I’m in a really, really beautiful place, and I don’t want to be disturbed.
You see, I woke up this morning to an email from Dead Can Dance alerting me that I could pre-order their new album, “Anastasis” — a Greek word that roughly translates as “rebirth” or “resurrection.”
Quick to keep up with any updates about the Dead Can Dance reunion after their 14-year hiatus (and 16-year break from releasing an album), I clicked on the link. To my surprise, the page also included a full stream of the new album.
So yes, after being so disappointed about their break-up in 1998, I’m now listening to a new Dead Can Dance album. It’s something I never expected I would be able to do again.
I remember when I discovered Dead Can Dance. It was 1993. I was a freshman in high school.
At that time, I was already very interested in music, and I remember longing for a sound that was somber, timeless and had great depth. It may have had something to do with the introduction Enigma had given me to Gregorian chants. I listened to Enigma A LOT in junior high and probably wanted to delve a little deeper into that world.
Well, I also happened to listen to “Hearts of Space,” a legendary, hypnotic NPR program that focuses on “slow music for fast times.” It was on my birthday — Nov. 12, 1993 — that “Hearts of Space” aired a program entitled “Dead Can Dance,” which was a retrospective of said-band’s career up to that point.
What a birthday present! I had found what I had been seeking.
Luckily, I taped the program and listened to it endlessly on my way back and forth from school.
It included songs like “Persephone (The Gathering of Flowers):
And “The Writing On My Father’s Hand”:
If that female voice sounds familiar, it’s because Lisa Gerrard has done a lot of soundtrack work, including the “Gladiator” soundtrack. (One of the reasons I enjoyed “Gladiator” so much.)
I won’t bother summing up what I heard on that 1993 program, since “Hearts of Space” did it so well:
INTRO : The endless drone of the ground bass, the ageless voice echoing forward through the centuries, a sound steeped in the psychic resonances of bygone eras – this is not so-called “early music,” but modern music by discriminating time travellers reaching into the past with an anthropologist’s sense of history, but the heart and soul of an artist. On this edition of Hearts of Space, a program devoted to the darkly beautiful ancient/contemporary music of DEAD CAN DANCE.
DEAD CAN DANCE are BRENDAN PERRY and LISA GERRARD, both of Anglo-Irish descent. They met in Australia in the early 1980’s. Inspired by medieval and Renaissance music as well as modern rock, they chose for their name the stunning oxymoron DEAD CAN DANCE. With it’s richly ambiguous symbolism of the transformation of inanimate into animate, they set about the alchemical transformation their source material into a new amalgam for 20th century music.
In 1982 they moved to England, where they began recording for the progressive pop label 4AD.
As you’ll hear, over the years, they’ve broadened their inspirations to include Eastern European, near Asian, and Arabic classical music as well. LISA GERRARD has matured into one of the finest vocalists anywhere in contemporary music, mastering numerous languages, ethnic singing styles, and forms of intonation, while BRENDAN PERRY has become a master record producer, directing both the music and the artwork for their recordings.
It’s a journey into the labyrinth – the dangerously beautiful world of DEAD CAN DANCE.
Now, I’m journeying back into the labyrinth. Listening to the new album, Dead Can Dance are still animating what was thought to be lost. They are still casting a spell using ancient and modern elements. They are still a musical creation unparalleled by anything else I’ve ever heard.
If you’d like to listen for yourself, visit their website.
This is one of my favorite Dead Can Dance tracks:
This is the first track Dead Can Dance released from the new album yesterday: