Album Review – Dead Can Dance (re-issues)

Dead Can Dance – ‘The Serpent’s Egg’/’Aion’/’Spiritchaser’ (4AD)

There’s no shortage of musical acts whose output changed over their lifetime. Talk Talk evolved from challengers to Duran Duran to minimalist post-rock, for example. And who would have predicted the trajectory of Everything But The Girl from being King and Queen of bedsit Bossanova to drum’n’bass and clubland acceptance? Yet perhaps the most astounding evolution belongs to Dead Can Dance. Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard were lumped in with the goth-industrial scene of the 1980s when they released their self-titled debut in 1984. This may have been to do with being signed to 4AD but that debut, whilst strong, was not typical of the sound that Dead Can Dance would become most noted for. The Australian pair would produce a series of albums that drew on traditional music that at times crossed continents and centuries. The results were always high in quality, bewitching and beautiful, and some of the unusual music ever to be filed under ‘Rock & Pop.’ 4AD were probably the most suitable label for them to be on – it’s hard to imagine label head honcho Ivo Watts-Russell grumbling about the lack of an obvious single.
Between 1984 and 1996, the band produced seven albums, which have been re-issued over the last year on vinyl. (They reunited in 2012 to produce an eighth album, Anastasis.) The final re-issues (not quite sequentially) are their fourth, fifth and seventh releases.
The Serpent’s Egg, (****) originally released in 1988, was the last album made while Perry and Gerrard were still a romantic couple. The press release describes this album as ‘minimal but grandiose’, which is actually pretty accurate, and makes perfect sense when you listen to the album. The album opens with the glorious ‘The Hosts Of Seraphim.’ The album blends medieval and eastern influences – but so coolly and brilliantly it doesn’t need dance beats to try and bring it up to date (which, paradoxically, usually leaves results sounding very dated very quickly). Other highlights from the album include ‘Severance’ and ‘Ullyses.’ Usually when people talk of music being timeless they mean it sounds like it was made in the 1960s. So much of this – in the best possible way – sounds like it could have been made 500 years ago (technology notwithstanding).
1990’s Aion (****) is a great example of how judging a record on its cover might actually be pretty accurate: it’s  a section from the Earth phase of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s famed triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights. The album is a mixture of medieval and Renaissance styles. It’s a record that follows on logically from its predecessor. The highlight here might well be ‘Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book’. ‘Black Sun’ is another strong track on the album – which sounds almost untypically modern, yet utterly belongs on the album. There’s Celtic hints at times, too – but unlike so much music that tries to incorporate Celtic music it avoids tweeness or bombast. As with much of DCD’s music, it goes a long way to making you rethink the much criticised ‘world music’ label.
 
Spiritchaser (****) appeared in 1996. Over the previous few years they had gained a bigger following in the US, with their sixth album, 1993’s Into The Labyrinth selling half a million worldwide. Gerrard had released her debut solo album, The Mirror Pool in 1995 (she would go on to do soundtrack work, winning a Golden Globe for her work on Gladiator).
As with Aion, the album had been recorded at Brendan Perry’s Quivvy Church studio in the Irish Republic (as opposed to Egg being made on London’s Isle Of Dogs) by the album’s title, the band had moved  from the sound of the preceding albums to work with African and Caribbean tribal rhythms. Yes there are drums and percussion on earlier albums (check out ‘Mother Tongue’ on Egg) but this is an album driven by rhythm. This wasn’t intended as the band’s final album – rather that a planned follow-up was abandoned. Though the distortion on album opener ‘Nierika’ is a seemingly intentional false start, it again brings home the point that once you thought you had defined DCD, they would then surprise you. ‘Indus’ sees them share a writing credit with George Harrison – the melody is strikingly similar to The Beatles’ ‘Within You Without You.’ As an album it’s perhaps the most modern sounding (in a good way) than they had been since their debut.
It’s a joy to hear these albums as they were intended – they show how creative and original an act DCD were, and why they were more than just another goth band.
http://youtu.be/VPd-MSr19qI
nbb techno gremlins have attacked – check out dead can dance on youtube, spotify, deezer etc..

17 Seconds Radio Show

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OK folks, there will be another radio show from me this week at 7-8PM on Fresh Air
this coming Thursday.

This was last week’s show -here’s the tracklisting again, and if you wish to listen to it, it’s there below:

1. Dead Can Dance ‘Children Of The Sun.’
2. Kate Bush ‘Running Up That Hill.’
3. Twin Shadow ‘Five Seconds.’
4. We Are The Physics ‘Applied Robotics.’
5. Aggi Doom ‘Bring Me The Head.’
6. Shamen ‘Jesus Loves Amerika.’ ‘Gone but not forgotten.’
7. Soap&Skin ‘Wonder.’
8. Cancel The Astronauts ‘Making Dynamite.’ Album of the month Animal Love Match
9. Matt Norris and the Moon ‘Roots Below.’
10. The Delgados ‘Mr. Blue Sky.’ ‘Cover version of the week.’
11. Grimes ‘Genesis.’
12. Antony & the Johnsons ‘Cut The World.’

Album Review: Dead Can Dance

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Dead Can Dance -‘Anastasis’ (PIAS)

Right from the opening bars of album opener ‘Children Of The Sun’ it is clear that the first album from Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard in sixteen years is a winner. Whilst the notion of ‘World Music’ is, frankly, rather naff, and more often than not, more than just a little patronising, this is an album that truly is global in its approach to sound.

Yet, the thing is, not only did they produce music that was jaw-dropping, they could write songs and produce work that was astonishingly easy to love. Sure, it might be hard to categorise them – they would appear on goth compilations, topped world music charts, and were signed to seminal arty indie label 4AD during the 1980s and 1990s -but that may just have been more about listeners trying to get a handle on a very special act.

‘Return Of The She-King’ manages to evoke Scottish folk, Gerrard’s soundtrack for Gladiator and with vocals from Perry that sound almost incantation like -but it’s never too clever, never leaves you feeling that this is music to be appreciated, rather than loved. It is both -and all the better for it.

Awesome, awesome stuff.

****1/2

Anastasis is out now on PIAS

The return of Dead Can Dance

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For a label that has given so many extraordinary bands over the years, the duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry-better known as Dead Can Dance- couldn’t have been signed to anyone else other than 4AD in the 1980s. Often lumped in with the goth scene, the duo might have been gothic sounding, but they were beyond pop music. Not in a snobby way, but they seemed to be from another time, another place altogether. Were they folk, modern classical or just simply unclassifiable?

After their last album, 1996’s Spiritchaser, the pair went their separate ways, but continued to work on music. Gerrard’s most high profile work to date is probably the soundtrack to the Russell Crowe film Gladiator. It would be nice to hope that there were folk who were intrigued and delighted enough by that album to go and investigate further…

They are now back working together, and signed to PIAS, and about to release their first album in sixteen years, Anastasis. the tracklisting to which is as follows:

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1. Children Of The Sun
2. Anabasis
3. Agape
4. Amnesia
5. Kiko
6. Opium
7. Return Of The She-King
8. All In Good Time

Amnesia has been made available as a free track to download. ON the basis of this alone, it’s time to start getting very excited very soon…

Stream the track here

Download the track, free and legally, below