Dead Dancing, Mnemosynes, Suns Dying, and so on…

Oh shit. Someone wrote two of the best songs of all time. I’ll give you a moment to guess who it is.

Don’t be an idiot.

Time’s up.

It’s Dead Can Dance. You lose, bitches! If you guessed Billy Joel, you’re also right, but also wrong because this post ain’t about the uptown boy who walked on the Nile while talkin’ ’bout the Great Wall of China. Can you deal?

Dead Can Dance has a very diverse catalogue so a random listen may not be so accessible. Genre-wise, you could call this music dark-wave, gothic folk, neo-world, and a variety of other labels. I prefer to describe it as the artistic inheritance of the legacy of the Greek myths, the old Egyptians, and all those lovely high points of classical, ancient Mediterranean culture. It really has those same ideas imbued in the music, transmitted authentically by Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, who clearly have made deep personal searches for mystical meaning in their lives and artistic careers. What’s so lovely is that projects like Dead Can Dance make you realize that the myths and legends of antiquity have resounding significance in the lives of humans in all times. The archetypes of the mysteries of existence always exist, no matter how complicated and pompous our civilization has become.


Lisa Gerrard sometimes will sing in glossalia, meaning she doesn’t use any lyrics. I imagine that must be hard to harmonize and layer those voices, and she has some of the most beautiful harmonized vocal recordings I’ve ever heard. I can somewhat relate, as about 80% of the lead guitar playing I record is not planned out in any way before recording. I might remember some idea at the beginning, but I generally just feel the leads and solos out throughout the recording, and sometimes make up the harmonized parts on the spot. It makes for some interesting ideas and really improves my musical ear (fucking bonus). To summarize: I sure play a mean pinball.

Everybody sweats Dead Can Dance, including you, your uncle, your kids and your robot manservant. There have been a few Dead Can Dance tributes, and one of them does have some songs by Ulver and Empyrium members (did I mention Empyrium fucking rules?). I can hear the Dead Can Dance influence in lots of modern music. Since disbanding in 1995, Lisa Gerrard has been all over the place, mostly in movie soundtracks. She has composed for both good and bad movies, and is the best part of the bad films she agrees to participate in (she’s a real bodhisattva in that regard). The only parts of the film, The Gladiator that don’t feel like a Hollywood slime-fest are when her music is being played. She also did the music to Whale Rider, as well as some other recent film score with Ennio Morricone, etc.

Am sick. Doctor need.A cover I will not pretend to understand…

I don’t think Brendan Perry has released much of anything to the public since playing in Dead Can Dance. Too bad, some of his compositions were really tops. I think Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (1987) and Aion (1990) are probably their two most immediately accessible albums. I got Toward A Dying Sun kinda late (by 20 years), and they separate the two sides of the album (it was a vinyl originally, boys ‘n girls) into songs written and sung by each member. So the first four songs are Brendan Perry compositions with mostly his vocals, and likewise the last four songs are Lisa Gerrard. The whole album is smooth sailing in the realm of the music guru, but both sides also have one or two exceptionally strong tracks on them. For Perry’s half, I’d say the song “Xavier” (presumably about the [evil!] Jesuit founder) is the one that really hits you the hardest, whereas I’d say on Gerrard’s half it is the song “Summoning of the Muse” (although I think “Cantara” is the famous song from it, really).

Here’s a live performance of “Cantara”:
Summoning of the Muse is a fucked up song. It’s really one of the most potent pieces of music I have ever heard. Let me put this expression of enthusiasm in context. Now, like almost everyone else, I go through stupid energetic phases on a daily basis where I feel compelled to rant on about how awesome some band or song is. I actually do this several times a week in an online diary about music (if you’re lucky maybe I’ll make it public sometime). I actually thought a while before writing anything about Dead Can Dance, because well… I just can’t express it properly or satisfactorily. Their music is eclipsed by the words you use to describe it. When hearing this song, you are actually witnessing something; it’s like you’re getting at the source of musical creation. This is one of those songs that slows down time, or speeds it up. You know the feeling: It’s orgasmic; it takes you to some realm of infinity where time is just slipping through your fingers like granules of sand. It is very incredible. When I hear it, I don’t even care if people agree, disagree, or have whatever opinion about this music and this song. The song is truth.

I showed these two songs to my roommate here in Sverige, and she responded “Oh, it sounds like there is magic in that music, maybe?”.

DCD @ Amazon


Dead Can Dance were active from 1981-1998, and for some brief reunion tours recently. They were on the record label, 4AD.


~ by chaosrexmachinae on October 16, 2007.

One Response to “Dead Dancing, Mnemosynes, Suns Dying, and so on…”

  1. this is beautifull

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