Cahiers Collection © – Spine #1

November 22, 2010 § Leave a comment


First thing’s first, copywritten. Yeah I went there. A musical version of the Criterion Collection sounds like a grand idea to explore, and seriously why hasn’t there been a meeting in the CC offices about it? Anyway, the criteria of the collection is going to be decided by myself and Sir David, and we will probably be as vague as possible, but still objective and less than predictable. Releases will come on vinyl, with bonus features in a supplementary DVD case. Information to be included is as follows:

– Short synopsis of important title
– List of bonus features/tracks
– Information about the transfer (from tape to raw sonic waves), just kidding

To begin this wondrous escapade into what could end up as a lawsuit, I feel it’s important to start with something that’s not rock, not classical, and not blues, and landed on David Sylvian’s Secrets Of The Beehive.

David Sylvian is what you would call the genius in the shadows. Since the 70’s he has been involved in numerous underrated projects, let alone collaborating with such artists as Robert Fripp, Bill Frisell, Jon Hassell, and Marc Ribot just to name a few. His childhood was more or less music-ridden and has self-taught himself playing and composing since he was 12. That’s exactly how the nigh absence of outside influence attributes to unparalleled individualism. Each record differs from his next, and nothing sounds uninspired or washed up. Putting all of that aside for a moment, Secrets Of A Beehive, whether or not you remotely care about anything else Sylvian has been associated with, is fluidly, hauntingly, overbearingly, but more importantly, merely powerful. And nothing less.

Weaving between each string arrangement and acoustic free fall lies a broken soul. Sylvian’s assuring voice never regrets to lament to you of your dismal life, but within the lyrics and music emulates more than just senseless despair. We find a being at one with himself, yet uncomfortable in the world, the skin a masquerade for blending in. The lyrics are merely accompaniment for the music, and because of this, the vocals either allow plenty of breathing room for the music to do as it will, well illustrated in the extreme jazz stylings of Mother And Child and the hollow and cataleptic Forbidden Colors. However, in reducing thematic redundancy, they switch roles, letting the lyrics tell the story as the music harkens the flame to give that much more sensibility to the song, such as in Orpheus and The Boy With The Gun.

Throughout the individual elements each song displays, the album plays through as collective, cohesive, and extremely conscious thoughts that resist the outside influence of tactless depression, but rather influenced by an aura of emotion beyond depression. Not to say this is wholly woeful, but it’s not the happiest record.  September begins the album accordingly with a more than pensive and simple manner, and upon returning to the album, that song becomes more and more instrumental to its impact. The album doesn’t focus on pure emotion either, but also incorporates visual, score-like work. Sylvian becomes a poet in some ways as he sings over The Devil’s Own, a dense reflection of a human condition, and When Poets Dreamed Of Angels, the album’s one comment towards religious emptiness.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has often collaborated with Sylvian, handled all the string arrangements on this record in such a way that the album really defines musical textures. The performance just happens to be whimsically lush as well. His brass arrangements are so subtle, giving the brass instruments themselves a new skin. Let The Happiness In, for instance, has some of the softest, yet determined playing I’ve ever heard, courtesy of M. Isham. The second bonus track, Promise (The Cult Of Eurydice), is probably the better example of how vital the album’s “sum of the parts” becomes.

Secrets Of The Beehive doesn’t come full circle as a stream of consciousness for the sole reason that these sort of expressions do not cease and this leaves one with a bittersweet outlook on this experience, more bitter than sweet as the metaphor of the album title may detail. A beehive spurs with activity, yet only in our perception. A brain is also active, yet seems at peace, so how much of our minds have we yet to unlock, imaginatively or in means of cognitive transcendence? If you are one who does not appeal to the likes of sadness, and its many teachings to us, this is probably not going to hit you very hard, but will still be enjoyable at the least. For everyone else, welcome home.


1. September
2. The Boy With The Gun
3. Maria
4. Orpheus
5. The Devil’s Own
6. When Poets Dreamed Of Angels
7. Mother And Child
8. Let The Happiness In
9. Waterfront

Bonus features:

Two bonus tracks never pressed together with the album:

10. Forbidden Colours
11. Promise – The Cult Of Eurydice

Disc 2:

– A video essay by music critic basher François-Bernard Mâche
– Never-before-seen live concert of the album played in its entirety
– Interview with David Sylvian: Discussion of the secrets
– Booklet with extended artwork sheet music to Forbidden Colours


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