David Sylvian / Dead Bees On A Cake / Virgin

It was the album`s sleeve that caught my imagination. I mean, Sylvian`s introspective, mostly melancholy, music, his musings on memory, have earned their place on my musical map. From the strange, sparse, deconstructed, Ghosts. Which I would play loud as a teenager. Sitting there with my bedroom door shut, in the dark. David telling me that no matter how hard I tried I wouldn’t be able to escape where I came from. To out run my monsters. How I`d always show myself up. Let myself down. I should never have listened. To Brilliant Trees. Experiments with Jon Hassell, and Holger Czukay, that served as an introduction to a Fourth World, and subsequently more “traditional” recordings from around the globe. Secrets Of The Beehive`s Orpheus and Let The Happiness In. Songs that echoed personal struggles with sobriety, and depression. Of how you can just get so tired of feeling this way, and a final realization that the self-medication isn’t working. The dustbowl Americana of the feted Japan reunion, Rain Tree Crow. To Blemish`s A Fire In The Forest, and the idea that it was OK to let go. That you didn’t need to hang on to everything and everyone. It was OK to forget, if forgetting helped. But it was the sleeve that I ended up staring at. 

I`d always wondered about the title, Dead Bees On A Cake. Insects expired, having gorged themselves on sweetness. A euphemism for ecstasy? One more polite than “pigs in shit”. Perhaps an allusion to a compulsion you are powerless to stop. Musically, the album references Sylvian`s previous recordings. A Fusion of shamen, swamp, Laswell, and Electric Miles. Sampling John Cage, John Lee Hooker, John McLaughlin, and Djivan Gasparyan. Originally released in 1999, it borrows from Portishead`s Bristolian Blue Funk. Drum & Bass rhythms. Mixing a Noir of Jazz, and percussive dream scapes. Whispered poetry and Hindu mantra. Tabla, dobro, and bansuri. Flugelhorn and swooning strings. Piano like cobalt breaking cloud. There are the same guitar shapes that he used on Hector Zazou`s First Evening. That conjure images of sunlight on a cold Autumn morning.

The reissue is dedicated to Sylvian`s daughters. The accompanying notes thank everyone, including former lover / collaborator, Yuka Fuji. Yet there`s no mention of Ingrid Chavez, the muse at who’s feet Sylvian was falling when the music was recorded. The two of them, together, embracing the unknown, the adventure. In whose grace and light he found salvation, and a cure for midnight fears. His wanderlust-sharing partner for the next twelve years. The mother of those daughters. But I realized there was no need for words. 

Repackaged in Anton Corbjin`s monochrome portraits of the couple, the record has become a tribute to a passionate yesterday. Trapping the past in amber. Restored like an old love letter discovered in a trunk in the attic. Dusted off, and reposted. In a gesture part confession, part apology. 

“I cross the Bridge Of Sighs and I surrender.”

A song of happiness found, turned sad with time`s passing. 

Twenty years on, now the heartbreak has healed, the songs and photographs serve as a document to how feelings change, yet somehow stay the same. 

There`s something in the way she`s looking at the camera. Something, protective, in her eyes. 

“Hold me now as my old life dies tonight.”

His remembering, prompting my own. 

Dead Bees On A Cake 2 edit


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