Friday, May 11, 2018

David Sylvian - Secret of the Beehive

In honeybee populations, males are insignificant. Thousands vie for their shot at the virgin queen, while only a lucky(?) few succeed. They mount the queen in flight, who stores the semen from her midair tryst the rest of her life. When the drone pulls away, his barbed penis rips from his body, and he dies shortly thereafter — what a buzz kill.

None of this means anything in relation to Secrets of the Beehive, David Sylvian's most haunting LP, but the odd reality of it. Sylvian's 1987 LP is a tour de force of life's heady realities. Listening to it earlier, I was about to say, "Why, there's even a kettle boiling in the background to track 3," when I realized it was my own kettle whistling on the stove, which provides some idea of how this beautiful album can entrance one away from reality. 



Sylvian's voice is the LP's most important element, balanced perfectly amidst the intricate string and percussion arrangements of Ryuichi Sakamoto;  it's a warmer Nick Cave 
 still shadowy, but not so intensely dark  yet it's instrumentation remains sparse, allowing the music to rise to fore in jazzy improvisation, particularly Mark Isham's atmospheric brass. Secret of the Beehive is lovely, sculptured ambient music, each side with its own ethereal groove. Side One begins with the instant fiction of "September," setting the pace. By Side Two we are lost in the  flamenco-tinged "When Poets Dreamed Of Angels." One can nearly feel the dancers stamping their feet to the music, as if we were in Catalonia having a drop of Cava. 

And yet the pervasive melancholy is sly and ironic. In "Let The Happiness In," like Depeche Mode’s "But Not Tonight" or The Cure's "A Thousand Hours," the listener is gripped with rip your heart out foreboding (add in Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden). Beautiful. (There's a handful of soulfully miserable music to fill a night of sadness – we all appreciate those with our Prozac.)

Still, atmospherics and mood vie in Beehive with the literary. In "When Poets Dreamed Of Angels," Sylvian writes, "She rises early from bed, Runs to the mirror, The bruises inflicted in moments of fury. He kneels beside her once more, Whispers a promise, Next time I'll break every bone in your body." Certainly horrid imagery, but beautiful writing that exposes our often difficult humanity. For honeybees, the "little death"
(look it up) is a reality and part and parcel to the big death. The reality is our friends the dolphins are bullies; cute little sea otters, I won't even go into it. Life is cruel and beautiful, carefree, like our Cava in Spain, harsh like breaking bones. Beehive is haunting and gorgeous and an LP often glossed over.