Somnambule - Writing About Music

David Sylvian ~ The Good Son Vs The Only Daughter

The Good Son Vs The Only Daughter presents nine remixes of songs originally recorded for 2003’s Blemish. That album was a significant departure from the template established by its predecessor, Dead Bees On A Cake whose adaptation of traditional forms hinted at an uncertainty as to musical direction. Four years later, Blemish authoritatively embraced the influence of contemporary electronic explorers such as Christian Fennesz and Autechre as well as continuing the practice of collaborating with noted instrumentalists, in this case the guitarist Derek Bailey. Blemish was a stringent brew, redolent of Samuel Beckett or Scott Walker’s Tilt at the same time as it recaptured some of the singularity of “Ghosts”, the swansong of Sylvian’s former group, Japan. A number of people have been invited by the singer to provide remixes of those songs, including Japanese minimalist Ryoji Ikeda and German shapeshifter Burnt Friedman alongside less familiar names Readymade FC and Sweet Billy Pilgrim. There are two versions of “Blemish” and “The Only Daughter”, but the repetition doesn’t annoy because, rather than sounding fragmentary or incoherent, the music flows together and impresses as a suite of songs. The remixes succeed in binding together Blemish’s oblique narratives into richly detailed palimpsests. The opulence of the production at times suggests twinkling fireflies borne on the night air or mirrors spotted with age, in which Sylvian’s familiar silhouette can still clearly be spied. He occasionally worries at a phrase as if rubbing at a random pebble plucked from the beach, the dull mattness of its surface examined for a last trace of the shine of seawater, for the feeling behind the words. “And the mind’s divisive, but the heart knows better.” David Sylvian convincingly argues for an honest engagement with feeling and on tracks like “Late Night Shopping” subtly satirises the spiritual vacancy of contemporary values. This music is a gorgeous set of variations and, unlike so many remix projects, can be recommended unreservedly.
Colin Buttimer
April 2005
Published by e/i magazine