Signal To Noise - David Sylvian "The Good Son vs The Only Daughter"

06.09.05

There’s a cumulative gravity to David Sylvian’s oeuvre that‘s become
increasingly hard to ignore. After more than 25 years, rather than allow his
music to ossify into mannerism or blandness, Blemish (2003) revealed a pared
down sound and a voice placed nakedly centre stage. The intimacy of those
vocals – it seemed at times as if one might feel his breath on one’s ear -
suggested that the singer’s distress really might be located in the
listener’s heart. The timbre of that voice hinted at compacted layers of
feeling, of something deeper than mere performance. The Good Son vs The Only
Daughter offers nine remixes by a variety of leftfield artists including
Ryoji Ikeda, Burnt Friedman and Akira Rabelais. Contrary to critical
expectation, the remix with its structuralist undertow has arguably reaped
relatively meager dividends. This collection proves to be a rare exception.
Sylvian’s vocals are preserved but set within beautifully filigreed
settings, like a rare gem set by expert silversmiths. That’s not to say that
the result is overly precious, there are some heartening signs of
playfulness – not least Burnt Friedman’s interpretation of Late Night
Shopping which adumbrates the chorus with an answerphone tone that’s both
enjoyably teasing and emphasises the absence and heartache of fractured
relationships. Sylvian’s lyrical concerns are sometimes like fragments
isolated from a larger puzzle. The nature of his symbolism recalls director
Andrei Tarkovsky’s response to questions about his film Mirror: “... the
image is like a clot of life... [Mirror] doesn’t have to be made any more
understandable.” However, when Sylvian sings that “And the mind’s divisive,
but the heart knows better” it’s difficult not to conclude that he’s
emphasising the importance of intuition over easy assimilation via the
intellect. Sylvian’s music, alongside Bjork’s recent output serves as a
reminder of our still undiminished humanity by focusing convincingly upon
both border territories and our everyday experiences. The Good Son vs The
Only Daughter serves generously as a more widely-travelled sibling to
Blemish.

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