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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Distinctions Exceptional Sound Recording
With a regular American deal in place for the first time ever, thanks to 4AD's linkup with the WEA conglomerate, Dead Can Dance made a splash on commercial alternative radio with "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," the first single from Into the Labyrinth. Raga drones, a strange clattering beat, a haunting wind instrument, orchestral shading, and Perry's ever-grand voice make it one of the more unlikely things to be heard on the airwaves in a while. It all begins with yet another jaw-dropper from Gerrard, "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)," with keyboards and her octave-defying voice at such a deep, rich level that it sweeps all before it. Wordless as always but never without emotional heft, the song slowly slides into a slow but heavy percussion piece that sounds a bit like "Bird" from A Passage in Time, but with greater impact and memorability. As the album slowly unwinds over an hour's length, the two again create a series of often astounding numbers that sound like they should be millennia old, mixing and matching styles to create new fusions. Perhaps even more impressive is that everything was performed solely by Perry and Gerrard -- no outside guests here, and yet everything is as detailed, lush, and multifaceted as many of their past albums. New classics from the band appear almost track for track: Gerrard's a cappella work on "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," the gentle beauty of "Ariadne," the rhythmic drive and chants of the title song. The conclusion is a slightly surprising but quite successful cover -- "How Fortunate the Man With None," an adaptation of a classic Bertolt Brecht tune about the turn of fortune's wheel. Given a restrained arrangement and Perry's singing, it brings Labyrinth to a satisfying end. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Dead Can Dance's final album Spiritchaser was something of an unusual release - it's not as much of an anomaly as the first album, but one can hear the duo wanting to stretch a bit more, however subtly. Perry and Gerrard's personal and creative tensions didn't stop them from creating another fine album, though there's a strong sense the group had finally reached a logical end. Essentially, Spiritchaser is a summing up rather than a push forward; it features all the usual elements of a Dead Can Dance album instead of further explorations to see what else could be done. Toward the Within contributors Ronan O'Snodaigh and Lance Hogan, as well as previous collaborator Peter Ulrich, appear on some tracks here, most specifically on the opening "Nierika" and "Dedicace Outro." Both are laden with lots of percussion -- unsurprising when one realizes that five performers are creating the drumming! Outside of Turkish clarinet by Renaud Pion on the Beatles-sampling "Indus," it's nothing but Perry and Gerrard throughout the album, with another combination and arrangement of multiple influences coming to bear. Both Perry and Gerrard are in fine voice throughout, their strong singing still the centerpiece of their work, but there's almost an air of predictability to their approaches at this point (perhaps explaining Perry's greater experimentation on his solo debut years later). Interestingly, overtly rock elements like Morricone-styled electric guitar appear at points amid the usual melange of various percussion instruments and arrangements. It works surprisingly well, indicating where the duo might have gone had they continued on. Spiritchaser ends on a strong note, the gentle, mysterious "Devorzhum," a Gerrard-sung number that makes for a grand conclusion. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Their reputation growing by leaps and bounds, including a huge underground following in the U.S. -- they were able to tour there even without one domestic release available, while at one point Dead Can Dance was the biggest selling band in 4AD's history -- Perry and Gerrard once again did the business with Aion. Its cover taken from Bosch, Aion's medievalism was worn more openly than ever before, with songs adapted from centuries-old material. The beautiful, entrancing "Saltarello," with lead performance by what sounds like an old wind instrument, comes from an Italian dance of the 14th century, while the mysterious moods of "The Song of the Sibyl" derive from 16th-century Catalonia. The group's command of not merely recording possibilities -- witness the exquisite layering of vocals on the opening "The Arrival and the Reunion" -- but of musical traditions, instruments, and more from around the world was arguably never stronger. Gerrard's vocals in particular have an even stronger, richer feeling than before, not merely able to command with its power but softly calm and seduce. Perry, meanwhile, is no less compelling, his ever-strong, wonderful voice perfectly suited to his choice of material. The standout track is "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book" with lyrics from a Spanish poet. The musical combination of softly plucked guitar and buried organ drone is striking enough, swathed in reverb, but when Perry steps in with his vocals, matched by more sparkling keyboards, the result is yet another high point for a band laden with them. Guest performers once again assist throughout, including Perry's brother Robert on haunting, quite non-clichéd bagpipes for "As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins" and singer David Navarro Sust, returning again to contribute some fine backing work. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Perry and Gerrard continued to experiment and improve with The Serpent's Egg, as much a leap forward as Spleen and Ideal was some years previously. As with that album, The Serpent's Egg was heralded by an astounding first track, "The Host of Seraphim." Its use in films some years later was no surprise in the slightest -- one can imagine the potential range of epic images the song could call up -- but on its own it's so jaw-droppingly good that almost the only reaction is sheer awe. Beginning with a soft organ drone and buried, echoed percussion, Gerrard then takes flight with a seemingly wordless invocation of power and worship -- her vocal control and multi-octave range, especially towards the end, has to be heard to be believed. Nothing else achieves such heights, but everything gets pretty darn close, a deserved testament to the band's conceptual reach and abilities. Slow plainsong chants such as "Orbis De Ignis" mix with the harpischord and overlaid vocals of "The Writing on My Father's Hand" and the slow build and sweep of "In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Are Kings." Two of Perry's finest vocal moments occur here. The first, "Severance," is a slow, organ/keyboard led number that showcases his rich, warm vocals exquisitely -- it's no wonder that Bauhaus chose to cover it some years later on its reunion tour. "Ullyses," the album's closing track, makes for a fine ending as much as "The Host of Seraphim" did an opening, Perry's delivery almost like a reading from a holy book, the arrangement of strings and percussion rhythmic, addictive and lovely. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

A large reason that Dead Can Dance tours and performances were so praised by hardcore fans lay in the band's welcome preference for unknown and otherwise unheard material, rather than simply rehashing expected numbers. Bootlegging of these tracks and performances was understandable and widespread, so involved and passionate was the band's following. Recorded at a Los Angeles performance from the Into the Labyrinth tour, the astounding Toward the Within shows that the band's magic was clearly not simply something created in studio. Both lead performers are simply in excelsis, their vocal abilities hardly diminished by the rigors of the road -- if anything, they sound even more inspired as a result. The range of instruments tackled is testimony to the group's breadth, from the yang ch'in, a Chinese equivalent to hammered dulcimer, to a wide range of drums. As for the songs, only four of the fifteen had been officially released before, including fine takes on "Cantara," "Song of the Sibyl" and "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)." As for the numerous new delights, Perry has a number of solo or near-solo tracks he performs with acoustic guitar. These include the lovely "American Dreaming" and the mystical set-closing "Don't Fade Away," calling to mind Tim Buckley's sense of scope and vision. Gerrard's unquestioned highlight is the combination of "Tristan" and "Sanvean," the latter of which is an awesome, widescreen number that became an undisputed highlight on her solo debut The Mirror Pool. Perhaps the most astonishing numbers are "Rakim," featuring a striking intertwining of Perry and Gerrard's singing, and a version of Sinead O'Connor's "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" that redefines passionate drama. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Early punk backgrounds and the like behind them, Perry and Gerrard created a striking, dour landmark in early-'80s atmospherics on their first, self-titled effort. Bearing much more resemblance to the similarly gripping, dark early work of bands like the Cocteau Twins and the Cure than to the later fusions of music that would come to characterize the duo's sound, Dead Can Dance is as goth as it gets in many places. Perry and Gerrard's wonderful vocal work -- his rich, warm tones and her unearthly, multi-octave exaltations -- are already fairly well established, but serve different purposes here. Thick, shimmering guitar and rumbling bass/drum/drum machine patterns practically scream their sonic connections to the likes of Robin Guthrie and Robert Smith, but they still sound pretty darn good for all that. When they stretch that sound to try for a more distinct, unique result, the results are astonishing. Gerrard is the major beneficiary here -- "Frontier" explicitly experiments with tribal percussion, resulting in an excellent combination of her singing and the rushed music. Then there's the astonishing "Ocean," where guitar and chiming bells and other rhythmic sounds provide the bed for one of her trademark -- and quite, quite lovely -- vocal excursions into the realm of glossolalia. Perry in contrast tends to be matched with the more straightforward numbers of digital processing and thick, moody guitar surge. The album ends on a fantastic high note -- "Musica Eternal," featuring a slowly increasing-in-volume combination of hammered dulcimer, low bass tones, and Gerrard's soaring vocals. As an indicator of where the band was going, it's perfect. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

With its two sides split between Perry and Gerrard's vocal efforts, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun serves as both a display for the ever more ambitious band and a chance for the two to individually demonstrate their awesome talents. Beginning with the portentous "Anywhere Out of the World," a piece that takes the deep atmospherics of "Enigma of the Absolute" to a higher level with mysterious, chiming bells, simple but effective keyboard bass and a sense of vast space, the album finds Dead Can Dance on a steady roll. Once again a range of assistant musicians provide even more elegance and power to the band's work, with a chamber string quartet plus various performers on horns, woodwind, and percussion. Impressive though the remainder of the first side is, Gerrard's showcase on the second half is even more enveloping and arguably more successful. The martial combination of drums and horns that start "Dawn of the Iconoclast" call to mind everything from Wagner to Laibach, but Gerrard's unearthly alto, at its most compelling here, elevates it even higher. "Cantara" is no less impressive, a swirling, drum-heavy song that sounds equally inspired by gypsy dancing, classical orchestras and any number of Arab musical traditions. "Summoning of the Muse" is perhaps too formal in comparison, though still quite impressive, but "Persephone" is the finer effort and a good way to close. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

With this amazing album, Dead Can Dance fully took the plunge into the heady mix of musical traditions that would come to define its sound and style for the remainder of its career. The straightforward goth affectations are exchanged for a sonic palette and range of imagination. Calling it "haunting" and "atmospheric" barely scratches even the initial surface of the album's power. The common identification of the duo with a consciously medieval European sound starts here -- quite understandable, when one considers the mystic titles of songs, references to Latin, choirs, and other touches that make the album sound like it was recorded in an immense cathedral. Opening number "De Profundis" sets this mood so thoroughly, with bells and drones and more supporting another bravura performance from Gerrard, while the immediately following "Ascension" builds on this initial effort with further style and grace. It's limiting to think of either album or band strictly in terms of simple revivalism of old music. While the elements being drawn on are certainly of an older range, the results owe as much to the technologies of arrangement and production and a consciously cinematic feeling as much as they do antique pasts. Similarly, the feeling is not simply European but worldwide, with Gerrard's glossolalia intentionally reaching beyond easy understanding. Perry's vocal efforts are no less compelling, his own high point occurring with the vast-sounding "Enigma of the Absolute," as a steady, massive drum pound echoes behind a similarly treated guitar/harpsichord combination, tinged with a striking string arrangement. The overall feeling is of an ancient religious service suddenly brought to life in a truly modern way, with stunning results. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released May 1, 2007 | 4AD

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French Music - Released September 4, 2006 | 4AD

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World - Released January 26, 2004 | 4AD

Immortal Memory is a collaboration between vocalist Lisa Gerrard and Irish composer Patrick Cassidy. Billed as a cycle of life and death and rebirth, Immortal Memory is better described as an orphaned film score. Cassidy's warm arrangements allow the former Dead Can Dance singer to step out of the dark medieval world that she's called home for nearly 20 years -- though there is much of that world within these castle walls -- and focus on the simplicity of love, faith, and loss with a grace that's bereft of the icy perfection of her previous work. Gerrard, whose voice has aged like the finest oak, displays an almost supernatural mastery of the material. Her effortless contralto wraps itself around the ten Gaelic, Latin, and Aramaic spirituals like an evening prayer, making each stunning entrance the equivalent of audio comfort food. Echoing her collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer on the Academy Award-winning Gladiator -- Gerrard and Cassidy framed this work during the recording of the film's soundtrack -- ethereal pieces like the solo showpiece "Elegy" and the Cassidy-penned lament for his late father, "Psallit in Aure Dei," are powerful statements hatched by two people who understand each other like old friends. The majestic opener, "Song of Amergin," with its sublime Celtic melody and slow build, is indicative of the pieces to follow, allowing listeners the time to decide whether or not this is a road they wish to travel. Fans of Enya, Dead Can Dance, or snowy, image-laden soundscapes of powerful quietude will have no problem making that choice. ~ James Christopher Monger
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World - Released July 7, 2003 | 4AD

"...A soul-stirring entity all its own....[carries] an emotional heft that most of today's radio-ready pop ballads would be hard-pressed to match." - Rating: B+
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World - Released September 2, 2002 | 4AD

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World - Released April 13, 1998 | 4AD

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World - Released August 21, 1995 | 4AD

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World - Released October 14, 1991 | 4AD

It was only a matter of time before some sort of introduction to American audiences came about, especially following the band's successful tour of the States, so Rykodisc did the honors with this excellent compilation -- if there's one thing anyone needs to get from the duo, it's unquestionably this. While there's no chronological order to the collection, and the sequencing and arrangement from the original albums are unfortunately if inevitably lost, the choice of songs to feature is completely spot on. The biggest gap is the lack of anything from the self-titled debut and the Garden of the Arcane Delights EP, including the track the collection takes its title from. As such songs would jarringly stand out sonically from the rest, though, it's an understandable omission. Nearly every undisputed highlight from the band is included, covering both Perry's and Gerrard's contributions in equal measure. "The Host of Seraphim" here forms the centerpiece of an album rather than the start, and two new tracks help to round things out -- while they aren't among the most deathless numbers the band has created, they're still worth listening to. "Bird" piles on the ambient jungle noises and animal calls and cries, but is saved from neo-New Age bathos by both its arrangement and the central combination of drumming and Gerrard's singing, here a touch lighter than normal. "Spirit," in contrast, predominantly features electric guitar and strong bass pulse, feeling a bit like a number from the very first album heavily stripped down with a new tension and beauty. Perry's singing suits the performance well, another excellent effort. ~ Ned Raggett

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