Samadhi Sound, 2003
also by David Sylvian:
David Sylvian's recent works have visited two distinct styles of arty sophistication - the decadent, worldy lounge crooning of "Dead Bees on a Cake", and the ambient soundscaping of purely instrumental works like "Approaching Silence". So this short, sparsely accompanied album, combining vocals with experimental left field leanings, seems like a natural style for him to ease into. Its cousins in lyrical vocals offset against stubborn minimalism include Scott Walker's "Tilt" or Talk Talk's "Laughing Stock".
The showcase title track demonstrates the strengths of this sound perfectly, crooning intimate vocals over a perpetual throb of electronically-treated guitar trickery. Although by "The Heart Knows Better", he does start to milk that sustained guitar throbbing a bit too much. On "A Good Son" and "She Is Not", Derek Bailey's atonal acoustic guitar skirts the border between expressionism and noodling. Its spidery sound is striking, even if it tends towards paint-splashing. The spikiness is made more effective by the contrasting smooth surroundings, including the spaced "The Only Daughter", notable for some scarily disjointed vocal splicing.
The casual melody, slow hand clap, and dusty backing of "Late Night Shopping" are a reminder that he has visited this style before - in the Rain Tree Crow project. We eventually end on friendly ground, a lyrical ballad "A Fire in the Forest" in familiar Sylvian style. With an oddly familiar melody that could have slotted into "Dead Bees on a Cake", it's pleasing that he still can't resist an instantly accessible tune. Plus, it was good to hear, in the first track, a silly rhyme like "please her / visa". A cheeky glint in his eye amid the abstraction and beard-stroking.
July 10, 2005