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If it’s possible to be hypnotic and dull at the same time, David Sylvian is a leading practitioner of this sound. After fronting the power-pop sensation Japan, Sylvian embarked on a solo career exposing his anguished inner sloth—vaguely spiritual, monotonous, ambient, and atmospheric, these records cemented his cult reputation as a tormented former pretty boy with “values.” Dead Bees on a Cake expands Sylvian’s repertoire from the often danceable New Age dreaminess of Japan reunion act Rain Tree Crow to a very contemporary but uninteresting mishmash of serene world-music embellishments and dreary textural wallpaper. Aided by the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bill Frisell, and Talvin Singh, the singer plods listlessly through a rich sonic landscape, moping about Krishna and surrender in his meditative, unvarying voice. All the clichés of the centered global generation are in place—the crystalline “raindrop” effect, shimmering orchestral plucking, rain-foresty hi-hat flutters, and a dedication to repetition that strives for mesmerizing but comes up irksome. Only “All of My Mother’s Names” and “God Man” pick up the pace, the first by riffing on hypno-ethnicism as robotic before spazzing into jazz musings, the second by approximating a transcendental dance tune. And “Pollen Path,” despite its unforgivable lyrical enigmaticism, crashes and pishes with appealing preindustrial randomness, incorporating insect noises and the harsh clarion clang of what sounds like but is not credited as gamelan. It’s nice for Sylvian if he has found religion—or “spirituality,” which is what Christians call other peoples’ religions—but the listener-torturing smugness of these lengthy tunes and the haphazard exploitation of world-music conventions recalls why etiquette calls for folks to keep their beliefs to themselves.

—Arion Berger