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 Top 50 albums of the year

Lisa Gerrard

1. Lisa Gerrard Twilight Kingdom
2. St. Vincent St. Vincent
3. Last Battle Lay Your Burden Down
4. Withered Hand New Gods
5. Mogwai Rave Tapes
6. We Were Promised Jetpacks Unravelling
7. Aphex Twin Syro
8. Twilight Sad Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
9. Scott Walker & Sunn o))) Soused
10.Liars MESS
11.Swans To Be Kind
12.Broken Records Weights and Pulleys
13.Stanley Odd A Thing Brand New
14.Marianne Faithful Give My Love To London
15.FKA Twigs LP1
16.Future Island Singles
17.Beck Morning Phase
18.Sharon van Etten Are We There
19.Flying Lotus You’re Dead!
20. Marissa Nadler July
21. Morrissey World Peace Is None Of Your Business
22. War On Drugs Lost In The Dream
23. Damon Albarn Everyday Robots
24. Leonard Cohen Popular Problems
25. New Pornographers Brill Bruisers
26. Jack White Lazaretto
27. Manic Street Preachers Futurology
28. James La Petit Mort
29. Sia 1000 Forms Of Fear
30. Angel Haze Dirty Gold
31. East India Youth Total Strife Forever
32. Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence
33. Bruce Springsteen High Hopes
34. Richard Thompson Acoustic Classics
35. Kate Tempest Everybody Down
36. Lizzo Lizzobangers
37. Jonnie Common Trapped In Amber
38. Emily Scott Stray Light
39. Warpaint Warpaint
40. Wild Beasts Present Tense
41. Gruff Rhys American Interior
42. Bwani Junction Tongue of Bombi
43. Vashti Bunyan Heartleap
44. Trwbador Several Wolves
45. Pharrell Williams G I R L
46. Young Fathers DEAD
47. New Street Adventure No Hard Feelings
48. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Wigout at Jagbags
49. Pixies Indie Cindy
50. Echo & the Bunnymen Meteorites

Lest we forget
2013 Dead Flowers Midnight At The Wheel Club
2012 Grimes Genesis
2011 PJ Harvey Let England Shake
2010 DeLorean Subiza
2009 Broken Records Until The Earth Begins To Part
2008 Cave Singers Invitation Songs
2007 Burial Untrue
2006 Camera Obscura Let’s Get Out Of This Country

Album Review – Lisa Gerrard

Lisa Gerrard

Lisa Gerrard -‘Twilight Kingdom’ (Gerrard Records)

Lisa Gerrard is probably best known to the man or woman in the street as the person behind the Gladiator soundtrack with Hans Zimmer, but that’s just one of many of the magical works she has produced over the course of a musical career lasting more than three decades. Her latest album arrives today unannounced (except for those of us notified in advance by the PR!), but let me tell you that it is one of the most beautiful albums you will hear this year.

Perhaps surprisingly -before you hear a note of the music – comes the revelation that one of her collaborators on the album is Daniel Johns (of Silverchair). If this seems perhaps improbable, bear in mind that if someone had told you a quarter of a century ago that Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave would record a single together and they would both walk away from it smelling of, er roses, you would probably have scoffed. Oh, and the other two collaborators are Russell Crowe and Astrid Williamson.

And it’s a staggeringly wonderful record. The track ‘Seven Seas’ gives you some idea of what to expect, but it’s the second track ‘Adrift’ that makes this album worth the price of admission alone. The first term I heard it I genuinely wanted to put my head in my hands and cry. I’ve played it several times since -and I really wonder how anyone could fail to be moved by music this wonderful.

There’s a lot of cliched adjectives that could be used to try and describe Ms. Gerrard’s work. I won’t go down that path, but just say that this is an album almost unclassifiable by genre that will almost certainly be one of the most amazing you will hear this year.

Make that a priority.

****1/2

Twilight Kingdom is out now on Gerrard Records.