Dead Can Dance: 5 Steps To Ecstasy

#10 of 20 Icons of Echoes: Dead Can Dance
5 Essential Dead Can Dance Albums

Tonight on Echoes we’ll be featuring an extended feature on Dead Can Dance as we look back on the career of this influential band who listeners voted as #10 among 20 Icons of Echoes for our 20th Anniversary.  Dead Can Dance only made 8 proper studio albums, so you’d think it would be easy to pick out five.  It isn’t, but here they are.

Dead Can Dance SPiritChaser1 Spiritchaser
It’s not often that a group’s swansong album is also one of their strongest, but Spiritchaser is still holding up.  Unlike the contemplative moods that dominate most DCD albums, Spiritchaser snarled like a trapped cat and soared like an ecstatic tribal dance.  Songs like” Nierika” and “The Snake and the Moon” were as exhuberant as anything DCD recorded, while still capturing that spirit of the other.

2 Spleen & Ideal
This was the second Dead Can Dance album and established them as gothic savants moving from Gregorian chants on “De Profundis” to 21st century chants on “Circumradiant Dawn. ” It also features one of their great forgotten songs, “Avatar” a dervish of rapturous dance.   Brendan Perry assays his epic and anthemic “The Cardinal Sin.”

3 Into the Labyrinth
This was their break-up album in many ways, recorded while their personal relationship disintegrated.  It’s little wonder, then, that Into the Labyrinth sounds like two different albums.  One is Brendan Perry’s more conventional songs and laments, harkening back to past relationships, lost youth and paths not taken including the snarling “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove.”    Gerrard, on the other hand, immerses herself in the abstractions of her uncanny vocal style, bringing Gregorian chants to the African jungle on “Yulunga” and weaving an enchantresses spell on “The Spider’s Stratagem,” all of them wordless, calling out to the spirits.

4 The Serpent’s Egg
This features some of their strongest choral writing including the epic, “Host of the Seraphim” and “The Writing of My Father’s Hand.”  Brendan gets in one of his best DCD era songs, “Severance,” a song of loss.  “Echolalia” taps a Native American gothic sound with both Gerrard and Perry singing in stacked choirs and call & response chants.

5 Aion
This might be their most Mediaeval album, full of hurdy gurdys and folk forms from the Middle Ages.  They even do a straight rendition of the 14th century “Saltarello” and render a haunting version of a 16th century Catalan tune called “The Song of The Sibyl.”  Gerrard also began tapping her Bulgarian muse.

For those who just need a sampling from across the Dead Can Dance spectrum, you could do worse than Memento, a collection that came out in 2005.   Nothing from their first album, but most of their classics are here, including “Cantara” from Within the Realm of the Dying Sun, an album that many people would include in their Top 5 DCD albums I suspect.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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