Friday, 19 March 2010

God like genius - David Sylvian part 2

Part 2 of David Sylvian God Like Genius, a bit of aural marmite. My 2 favourites of his solo lps are the linked "Secrets of the Beehive" from 1987 and 1999's sort of follow up "Dead Bees on a Cake". Both lps see him record some of his most melodic songs

First up is his solo version of "Forbidden Colours" the theme tune to "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence" that he released with Ryuichi Sakamoto. This is a more organic version than the original (apologies for slipping into pretentious music journalist mode for a moment) which fits in in well with the rest of the lp. It is not as good as the original but is still one of the best things he has done.

Forbidden Colours - David Sylvian

Next up from "Dead Bees on a Cake" is the opening track which sees some gorgeous guitar playing and one of his strongest vocals. It's 9 minutes of music that washes over you. It is not music to dance to, best to listen with the lights dimmed in a comfy chair

I Surrender - David Sylvian

His last 2 lps have moved further away from the traditional song structure with the only melody really coming through the vocal line. It reminds me of what Talk Talk were doing with their last 2 lps. It is the sound of skilled musicians playing almost freeform. (alternatively as one of my friends put it the sound of musicians playing different songs in different rooms). I listen to "Blemish" quite a bit but it isn't an easy listen. I've yet to get "Manafon" which featured in a number of lps of the year charts although almost every review used either the word brave or the word difficult.

In between these two David Sylvian recorded an lp with his brother Steve Jansen under the name "Nine Horses" which was a lot more mainstream. The track I've posted even has some do do do dos backing vocals on it

Wonderful World - Nine Horses

You can buy "Snow Borne Sorrow" by Nine Horses here

You can listen to more samples of Nine Horses here


  1. genius indeed. Saw him in London a couple of years ago. Sublime.

  2. You have to get Manafon! It is a stirring, dense and at times forbidding work. You are right comparing to Mark Hollis/Talk Talk in that the improvisation is the key to the final output. Manafon feels like a journey not just musically but through a life. It is really a moving work. Blemish is hard to listen to for me because of the obvious tension that was released into the music based on Sylvian's personal life at the time...maybe it's what I get for being an uber-fan - too much knowledge... but it is also wonderful! Two more collaborations I love of his are the work he did with Chris Vrenna and his vocal contribution to Blonde Redhead's Messenger...he makes the song his own!


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