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Dead Can Dance


Country of origin:

Australia

Type of music generally:

Ethereal, evocative/eclectic, experimental, Gothic, with some early music, traditional and world music elements.

Status:

Most recent release, In Concert (live, 2013); most recent studio release, Anastasis (2012)

See also:

The official Dead Can Dance web site (includes a page of other resources)

Lisa Gerrard's site; Brendan Perry's Site

See The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry who now mostly record as solo artists

Comparisons:

Bel Canto, Siouxsie and the Banshees. (jbr@casetech.dk)

Dead Can Dance share some similarities with Cocteau Twins, Bel Canto, Sheila Chandra, Ingrid Karklins, Loreena McKennitt, among others, but they're also distinctly different to all of these artists. I don't own anything else that sounds quite like they do. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

Covers/own material:

Mostly original; some traditional medieval pieces. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

General comments:

A mix of celtic folk and church music with Eastern and minimalist influences. Less dance-like than Bel Canto, but far more varied. Odder! ;-) (jbr@casetech.dk)

It's less than half a year that I was introduced to Dead Can Dance, but I liked it immediately.... The beauty of sound, the 'druidic' slant of the whole thing just entices me. Nice music to listen to in candlelight, by the way. (mbravo@tctube.spb.su)

I'd recommend the video of Toward the Within. The interview bits with Lisa and Brendan are quite good. Lisa is quite a charming personality, and comes off as being quite intelligent but very warm and friendly. In my eyes, she is the unsurpassed High Priestess of female vocalists. There is just something so—clerical?—about her. Maybe it's just those white robes. (jjhanson@att.net)

I would agree that within the realm of a dying sun is the best. Over time they have moved from medieval and dark (within the realm, serpent's egg, spleen and ideal, dead can dance) to more renaissance (aion), then most lately world music and folk (into the labyrinth, toward the within, spiritchaser, though these albums are mixed with the other genres). it really just depends on which genre you like. and it's worth noting that sometimes Brendan Perry's singing can be annoying (or maybe it's the lyrics to the songs he chooses); lisa gerrard's recent solo album is ideal if he annoys you. (clsriram@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)

Umm. Well. They do nothing for me at all. I've had and sold several of their discs. The only one that has stayed in the house is A Passage in Time and that's only because I keep thinking that some day I may change my mind and be compelled to listen to it. But it doesn't happen. I just don't like them. I didn't like Lisa Gerrard's solo album either. It's all just too overwrought and Gothic for my tastes. I love medieval and renaissance music (and a lot of music that other people consider overwrought), so that's not it—it's their elaborate approach to these particular forms of music that works better for other people than me. (Neile)

I think Neile brings up an important point here when considering Dead Can Dance. I personally like them a lot. And that's probably because their unique style appeals to me quite a bit. But it ain't necessarily so for everyone. Their live performance (to me) is simply astounding and I enjoy their CDs very much as well. For the record, Aion is presently my favourite. I too like the medieval sound. But I can just imagine the look on some of my friends' faces if I played some Dead Can Dance when they happened to be over to the house. They'd probably think I went mad. And most of my friends know I have a rather eclectic taste in music. I can easily understand how someone may not like it though. Quite simply, it's just not for everyone. (kcd@cray.com)

I adore Dead Can Dance...they are my second favorite artists of all time. I love Brendan Perry's voice and I think his lyrics are interesting. A nice counter-balance to Lisa Gerrard's non-lyrical approach to music. (Violaine@juno.com)

Lisa's voice: The fastest way to heaven! :-) (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

I saw Lisa Gerrard during her Mirror Pool tour and was completely blown away by her performance; when I saw Dead Can Dance in its entirety in '96, I was...well, disappointed. I couldn't help but feel that Brendan's voice was overmiked to the point of being obnoxious, and (to be honest) I actually left a little early (before the encore), which I've never done at a concert before. :/ I don't have this problem with Dead Can Dance's CDs; but as a rule I usually prefer a band live, and so my reaction kinda saddens me. I'd probably recommend their A Passage in Time. (elionwyr@onix.com)

I'm bummed they broke up. I suppose they'll continue solo, but I really liked the two of them together. Lisa Gerrard's solo material seems too ethereal/angelic/abstract for my ear. I always thought that Brendan Perry had a good grounding influence on her. (mageeol@ro.com)

Comments about live performance:

I agree that they are terrific live, but also feel that they are not much different than their recorded sound. (jjhanson@att.net)

It's true, they are amazing in concert; much better than on cd. Which is not to say that their recordings aren't great. (clsriram@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)

personally, i like them better on cd...their sound is great live, but (from the concert i've seen, and the live cd) sounds exactly like listening to the cd, which is not quite what i look for in a concert. (contzen@sfu.ca)

I've seen them in concert several times, and their concerts are wonderful. (Violaine@juno.com)

I was also there at the Kimmel Center last night and it was great seeing Dead Can Dance again.I saw them before in 1996 at the Keswick Theatre. Lisa's voice last night was amazing as usual. She brought me to tears in at least 2 songs.
     But let's not forget Brendan Perry's soothing voice on many of the songs. (Some reviewers have said that "he has a voice somewhere between Frank Sinatra and Jim Morrison") It was interesting to hear him sing "Song to the Siren." (8/12, tmasapollo @ comcast.net)

Recommended first album:

In my opinion the best Dead Can Dance album is Aion, but that's just the repressed Medievalist in me talking. :)(meth@smoe.org)

I'd have to agree with meth and say that Aion is my favorite album (but it's too damned short!). I'm also rather partial to Into the Labyrinth, but then I'm one of the few who *loves* listening to Brendan sing. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Within the Realm of a Dying Sun is my favorite Dead Can Dance album. My favorite song from it is "Summoning of the Muse". (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

My favourite Dead Can Dance albums are Within the Realm of a Dying Sun and Spleen and Ideal. (jjhanson@att.net)

I highly recommend aion and into the labyrinth...(as well as their other albums—i don't have dead can dance or within the realm of a dying sun, and the only one i do have that i don't like all that much is spleen and ideal) into the labyrinth is quieter, more introspective, also has more world-type influences. it's narrowly my favourite. (contzen@sfu.ca)

a passage in time has songs from a number of their albums, and might be handy as a sampler, though i am not that fond of the selection. (clsriram@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)

A Passage In Time was the album that made me sit up and take notice (after hearing Into The Labyrinth first), and I think it makes a fine sampler. It also has two tracks (both of which I like) which aren't on the prior albums so it's not a waste if you go on to pick up the other albums as well. but my favourite Dead Can Dance album is Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

I can't say I have favorite cds of theirs, but I am partial I suppose to Serpent's Egg 'cause it was the first of theirs I bought (having first heard them lying on a massage table, being worked on by my chiropractor!) I also recommend A Passage in Time as a kind of sampler/greatest hits experience. For their live concert experience, get Toward the Within, or better yet, the video Toward the Within which includes interview footage and was filmed live at their concert in Santa Monica, CA. (Violaine@juno.com)

I like their live album, Toward the Within best, with Into the Labyrinth a close second. I'm also of the "I Love Brendan Singing" camp, and one of the things that I dislike most of all with them is Lisa's singing. But I understand that most of the world disagrees with me on that one. (joc@netaxs.com)

Recordings:

(Albums only; see Eyesore for a complete list.)


Dead Can Dance

Release info:

1984—4AD—CADC404 [Cass], CAD404CD [CD]

Group members:

Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerrard

Spleen and Ideal

Release info:

1985—4AD—CAD512 [LP], CADC512 [Cass], CAD512CD [CD]

Availability:

wide

Group members:

Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerrard

Guest artists:

Gus Ferguson—cello
Martin McGarrick—cello
James Pinker—timpani
Tony Ayres—timpani
Richard Avison—trombone
Andrew Hutton—soprano on 'De Profundis'
Carolyn Costin—violin

Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun

Release info:

1987—4AD—CAD705 [LP], CADC705 [Cass], CAD705CD [CD]

Availability:

wide

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry

Guest artists:

Alison Harling—violin
Emlyn Singleton—violin
Piero Gasparini—viola
Tony Gamage—cello
Gus Ferguson—cello
Mark Gerrard—trumpet
Richard Avison—trombone
John Sigleton—trombone
Andrew Claston—bass trombone and tuba
Ruth Watson—oboe
Peter Ulrich—timpani and military snare

Comments:

My personal favorite Dead Can Dance is Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. It's also pretty medieval-sounding (although not so traditionally instrumented as Aion). It also contains the glorious "The Summoning of the Muse"; if you like Lisa Gerrard's voice, it is pure ecstasy. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

this may not be Dead Can Dance's best, but i liked the cover and i think i can only afford them once!!! (= good music to die by. (bighat@camelot.bradley.edu)

The best album ever??? a desert island disc for me. (bye@humnet.ucla.edu)


The Serpent's Egg

Release info:

1988—4AD—CAD808 [LP], CADC808 [Cass], CAD808CD [CD]

Availability:

wide

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard—vocals
Brendan Perry—vocals, hurdy-gurdy

Guest artists:

David Navarro Sust—vocals
Alison Harling—violin
Rebecca Jackson—violin
Sarah Buckley—viola
Andrew Beesley—viola
Tony Gamage—violincello

Comments:

Many people also like The Serpent's Egg. I do too, although it's not so much a favorite. On the other hand, the opening track ("The Host of Seraphim") is another glorious showcase for Lisa's vocals. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Aion

Release info:

1990—4AD—CAD0007 [LP], CADC0007 [Cass], CAD0007CD [CD]

Availability:

wide

Ecto priority:

Very high. (jbr@casetech.dk)

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry

Guest artists:

John Bonnar—keyboards, co-arrangement Honor Carmody—tenor viol Robert Perry—bagpipes Andrew Robinson—bass viol Anne Robinson—bass viol Lucy Robinson—tenor viol David Nava Rro Sust—vocals

Comments:

my only complaint about Aion is that it's too short. beautiful, medieval, and i just can't get enough of lisa gerrard's voice! (contzen@sfu.ca)

I prefer Aion to all other Dead Can Dance albums myself. (cjmacs@micronet.net)


A Passage in Time

(Compilation album)

Release info:

1991—4AD—CADC1010 [Cass], CAD1010CD [CD]

Availability:

wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for those interested in gothic ethereal sound. (Neile)

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry

Comments:

My first Dead Can Dance experience was listening to Into The Labyrinth in a shop...I liked some of it immediately, other bits less...overall I was unsure. Then I found A Passage In Time and decided to buy it as soon as I'd heard it! Wonderful.... (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

Into the Labyrinth

Release info:

1993—4AD—CADC3013 [Cass], CAD3013CD [CD]

Availability:

wide

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry

Comments:

Once again this is the typical self-contained Dead Can Dance production, having been recorded in an Irish church by Brendan Perry and mixed by him as well, not to mention co-production (with Lisa Gerrard) and co-design (with Chris Bigg). The recording is flawless and contains several Bass Notes Of Doom (TM)—but the biggest surprise to me was the content. Opening track "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)" recalls Spleen And Ideal with its monk-in-a-church vocal and cinematic strings. Eerie and excellent. And then at about the two-minute mark, the voice becomes a middle-eastern wail, and we're transported from the remote monastery to an Eastern city as more and more eastern instruments join in. This theme continues onward to the next track, which comes complete with sitar and Indian wind instruments, but turns out to be a more conventional Dead Can Dance song (as opposed to a Dead Can Dance "piece"), with Brendan on vocals.
     Track 3, "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" (written by a Dr. Robert Dwyer Joyce and arranged in traditional form by Dead Can Dance) is a voice-only (Lisa) Irish lament that transports the hapless listener back to, well, Ireland, especially considering the convincing Irish accent that Lisa adopts for the occasion. :-) Then "The Carnival Is Over", another Perry vocal, glistens its shimmering and wonderful way into your speakers/headphones, bells and all. Literally. It sounds in parts like a Ryuchi Sakamoto tribute.... :)
     The brief "Ariadne" out-Enya's Enya with Lisa's sublime lyricless vocal before we are back firmly in Eastern territory on "Saldek." Have these guys been holidaying with Single Gun Theory or something? More sitar on the next track as well, "Toward The Within", but this one adds an interesting spin to the traditional Eastern backing, by supplementing it with doom-laden bass chords (and Dead Can Dance are the doom-laden bass chord experts, after all... :-) and assorted other counter-melodies. By the time this 7-minute track hits the tabla solo, though, the whole Eastern thing is starting to wear a little thin...lucky they added a few Gaelic pipes and some tambourines to complete the thing with an Irish jig... :)
     "Tell Me About The Forest" is another Perry vocal back in the more conventional Dead Can Dance style. Is it just me, or do some of the songs Brendan Perry sings lead vocal on sound something like Nick Cave with an orchestra? :) At any rate, it's straightforward but nice. Then comes "The Spider's Stratagem" and yes, more tablas; though this time, the rhythmic focus is more on a sequenced bass and drum track, as well as Lisa Gerrard's expectedly Eastern-tinged chant. Exercising her right to surprise the listener, Lisa slips into Diamanda Galas mode for a second toward the end....
     Then there's "Emmeleia", an apparently Latin a cappella vocal (I'm not multi-lingual, so don't shoot me if I've wrongly pegged your language as Latin!) which runs a brief two minutes, and then the closing track appears, "How Fortunate The Man With None", which uses words by Bertolt Brecht as the lyric. Another Perry vocal, and a very Spleen And Ideal track again—until you get to the glistening strings, bells, and Ryuchi-a-like instruments that populate its cinematic heart.
     In summary, then: Wow, what a record. They don't make 'em like this any more. In fact they never did. This is a genre unique to Dead Can Dance, and this is the best Dead Can Dance album in a long time. It's going to take patience to work its full magic, but its sheer diversity works in its favour this time, unlike some of their other works. It's not on a par with the early albums in terms of gothic atmosphere, but there's some of that here and then more. I want to go to Montsalvat (a medieval artists' retreat about 40 km from Melbourne) right now just so I can go sit in the Great Hall, light some candles, and play this album!
     The music of Dead Can Dance isn't for everyone, and isn't for playing at lively parties. Usually. Though I have done it. :) But those who know this band's work will find much to surprise them here, and much indeed to reward them. In fact, many songs on Happy's early albums are stylistically similar to what Dead Can Dance does (particularly the more keyboard-oriented tracks). Those who don't find those records impenetrable will have no problem with Into The Labyrinth. It's also recommended for fans of film soundtracks, fans of gothic horror movies, fans of Ryuchi Sakamoto when he's not making bland electro-pop, and monks. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

In the right environment (like driving on a mostly deserted highway late at night, which was the situation when I first listened to it) this album is magical. Some of the tracks sound "thrown in" (like "Saldek"), but "The Carnival Is Over" more than makes up for it. To be honest, I'm not overly fond of the "hit single", "The Ubiquitous Dr. Lovegrove," (I find the percussion kind of irritating), but so what. "How Fortunate the Man with None" is also a wonderful song. (dixon@physics.Berkeley.EDU)

I can't listen to Dead Can Dance very often, but this album is very good. Frank Sinatra goes mediaeval. High points for me: "How Fortunate The Man With None", "Mr Lovegrove". But Aion is still a better album. (relph@presto.ig.com)

I guess I'm trendy...I don't care much for Lisa Gerrard's vocals on this album; with the exception of "The Wind That Shakes The Barley", her vocals are a little too ethnic for me (and to think I own two Ofra Haza CDs!) I much prefer her on, say, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. (zaphod@oz.net)

An ecto find! I had only been vaguely aware of this duo before my joining ecto. Thanks! In a rare reversal, male vocalist (Brendan?)'s voice moves me more than Lisa Perry's! "The ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove", "The carnival is over", and "How fortunate the man with none" are gorgeous. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

Bought after all the enthusiasm in Ecto, I have to rate this as a complete dud as far as I'm concerned. Sorry chaps. I've given it numerous spins, but there's nothing here I can latch onto. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

I was never a big fan of Dead Can Dance, but this album really got me interested. Lisa Gerrard's voice is transcendent and even though Brendan Perry sounds like Frank Sinatra or Neil Diamond gone alternative, "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove" is a great song. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

Dead Can Dance—Into The Labyrinth (any new Dead Can Dance is cause for joy). (vickie@enteract.com)


Toward the Within

Release info:

1994—4AD— DAD4015 [LP], DAD4015CD [CD], VAD4015 [Video]

Availability:

wide

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard—voice, yang ch'in, percussion
Brendan Perry—voice, 12 string guitar, percussion, Irish bouzouki, d whistle

Guest artists:

Robert Perry—uillean pipes, Irish bouzouki, low d whistle, percussion
John Bonnar—keyboards, voice, percussion
Ronan O'Snodaigh—percussion, voice
Andrew Claxton—keyboards
Lance Hogan—bass guitar, 6 string guitar, percussion, voice

Comments:

Good, but too many simple ballads from Frank, er, I mean Brendan. (relph@presto.ig.com)

Unlike most Dead-heads, I actually like Brendan Perry's voice; sort of a classier version of Neil Diamond. The new songs on this CD are good to great (my favorite being "Desert Song"); I just wish they would jam more. (dixon@physics.Berkeley.EDU)

Toward the Within makes me wish I had gone to a Dead Can Dance concert. They have a really polished live sound. There's enough new material on this album that it doesn't seem redundant to me, although I have everything I know of from Spleen and Ideal onward. Apparently there's also a video available too. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Mmmh, if this was their best material then I would be even more disappointed. I bought it when it was on sale two months ago because of the recommendations in these pages. It was my first Dead Can Dance album and probably my last. Well, it's not bad but rather boring in my opinion. And I don't like Brendan Perry's voice. The songs don't really attract my attention and I can't listen to the album without skipping one or another song. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)


Spiritchaser

Release info:

1996—4AD—DAD6008 [LP], CADC6008 [Cass], CAD6008CD [CD]

Availability:

wide

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry

Guest artists:

Renaud Pion—Turkish clarinet on "Indus"
Peter Ulrich—percussion on Nierika & Dedicacé Outò
Lance Hogan—percussion on Nierika & Dedicacé Outò
Ronan O'Snodaigh—percussion on Nierika & Dedicacé Outò
Robert Perry—percussion on Nierika & Dedicacé Outò
Klaus Vormehr—percussion on Nierika & Dedicacé Outò

Comments:

Spiritchaser was subject to much debate on some of the email lists I'm on (especially the 4AD one)...a lot of folks seem not to like it, and it is indeed atypical for Dead Can Dance, more tribal/African/Latin, rather than medieval/Middle Eastern/Balkan sounding. If that makes sense. I myself was slow to warm up to Spiritchaser, but seeing them live in concert doing most of that material made me listen with new ears. (Violaine@juno.com)

I like it a lot. As woj commented, we're going to be going to sleep to it for a while. :) I think Aion and The Serpent's Egg are more interesting to me personally because of the Medieval connection, but I like what they're doing with the more percussive end of things, and the vocals are beautiful, as always (I must say I'm glad Brendan isn't as much in the fore-front singing on this album. :). (meth@smoe.org)

An excellent new addition to the Dead Can Dance catalogue, but definitely not their best effort (I'm still partial to Spleen and Ideal and Within the Realm of a Dying Sun). More Native American influenced than ever before, and definitely more percussive than previous releases. Some nice duet work between Brendan and Lisa, which is nice to see, since they usually seem to sing separately, but their voices work well together. One really nice piece by Lisa, and a consistent solid effort, but no real standout tracks. (jjhanson@att.net)

I'd say "patchy" is a fair description of Spiritchaser. I've listened a few times, and don't immediately like it as much as, say, Aion or Dying Sun or Into The Labyrinth, but it's pretty good.... (cinnamon@one.net)

I've listened to some of Spiritchaser, but I wasn't particularly enthralled. The only song that really grabbed me was the final track, which seemed to be the only one which featured Lisa's vocals prominently. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

spiritchaser is an interesting departure from their last phase! i can't say i like it as much as aion which is my favourite, or even as much as the others i've heard...maybe it's a bit too world beat. but it is still very good. (damon)


Anastasis

Release info:

2012—[Pias] America—8 43798 00093 3

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry

Guest artists:

David Kuckhermann—daf (6)

Produced by:

Dead Can Dance

Comments:

This is the first (and so far only) Dead Can Dance album I've gotten into, and I really enjoy it. The songs featuring Brendan's vocals are more 'traditional' songs (in the sense of lyrics) while Lisa fronts the more ambient, ethereal songs. All are excellent. (JoAnn.Whetsell)


Thanks to Philip Sainty for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2017-12-16 21:39:33.
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