David Sylvian first collaborated with American poet Franz Wright's voice in the Kilowatt Hour live project with Christian Fennesz and Stephan Mathieu. On There's a Light That Enters Houses with No Other House in Sight, the writer appears again, but in an almost entirely different musical context. Fennesz returns and pianist John Tilbury, Otomo Yoshide, and Toshimaru Nakamura provide significant assistance. A single 64-minute work, Sylvian's composition features the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet reading from his collection of prose poems Kindertotenwald. (It literally translates as "Children Dead Forest," yet given Wright's well-documented volunteer work with children stricken by grief, "Children of the Dead Forest" might be more appropriate.) The music is more abstract than Manafon. In places it recalls something approaching chamber music, but the editing and remixing put it in a thoroughly electro-acoustic context beyond that boundary. If there is a ground here, it is Wright's voice: a weathered, weary, wheeze from his lungs (he has been struggling with cancer for years), yet wry, unsentimental, and unforgiving in his refusal to take life, circumstance, or himself too seriously, even when reflecting on his own mortality, grief, loss, or human failings. There is humor even in the blackest of situations ("....I guess I’d describe myself as a fairly good egg in hot water…"). That said, this is a demanding listen, not so much for its length, but for Sylvian's restless and yet deeply intimate, labyrinthine compositional architecture. It wanders and moves afield albeit strategically, returning to schemes and themes that emerge slowly but often unexpectedly. Tilbury's piano introduces sections with spectral and repetitive chord voicings and variations. There are nearly constant edits, glitches, delays, and counter edits. Fennesz's guitar offers his trademark, unhurried, drifting, sometimes briefly jarring interludes as laptop noise; echo, woodwinds, and even strings move through with nearly translucent passes adding texture and detail. Treatments are made to Wright's voice in places, creating after-syllable stutters and glitches, but his poems are offered in their entirety. His delivery recalls events and imparts insights as if they had been gleaned only ten minutes ago, though they've been trying to reveal themselves for decades. Sylvian bends the expanding and contracting corridors of sound to the nuances in speech. One is drawn, Möbius-like, into Wright's words amid a musical, sometimes ambient sea of sound with arrivals, departures, and eternal returns. While some might find There's a Light That Enters Houses with No Other House in Sight difficult on the first listen or two, it should resonate with anyone who engages in it sincerely. Sylvian's goal in this collaboration was to celebrate and sonically illustrate Wright. He does so with a provocative but understated sense of adventure that grasps the poet's work correctly as equally welcoming and mercurial.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek