David Sylvian

David Sylvian

Dead Bees On A Cake

Virgin

David Sylvian was once the front man of the pioneering New Romantic group Japan. Dead Bees on a Cake constitutes Sylvian’s fourth effort as a solo artist. I’ll have to say that, overall, I’m more impressed with who he has chosen to perform his songs with rather than with his actual songwriting skills. The songs on this release are mostly slow and meditative — soothing yet sometimes a bit tedious. Sylvian has a good voice, full of Bryan Ferry-ish world-weariness and bravado, but a certain sameness runs through much of his material. The music’s strong points seem more due to the presence of composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Sakamoto’s string and brass arrangements bring a much-needed textural interest to the songs. Also a big plus is the inclusion of ultra-versatile guitarists Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell from New York’s Downtown experimental scene, and brassman extraordinaire Kenny Wheeler, whose roots are in Chicago’s creative music scene. These musicians help shape the character of some of the CD’s better cuts.

Fortunately, Sylvian takes a decidedly different turn with “Pollen Path,” the CD’s arresting 10th track that recalls the franticness of early Roxy Music, and includes a nifty sample from a John Cage sonata. On the next piece, an engaging soundscape called “All of My Mother’s Names,” Sylvian allows Ribot to go off on a refreshing tangent of twangy, free-form noise. With the looks of Sylvian’s original cover and liner art, it’s probably safe to say that visual art is his true calling, but yet, like the more subtle forms of visual art, Sylvian’s music will probably grow on me more in time.

Virgin Records, 1790 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-1412; http://www.virginrecords.com

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