian
Released 14 September 2009
Recorded between 2004–2007 in Vienna, Tokyo, London
Genre Experimental rock, avant-garde[citation needed]
Length 49:48
Label Samadhi Sound
Producer David Sylvian
David Sylvian chronology
When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima (2007)String Module Error: Match not foundString Module Error: Match not found Manafon
Sleepwalkers (2010)String Module Error: Match not foundString Module Error: Match not found
Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 80/100[1]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[2]
MusicOMH 3/5 stars[3]
Pitchfork 7.4/10[4]
Slant 2.5/5 stars[5]
Uncut 5/5 stars[6]

Manafon is a 2009 album by David Sylvian. It is an avant-garde work combining elements of free improvisation, experimental rock and chamber music. It reached rank No. 6 in The Wire's list of best 2009 albums.[7]


Manafon was recorded over a three-year period in Vienna, Tokyo and London. Of the recording process, Sylvian said:

"There was nothing written when we went into the studio – this was very much free improvisation. So, the selection of the group of musicians for each improvisation was paramount. I recognized on the day which pieces could work for me. The process was that I took the material away and then wrote and recorded the vocal line over in a couple of hours. So I couldn't analyze my contribution and that in a way was my form of improvisation – and I enjoyed the rapidity of response."[8]

"I take the sessions and work on them at a later time. I attempt to 'improvise' lyrics and melodies as I go, writing and recording all in a matter of hours. The basic tracks themselves undergo little or no editing as such. The structure pretty much remains as given from the original sessions. I might add an introduction or overdub other elements onto the original take. Here's a couple of examples: "Senseless Violence": Recorded in Vienna with Rowe/Polwechsel/Fennesz. I added guitar parts then layered Tilbury's piano into the track then added the vocal and an introduction. "Greatest Living Englishman: Initial take" suggested acoustic guitar overdubs which I requested of Otomo and Tetuzi on the spot. I later cut and pasted some interesting turntable activity from an alternate take onto this track. I also added an introduction by cutting and pasting elements from an earlier take. Tilbury was added to the coda. Melody and vocal added. "Rabbit Skinner": no editing. added acoustic guitar myself then vocals."[9]

Lyrical inspiration[edit]

For the recording of Manafon, Sylvian was also inspired by the Welsh poet R. S. Thomas: lyrics often reflect the main themes written by the poet[citation needed] and the title of the album refers indeed to a Welsh namesake village in which Thomas lived for a while.

"Manafon is indeed a village in Wales, a village in which Thomas lived for sometime and served as rector to the parish. In this small village, Thomas had trouble filling the pews of a Sunday but in a sense it was something of an idyllic spot in which to raise a child (a strict, taciturn and somewhat indifferent parent), master his profession and write his poetry. So, the physically real village became for me a metaphor for the poetic imagination."[8]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by David Sylvian.

  1. "Small Metal Gods" 5:49
  2. "The Rabbit Skinner" 4:41
  3. "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" 7:06
  4. "The Greatest Living Englishman" 10:55
  5. "125 Spheres" 0:29
  6. "Snow White in Appalachia" 6:35
  7. "Emily Dickinson" 6:25
  8. "The Department of Dead Letters" 2:25
  9. "Manafon" 5:23
  10. "Random Acts of Senseless Violence (Remixed by Dai Fujikura)", bonus track on the Japanese edition and the LP edition.

The album was released as CD, Japanese CD edition, limited edition box (including the documentary "Amplified Gesture") and LP.



  • David Sylvian – vocals (all tracks except 8), acoustic guitar (2), keyboards (3, 6), electronics (5, 7, 8)
  • Christian Fennesz – laptop, guitar (exc. 4)
  • Werner Dafeldecker – acoustic bass (1, 3, 5, 6, 9)
  • Michael Moser – cello (1, 3, 6, 9)
  • Toshimaru Nakamura – no input mixer (1, 4)
  • Otomo Yoshihide – turntables (1, 3, 4), acoustic guitar (right channel) (4)
  • Burkhard Stangl – guitar (1, 5)
  • John Tilbury – piano (2–4, 6–8)
  • Evan Parker – saxophone (2, 7, 8)
  • Joel Ryan – tape signal processing (2, 7, 8)
  • Marcio Mattos – cello (2, 8)
  • Keith Rowe – guitar (3, 6, 9)
  • Franz Hautzinger – trumpet (3, 9)
  • Tetuzi Akiyama – electric and acoustic guitar (left channel) (4)
  • Sachiko M. – sine waves (4)


  • David Sylvian – production, engineering, mixing, art direction
  • Additional engineers: Christoph Amann (Vienna), Toshihiko Kasai (Tokyo), Sebastian Lexer, Neil Tucker (London)
  • Yuka Fujii – art direction
  • Chris Bigg – design
  • Atsushi Fukui – David Sylvian portrait and related drawings
  • Ruud van Empel – cover artworks (Study in Green N° 1, 5, 8 (2003), Study in Green N° 16 (2004) courtesy Flatland Gallery, Utrecht)

Special thanks to: Richard Chadwick, Yuka Fujii, Adrian Molloy, Chris Bigg, Sarah Humphries, Steve Jansen, Noël Akchoté, Philipp Wachsmann and all the musicians who generously participated in this recording.


  1. ^ "Manafon by David Sylvian". Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  2. ^ Allmusic review
  3. ^ MusicOMH review
  4. ^ "David Sylvian: Manafon Album Review - Pitchfork". Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "Music - Slant Magazine". Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  6. ^ "UNCUT - The spiritual home of great rock music". Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  7. ^ Cf. the official David Sylvian website Retrieved 1 March 2012
  8. ^ a b Sharma, Paul (11 September 2009). "David Sylvian and the Mysterious Sound of Inspiration -". Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "A Conversation". Retrieved 1 March 2012. 

External links[edit]