Like everything else he does, musical iconoclast David Sylvian's idea of a retrospective compilation is very different from the norm. Sleepwalkers is a 16-track, hour-plus collection focused on his many collaborations during the previous decade. Included are alternate takes from his own albums, remixes, reworked material and his contributions to the albums of others. There is one new cut, pointing to the future: "Five Lines" with Japanese composer Dai Fujikura, is a complex art song with a string quartet. (According to Sylvian, Fujikura is working with him on a completely new, orchestral version of Manofon.) This new piece is one of the many highlights. Another is "Playground Martyrs," from brother Steve Jansen's album, Slope. While Jansen handles most of the instrumentation and a string arrangement, Sylvian delivers one of the most sonorous vocal performances of his career. Another track from Slope, "Ballad Of A Deadman," features a duet with Joan Wasser (Joan as Police Woman) on a mutant 12-bar blues. Thematically, light mixes with dark, and genres criss cross. On "Exit/Delete," from Takagi Masakatsu's Coieda, acoustic guitars, strings and ambient textures create something gauzy and nearly upbeat, while Sylvian delivers a devastating lyric, in equally upmood manner a la Lou Reed's Berlin, about an overdose suicide. "World Citizen - I Won't Be Disappointed" was co-composed with Ryuichi Sakamoto and was the single from his Chasm release. The spoken word "Angels," is a collaboration with Jan Bang and Erik Honore from the album Crime Scenes, while "Thermal," another recitation, features Bang, Arve Henricksen and Eivind Aarset. One of the album's more provocative pieces is "Transit," with Christian Fennesz from the guitarist's Venice release. There are two selections here from Snow Borne Sorrow, by Nine Horses, the collaborative project between Burnt Friedman, Jansen and Sylvian; both pieces are lovely but "The Day The Earth Stood Still," with its saxophones and multiple vibraphones is gorgeous. The title track is an outtake from the Manofon sessions that began as an instrumental handed to Sylvian by Martin Brandlmayr of Polwechsel. Its vocals are scathing, bitter, more extreme than almost anything in Sylvian's catalog. Sleepwalkers is a provocative and compelling listen, full of moods, shapes, colors, spaces, and textures. Sylvian has created (aestehtically at least) something approaching an entirely new offering from various chapters in his recent musical past.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek