Anastasis is Greek for “resurrection” and that’s what happens here with Dead Can Dance, the gothic rock band who took deep atmospheres, ritual songs and supralingua dialects to ecstatic, transcendent heights in the 1980s and 90s. There hasn’t been any new music from the band since founders Lisa Gerard and Brendan Perry broke up in ’98, first romantically and then musically. Gerrard went on to expand the Dead Can Dance sound on a series of solo albums and film scores, including Gladiator. Perry went into relative obscurity, until releasing his second solo album, Ark in 2011
(Good live fan footage of “Return of the She-King”)
It’s the sound of Ark, with its drum machine loops and sustained string pads that informs the first new DCD album since 1996’s rhythmically charged, globally influenced, Spiritchaser. The rhythms of Anastasis fall into mid-tempo caravan-crossing grooves, both ominous and mystical at the same time. He decorates those patterns with string pads and exotic percussion, including frame drums and the Hang drum on “Anabasis”, another Greek word meaning “journey up country.” Aside from some Arabic touches and Perry’s current infatuation with the bouzouki, Anastasis sheds a lot of the world music influences heard on their last few CDs, sounding more like their work from the mid-1980s.
Lisa Gerrard’s voice is incandescent as usual. She sounds like a mother who has lost her child on “Anabasis.” But on “Agape,” she’s a wild yet heavenly seductress enticing her lover, her voice driven by her yangqin (hammered dulcimer) cycles and a whining kamencheh. Whether intoning one of her glossolia prayers on “Kiko” or intertwining multiple vocal lines on the “Gladiator”-style lament of “Return of the She-King,” Gerrard taps a spirit deep and ancient.
Brendan Perry’s languorous voice tends toward the foreboding side of things. No “get up and get happy” songs for him. Singing in his chocolate-swathed baritone against surging synth strings and John Barry-style horns on “Children of the Sun,” even a flower-power line sounds like a march to the abyss.
“We are children of the sun,
Our journey’s just begun,
Flowers in our hair.”
But Perry can also hit a yearning pitch that wails in torment at the end of the world.
One of the all-to-infrequent joys of Anastasis is when Perry and Gerrard sing together. They do that on “Return of the She King” and “Children of the Sun,” and each of them comes in for a counter vocal or sings harmony, it instantly lifts the song to a new height of emotional impact.
It’s been seven years since Dead Can Dance toured, sixteen years since their last album. Hopefully, Anastasis is a true resurrection and the beginning of a new chapter as Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry aspire to the exalted, and often attain it.
~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))