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David Sylvian - Dead Bees On A Cake CD (album) cover


David Sylvian

Crossover Prog

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4 stars Sylvian's major comeback record is a revelation. After sliding almost into obscurity with increasingly frustrating collaborations with robert fripp and with more and more sparse ambient music (almost to the point of having no sound at all aside from hums and drones) Sylvian once again embraced 'the song' as an art form and, aided by some superb sidekicks (Tom Waits' guitar player Marc Ribot contributes some amazing guitar playing as does Bill Frisell), Sylvian hits form in jaw-dropping style. From the meandering Rhodes driven I Surrender, to the lazy groove of Wanderlust, to the sweet sadness of the final track Darkest Dreaming (a really beautiful song) Dead Bees is a triumph. As a rider to the star-rating I've assigned to this record, I wouldn't class it as 'progressive rock' in the accepted sense of '70s prog. This is forward thinking music using retro sounds, it's a stunning record but not overtly prog. It's more post-rock but still wonderful.
Report this review (#33197)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another excellent album from David Sylvian, "Dead Bees on a Cake" came in 1999 after almost 6 years of break. 70 minutes of music composed for a single disc album may be too much - indeed it is almost a length of a double album. But once you get it listening you will not notice that.

Sylvian returns with a rock song format, although this "rock" element must be broadly interpreted. Mainly this means that classic rock instrumentation is used with strong albeit rather slow beat. String arrangements, flutes and trumpet expands the music onto the prog-rock territory, but it is done in a more post-rock fashion than in a classic 1970s manner.

"Midnight Sun" and "Godman" contain dirty, "drunken" sound of guitar and odd percussions reminiscent of Tom Waits. However, Sylvian is simply brilliant in his lyrically tinged soft ballads like the phenomenal opener "I Surrender", "Thalheim" with some nice guitar solos, an ethnic-ambient-Indo-prog piece "Krishna Blue" or a gentle "Cafe Europa". Instrumental "All of My Mothers Names" revokes his earlier avant-jazz improvisations containing aggressive guitar sounds.

Sylvian's music is not for new-comers to the world of Prog. It requires patience, time and commitment. And of course a long experience of listening to diverse music styles. But, don't let it put you off at first moment. Repeated hearing opens up a magical and beautiful world of this "artistic" rock performer. Highly recommended album to any prog/art/post rock lover.

Report this review (#113912)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Dead Bees On A Cake" 8th full-length studio album by UK experimental pop/rock artist David Sylvian. The album was released through Virgin Records in March 1999. "Dead Bees On A Cake" is the first "real" solo album since the excellent "Secrets of The Beehive (1987)". The three intermediate albums were two collabarative efforts with Holger Czukay (Can) and one with Robert Fripp ( King Crimson). It´s been six years since the release of "The First Day (with Robert Fripp) (1993)" and maybe as a consequence of the long time between releases "Dead Bees On A Cake" is a pretty long album featuring an almost 70 minute long playing time. David Sylvian obviously had a lot he wanted to say after such a long break.

The music is in usual David Sylvian style, which means mostly laid-back semi-jazzy experimental pop/rock with his emotional and distinct vocal as the focus in the music. It´s actually really nice to hear that he has brought back some intimacy to his performance. An intimacy that wasn´t present on "The First Day (with Robert Fripp)". His vocal performance on "Dead Bees On A Cake" is flawless IMO. The instrumentation unfortunately isn´t. Sometimes the instrumentation is a bit too nice and polished. I would really wish that there was a bit more bite in some of the songs. An example of a song which has great instrumentation and doesn´t lack bite is "Pollen Path". A great song that one. An example of the opposite is the almost embarrasing eastern influenced instrumentation in "Krishna Blue". Not nice. Just not nice. It sounds so superficial and forced that I cringe with embarrasment. So the album has both really great features and unfortunately some not so great ones too. 70 minutes is a bit too long for an album like this which also drags my rating down a bit. While there are some experimental sections most songs are vers/chorus structured pop/rock songs which isn´t a problem when the delivery is like is was on "Secrets of The Beehive" but the music on "Dead Bees On A Cake" doesn´t reach the heights of that splendid album.

The production while very professional is a bit too polished.

I realize that my review of "Dead Bees On A Cake" comes off a bit negative but most of the album is actually very good and a 3 star (60%) rating is deserved. I just feel there are too many negative things regarding the album to warrant a higher rating.

Report this review (#250471)
Posted Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars After a near decade of collaborations with prog visionaries and consequently increasingly cryptic material, Sylvian returned to his true strengths with "Dead Bees on a Cake", clearly the heir apparent to the "Secrets of the Beehive" masterwork. His warmly somber voice, enduring melodies, and sparse but effusive arrangements are all highlighted here in a lavish package of well over an hour.

"I Surrender" fulfills the promise at the outset, a more fully realized take on the "Forbidden Colors" song which was a bonus cut on "Secrets". The 9 minutes are nothing if not repetitive, yet they pass like an effortless paddle down a fresh mellow river, verse after verse and chorus after chorus recounting a man coming to terms with the necessity of vulnerability. Lilting fills of flute and guitar provide subtle support. Other songs that conjure earlier magic are "Thalheim", the delicately orchestrated "The Shining of Things", and the romantically accessible "Cafe Europa". These alone offer more than enough for the fan who yearns for the old days.

Like a consummate artist, Sylvian also adopts a variety of newer mannerisms. Some work better than others. The best of the more blues oriented numbers is the surprisingly spot-on "Midnight Sun", where he brings his already low voice down another register to impressive effect. "Krishna Blue" avails itself of more woodwinds and nimbly tuneful percussion to approximate a hummable take on raga rock. The sumptuous "Darkest Dreaming" that closes the disk represents a blend of his ambient and poppy sides.

As on most indulgent recordings, several shots are fired well wide of the target. Specifically, "God Man"'s message is buried in cliches both musical and lyrical, and its raucousness, also practiced by "Pollen Path" and "All My Mother's Names", doesn't suit this artist one bit. A couple of the later cuts never seem to emerge from the background, which only underscores the wonder at how often he does succeed at such a daunting task.

Back in the LP days, the best tracks here, wisely sequenced, would easily attain 5 star credibility, so "Dead Bees" represent so much more than the icing on the cake for this elegant artist.

Report this review (#418629)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars David Sylvian is one of my weaknesses. His class is unique, his voice and singing style is inimitable. Maybe not as progressive or changeable as some would like or somewhat monotonous, but imposing your style with authority. And creator of sublime atmospheres, within emotional or spiritual context. Difficult to fit into a specific musical concept. His work includes songs rarely interrelated.

'I Surrender' is slow and repetitive, but subtle and moving, passionate. Smooth Jazz intelligent, distinctive, with a touch of Soul. Café Europe, Thalheim, Wanderlust are held in the same pillars. Krishna Blue is a bit more intimate and ethnic feel.

Other songs are introspective as Dobro, Alphabet Angle and The Shining of Things. Midnight Sun and its course Blues. Darkest Dreams is a grand finale. And some songs inconsistent for me as Godman, Pollen Path and Praise.

I couldn´t choose two or three references as a parameter to help someone who has never heard an idea of ​​how found, or who resembles his voice. Is David Sylvian, trademark....

Report this review (#983762)
Posted Friday, June 21, 2013 | Review Permalink

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