Clic on pictures to enlarge...

David Sylvian
sylvian's studio





Record review: David Sylvian: The good Son Vs the Only Daughter

The template for this album is of course, Sylvian’s ‘Blemish’.
Blemish is a record received by me in a similar way to Scott Walker’s ‘Tilt’.
I am glad it exists; it positively readdresses the psychic level of the world in some way by doing so.
It is a moving, violent and beautiful work that I don’t feel the need to listen to it that often.
Not that I feel how often one listens to a record is any ultimate measure of value.
But you know what I mean.
(I like to think that it would help if I had Blemish on vinyl. But then I have Tilt on vinyl-given to me, incidentally, by Peter Walsh, it’s co-producer. And it makes no difference).

‘The good Son Vs the Only daughter’, ‘The Blemish remixes’ is a disappointment to me.
It’s not different enough. I mean it’s different enough from the original Blemish but if anything, paradoxically, it sounds more ‘Sylvian’ than the original. I had hoped for some irreverence, more playfulness. And despite my Jedi training, I still do approach records with some sort of hidden expectation.
I got the feeling that many of the remixers had the imposing presence of Herr Sylvian hovering willo the wisp like over their shoulders as they worked.
Ryoji Ikeda’s treatment of ‘The Only daughter’ is just beautiful, calling to my mind the images from Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘instant light’ book. Rural Russian Polaroid’s:
This piece is more dramatic than it’s original; a sweet eyed hobbling calf compared to a fascinatingly pretty aborted miscarriage of the original.
Burnt Friedman’s effort, upon ‘Blemish’ itself (The first of two takes on this song) puts me right off in that it sounds so much like Rain Tree Crow’s ‘New moon at red Deer Wallow’. The percussion on this could almost be sampled directly from this very track.
The low fat no Cholesterol textures censor and dilute the agony of the vocal.
But as I say, this sounds even more typically ‘Sylvian’ than in it’s original form and the fact that ‘Blemish’ was so stripped and Raw was one of it’s successes.
Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s rework of ‘The heart knows better’ would be neither here nor there, this nor that if it wasn’t for the awful, mid nineties ‘trip hop’ drum loops; clunking and clumsy, a home made robot dragging itself along by one short curcuiting claw, dripping oil down a Paris Catwalk.
Talking of Paris: Readymade’s trademark music box sound, all twinkling snowflakes and frozen candlelight, taps into the original lullaby heart of ‘Fire in the Forest’ to true effect. Mobiles above a baby’s bed.
And while we’re talking effects, I wonder why the Vocal is dry throughout this album?
Is it that the remixers were too terrified to mess with Saint Sylvian’s gorgeous timbre?
The present vogue for Vocals is to keep them very dry and this works to an advantage on the original Blemish…but I find it odd that no one treated the voice as such on this version. As a result, the voice throughout does sound teleported in.
On and on, past the predictable sub-bass blips and blops, the all but muting of Derek Bailey’s tinder spark guitar till we arrive at ‘Late night shopping’ or as it is here, ‘Late night *Bleep*’.
Lovely to hear his voice with a girl’s voice to the accompniment of handclapping of Monks. Lovely.

My favourite is ‘How little we need to be happy’ by Tatsuhiko Asano. A complete rebirth! A mellow, groovy jazz fm pop song born of the original blisters and bruises of the original. The standout track. A sexy newness, warm snow, hot toddies in March.

The final two call to mind Hassel’s contributions on Sylvian’s first flowering; Brilliant trees’ and his work with Czukay on the mid/late eighties instrumental albums…dull and worthy sounding both, the last track masquerading as an Epic by default of being quite long.
Adding nothing to the sweet and sour of Sylvian’s originals.

Sylvian has often been suggested as a producer for some of my projects and I’ve always demurred. If I ever write a Byrsdy, acoustic, melodic and jangly suite of songs-I’d like to hear him work on that.
In this context I prefer it when he’s taken out of his natural habitat, when he’s a horse swimming in a reservoir, an ice sculpture on the cusp of a bubbling volcano, bambi buying chips in a kebab shop.

Tell you what would have been good; David re-learning the new structure of these songs as presented here and re-singing them, adding a new vocal to each according to the remixers cut and paste.
Yeah, that would have worked real good, I reckon.