Friday, September 4, 2009

Shelter in the arms of David Sylvian

David’s Sylvian’s music is something that I discovered relatively early on in my venture into the non-classical world, when my friend Marty told me what a superb voice he has. He was right, and it’s music that I keep coming back to whenever I feel the need to just take a breath, reflect, and feel centred again.

David Sylvian’s voice is like a pair big warm arms that fold around you and hold you and, in that comfortable and comforting place, you stay, warm and at peace, while you listen to what he has to tell you.

And, on the album that I have been listening to today, Secrets of the Beehive, what he has to tell you is by no means always bright and happy. You’ll hear him tell you about loss, loneliness, violence, resentment, hopelessness, short-lived happiness.

But he tells you all of this in a voice that is almost a whisper – soft, smooth, seductive, sexy – and in music, mostly slow, sometimes almost funereal, but rich, warm, sustained, secure, even when it’s haunting, like in the eerie sounds and tolling bell of “Maria”.

There will be moments of incredible darkness – and yet a darkness which, even when it hints at being sinister, as it does in “When Poets Dreamed of Angels” and in “Mother and Child”, is never really bleak.

So much is said on this album through the power of the music – music of incredible beauty and strength, even at its most sad, where it seems to be saying “I’ve been there too, and I’m with you now to tell you that you’re going to be okay”.

This is, in fact, what “Orpheus” is all about – tellingly, the only song on the album for which the lyrics are printed in the booklet: “Tell me, I’ve still a lot to learn/Understand, these fires never stop/Believe me, when this joke is tired of laughing/I will hear the promise of my Orpheus sing.”

And the music makes us feel hope, because of its quiet, intimate strength – strings and guitars and piano – always giving you an assurance that the night won’t last forever, as when you hear time tick away on the piano, in “The Devil’s Own”, as the music, and we, wait for the dawn to come.

Listen, too, to the lonely, forlorn trumpet in “Let the Happiness In”, summonsing the slow, subtle change of hue in the music from a cold grey night to a gentle warm sunrise, with the trumpet soaring, singing above it all in a heartaching, and ultimately hopeful, beauty.

There are certainly many sides to this music – there is always a degree of ambiguity in its emotions, and its styles seem to roam somewhere between the slightly avant-garde and the slightly jazz – and it is the sort of album that really cries out to be listened to many times and absorbed a little more each time.

Secrets of the Beehive takes you to a very special place – not a place full of lightness and sunshine, but a place where you feel comforted and safe, and where you know that your tears will be understood, should you choose to shed them.

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