THE DEAD ALSO
By: Manuel Montes.
1980 is the date: the year when Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry met in Melbourne, Australia. Both of an Anglo-Irish origin, they shared at once a special interest in the music of their ancestors, and also a completely original vision, different from that in the world surrounding them.
It didn't take them long to found what would be their band, Dead Can Dance. They did so in 1981, thus shaping in an identifiable way a growing personal relationship and an intense appreciation for some very determined literary and artistic styles. During the following months they wrote as much music as they could, yet they did not come to release anything yet, except for the theme "The Fatal Impact", that appeared in a cassette released together with the specialized magazine Fast Forward.
Nevertheless, a completely innovative flair, of a very high quality indeed, could already be seen. They only needed to find a record label that dared to release their music and thus make their particular art available to the general audience. To this end, in 1982 they went to London and in 1983 they signed a contract with the label 4AD.
Their first record, named after the band, was released in March 1984. In it all their work of those last years was compiled, including the already mentioned "The Fatal Impact". In actual fact, both its contents and the LP cover, a visual explanation of the why and wherefore of the name of the band, were truly impressive. The image and the dark impact, almost baroque in nature, of the music, earned them all kinds of epithets, not always agreeable ones.
Yet the first step had already been taken. By the end of that year they were included in the compilation Dream and Desires, and they collaborated with This Mortal Coil, in the album It'll End In Tears (two songs). They also released a maxisingle (Garden of the Arcane Delights) with four themes that in the modern CD releases have been incorporated to the first record of the band.
Their special way to understand music, an intelligent mixture of ethnic touches, traditional rock and also ancient styles, began to attract the attention of the appropriate circles. This would be confirmed in 1985 with their second record, called Speen and Ideal, whose presence in number 2 of the independent lists already hinted at a really splendid future.
With success already in the bag, Dead Can Dance could begin to think about long tours. The first one took place in 1986, showing that their live performances could be even more impressive than their albums recorded at studios. Their work in composition, however, would not stop. Their label, 4AD, would release in 1987 a compilation and a video called Lonely Is An Eyesore, to which they contributed two new themes. Besides, they released their third record, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun, which would set a considerable change in their course, if not of a stylistic kind, being so with respect to their form. Perry and Gerrard decided to give a greater importance to the merging of electronic and acoustic instruments from then on, determining a fusion of sound of a tremendous original nature.
Already in 1988, the band released their fourth album: The Serpent's Egg, a conceptual approach to the sinuosity of terrestrial topography and the particular form of our Earth. In this record, Dead Can Dance forget a little about the romanticism of previous works and rather tend to the medieval music, with a really impressive result.
By the end of this same year, and once they were contacted by the Spanish film director Agustín Villaronga, they composed the soundtrack for the movie El Niño de la Luna, a film where Lisa Gerrard herself was a guest actress. The success of the film was remarkable, it participated in Cannes and was awarded several prizes all over the world.
Yet their evolution had not ceased. Their Spanish experience would yield still more fruit, specially in their fifth record, called Aion and released in 1990. In it we can find influences from the Renaissance and their musical aesthetics, both liturgical and secular. To this end they used instruments similar to the ones typical of those ages.
During the next two or three years they would make numerous collaborations in different environments, specially in several theatre productions, in which the members of the band compose and play. Also, their music was included in the samplers Red Tape, Lilliput, Mai Pen Rai, and Music for the 90's Volume 5. By the end of 1992, the first record by Dead Can Dance domestically released in the USA was offered to the general audience in the format of compiled material from other records plus two new themes.
In 1993, the American director Ron Fricke premieres his spectacular movie Baraka. The weight of the soundtrack is carried by Michael Stearns, but among the great amount of music that appears in it most remarkable are several new and old themes by Dead Can Dance, one of which ("The Host of Seraphim") appears in the released soundtrack of the film. Few times have image and sound been so well mixed.
Without leaving their sporadic collaborations, the band participates with two compositions in the project by Hector Zazou, Sahara Blue, as well as in the Angels of Perversity, by Elijah's Mantle and Mark Ellis. Later would arrive the moment to release their new record Into the Labyrinth, the one that would provide them with the greatest success in sales up to now. Nonetheless, things had changed within the band: the two members live separately, one of them by the border between Eire and Northern Ireland (Perry) and the other in Australia (Gerrard). The result was a magnificent record even if it has been composed individually (it sufficed a three-month reunion to record it). Thus a hypothetical door towards later solo works on the part of each one of the artists was opened in fact.
The consequent international tour would allow for the release of the record and the video Toward the Within, both recorded live. Almost all the themes composing them are new. Together with the group other musicians participated and contributed different sounds as well as an uncommon stylistic variety. Praised by the critics, Dead Can Dance already dominate their musical kingdom, although the future appears to be uncertain due to the separation of its members. Their music would likewise appear in 1994 in the compilation by 4AD, All Virgos Are Mad, as well as in another sampler, No Balls, in 1995.
The last record released by the band is Spiritchaser, appeared in 1996. As usual, Perry and Gerrard contribute their own compositions, sung by either of them, yet never in a duo. Their contents, full of percussive sounds, remind a little of their first works.
What about the future? Both Perry and Gerrard announce solo records, as could be expected, and in actual fact Lisa already has released The Mirror Pool, constructed on material previously composed by herself that had no place in the albums by Dead Can Dance, with more vocal and orchestral arrangements. For now, it seems that Dead Can Dance will continue ahead, and actually the release of a new CD has already been advertised. In any case, together or separated, Lisa and Brendan have already made history with their eight records. It only remains for us to see what the next years will bring for them, and whether their capacity to amaze us will continue to be as great as it has been so far.
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