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Lisa Gerrard


Country of origin:

Australia

Type of music generally:

Ethereal, evocative/eclectic, world music

Status:

Most recent release, Twilight Kingdom (2014)

See also:

The official site

The Ectophiles' Guide's entry for her band, Dead Can Dance and her work with percussionist Pieter Bourke and a CD Baby link for her work with Marcello De Francisci

Comparisons:

Cocteau Twins' Elisabeth Fraser meets Dmitri Shostakovitch? Unlike anything else I've heard, but intimately familiar and moving. (jzitt@humansystems.com)

Like her work with Dead Can Dance

Covers/own material:

Own material

General comments:

it is as if she is channeling a voice from another world—her wordless lyrics are truly inspired (if you ask me.) I find "Sanvean" to be one of the most emotional songs I've ever heard. (4/99, jjhanson@att.net )

Lisa Gerrard's performances grate on me. I don't care how technically well she can sing, there doesn't seem to be a feeling human being attached to that voice except in terms of pretentiousness and taking herself far too seriously. There doesn't seem to be anything real there at all.
     I can understand why people like her (intellectually, at least), but I can't stand her (my ears cringe). I only have one Dead Can Dance disc left in the house (A Passage in Time) and I never, ever play it. I couldn't listen to her solo disc, though I tried several times. It put me to sleep or got on my nerves.
     I wouldn't exactly say her music is bland, but that's the effect it has on me. It's made so smooth and smothered that I search in vain for something edgy in it, something with tang. No tang there. (4/99, Neile)

Comments about live performance:

I just got back from the Lisa Gerrard show at Gaston Hall on Georgetown University, and I must say it was a stunning affair. Gaston Hall is an ornate, small hall, perfect for Lisa and her ensemble. I'm not a big Dead Can Dance fan, and haven't heard her solo album, so I was completely taken back by the strength and range of her voice. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that it was kind of shrill, but if that's the case on any of the albums, it certainly wasn't so live. I had no idea she had such a powerful deep voice.
     I thought the show got off to kind of a slow start. After an intriguing group hum, all the songs seemed to be of the same stately tempo, with Lisa accompanied by her 6-man band playing bland and uninteresting synthesizers (harpsichord and poor sounding orchestrations). The tempo picked up as Lisa took to hammered dulcimer for the first of what turned out to be continuous high points. This song was marred by technical and tuning problems, but it marked the turning point of the show. From here on out I was totally dumbstruck. (Too bad the guy sitting next to me wasn't!) The synths were abandoned for an array of percussion instruments, wooden flutes, bouzouki, and Lisa's hammered dulcimer (in 2 different tunings). While Lisa's voice was always strong and impressive, I felt her presentation was kind of cold and academic. It didn't matter as the interplay of voices and instruments led to results that sent shivers up my spine and echoed around in my stomach. (I don't think it was just because the hall was freezing and I hadn't eaten dinner either.) The music swelled and shifted and constantly lifted me up to another level entirely. Rarely have I been so transported by a performance. After the main set, the small crowd gave her a rousing standing ovation, with the applause continuing enthusiastically, longer than any ovation I'd heard, easily 15 or 20 minutes. The brief encore was slower and less intense, sliding us back down from the heights the earlier music had taken us to. Despite my few complaints above, this may well have been my favorite concert this year. (10/95, neal)

When Lisa came out to perform, it was utterly captivating. I had great seats—about 10 feet from her, front row—a little to the left. This caused a little trouble seeing the people on the right side of the stage, but I didn't mind—I found myself having trouble taking my eyes of Lisa's mouth anyway. It's utterly incredible the noises she can make. She definitely speaks her own language. I found her show to be utterly transcendent. And although the orchestral numbers from the new album didn't sound quite as rich with just the synthesizers, I actually preferred the beginning of the show to the later half. While the band didn't have the tuning problems Neal mentioned, they certainly didn't have the choreography of what to do between songs worked out. Lisa managed to bonk the percussionist pretty good on the head with her instrument once, forgot her little mallets and had to walk back offstage to get them at one point, and got more than a little peeved at the guy playing the (shoot—what was that)—the most guitar-like instrument on stage when he tried to grab the mike and sing along with her and she said "Not yet!". She actually seemed a little peeved at this guy throughout the show. She definitely seems to be a perfectionist.
     But despite those small flaws, Lisa was incredible. "Sanvean" is still, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. During the show I even began to think that Lisa might just oust Kate Bush as God from my personal pantheon, but realized they are really incomparable. Lisa seems much more like an instrument—sort of a telephone or other device, that brings these divine sounds from a whole other dimension. Her self-expression is more self-less expression—totally becoming a channel to this divine noise. So I won't try to compare her with other female singers like Kate or Jane Siberry or Happy Rhodes—but I will say that I don't think I've ever seen another singer with such incredible vocal control.
      It still amazes me that Lisa is able to create these songs in no language other than her own. Anyway, it was a great show—truly magical, captivating, transcendant, incomparable. The closest show I can compare it to is Loreena McKennitt's—but that's more a comparison of bands and musical styles than of vocalists. (jjhanson@att.net)

Recommended first album:

The Mirror Pool

Recordings:

  • The Mirror Pool (1995)
  • The Silver Tree (2006)
  • Best Of Lisa Gerrard (compilation 2007)
  • Departum (with Marcello De Francisci, 2010)
  • Twilight Kingdom (2014)

The Mirror Pool

Release info:

1995—4AD—CTX031CD

Availability:

Widely available

Ecto priority:

High for fans of ethereal music, and Dead Can Dance (of course)

Group members:

Lisa Gerrard—vocals

Guest artists:

The Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra
Dimitry Kyryakou—bouzouki
Pieter Bourke—derabukkas, tablas and camel drum
John Bonnar—keyboards
Jacek Tuschewski—vocal parts on Celon and Rite

Produced by:

Lisa Gerrard

Comments:

If this isn't one of the most unique albums of the year then I'm a Doop fan. :) Beautifully orchestrated on about half the running length, the full orchestra version of "Sanvean" (the song Lisa wrote with Dead Can Dance keyboardist Andrew Claxton and which was included on Toward The Within) is breathtaking. Yum. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

hmmm. i've been listening to the mirror pool once a day or so lately and it just hasn't clicked with me. dunno what it is either as her songs from dead can dance still floor me. i think i miss brendan and his counterbalance to lisa's mystic yodeling. i also think that the supporting music is pretty weak. lisa's yang ch'in (a small chinese hammered dulcimer) is glorious as always, but the keyboard drones and washes sound kinda flat and synthetic. (woj@smoe.org)

another big happy, think medium-recent (Serpent's Egg to present) Dead Can Dance except with Brendan excerpted. all Lisa-songs, yay! i thought i wouldn't miss Brendan, but i think i do. i don't miss his singing, but i do miss the faster percussion-heavy tribal trancey sort of songs that Dead Can Dance sometimes does...they mostly aren't here. think Dead Can Dance leaning in the direction of Loreena McKennitt, very beautiful, *definitely* cathedric. playing this album at work got most everyone to ask "What's that?". and Lisa's on tour...sign me up! (winona@mildh.pair.com)

isn't her album fabulous? i am just in awe of it. it really is so much better to hear her without brendan perry. (clsriram@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)

it's a tad creepy for my taste. Not exactly extremely dark or full of 'cries that freeze your heart' or anything...just a bit weird...I have a feeling this one's unlikely to grow on me.... (abehrend@Direct.CA)

I like all kinds of Dead Can Dance songs, whether Brendan Perry or Lisa Gerrard seemed to be the dominant force in a song. However, my favorites are heavily weighted towards the songs with Lisa's vocals—"Mesmerized", "The Host of Seraphim", "Summoning of the Muse". Although Lisa's solo work doesn't always have the power of those songs, it's still great. My surprise favorite is the slow, almost too-repetitive instrumental "Nilleshna" near the end of the album, which nevertheless musically does it for me. Is it sometimes creepy? Yeah, but that's what I like. This would almost be like the best of Dead Can Dance, although without Brendan it doesn't always have the same edge. Lisa is perfectly competent by herself, though, and her compositions are marvelous. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

For some reason, I just am not that impressed with The Mirror Pool. Other than Lisa's version of Handel's "Largo", which is absolutely amazing, the songs are just not particularly interesting. So, perhaps Brendan and Lisa do need each other.
     [Some time later...] I think my opinion of Lisa Gerrard's CD may be changing over time. I suddenly like it more, although it's still not as good as any of the Dead Can Dance albums. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

it's a very interesting album. Very rich, sumptuous orchestration. I dunno, though. Like some other folks have said here, I sorta miss Brendan Perry's dorky toneless Frank Sinatra wannabe singing and the pop tune angle he spins on some of Dead Can Dance's more fun numbers. The Mirror Pool is way more Serious sounding than a lot of Dead Can Dance. Well, call this groundling a heretic, but I like a little (largely unintentional) levity now and then! Still, I have listened to it a fair bit and some of the tracks (esp. the opening track) are quite amazing! (nkg@vcn.bc.ca)

Dead Can Dance loses Brendan, and we don't even miss him. Chillingly beautiful. (meth@smoe.org)

beautiful.... lisa's voice channels a divinely beautiful muse. (contzen@sfu.ca)

Lisa Gerrard is my real attraction to Dead Can Dance, and her solo album, The Mirror Pool, is excellent and a must-have for all Dead Can Dance fans. But then I always wanted a Dead Can Dance album on which Brendan didn't sing—and this pretty much fits the bill. The orchestral version of "Sanvean" is worth the price of the album alone, although there are several other good tracks (and a couple that don't do a whole lot for me.) (jjhanson@att.net)

It won't leave my CD-player in a very long time that's for sure. It is just incredible. Talking about tears—the album really moves me. Just can't believe that so much wonderful possibly could have been put on one disc. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

Lisa Gerrard's The Mirror Pool has a definite place in my collection, and I agree about "Sanvean"—to me this is one of the most beautiful *and* emotional pieces of music ever! (afries@zip.com.au)

The (way too many) times that I've moved since The Mirror Pool came out, I've always put it on as the first disc after putting a stereo together. It gives a good feel for how sonicly "warm" a room is. (4/98, jzitt@humansystems.com)

Listening to "Sanvean" while flying above clouds on an early morning is the closest I can get to heaven without meeting Morpheus' sister :-) (rlovejoy@comcast.net)

More generally when it comes to ambient, prog or ethereal I have always prefered instrumental pieces over vocal ones. The exception being Lisa Gerrard's Mirror pool but she uses her voice like an instrument so it doesn't really count. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)


Further info:

Lisa Gerrard now does a lot of soundtrack work. Her work on the Gladiator soundtrack won a Golden Globe.

There is a DVD Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard (2006).


Thanks to Neal Copperman and Andrew Fries for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2015-05-30 21:53:28.
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