Tuesday, November 09, 2004:

Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance -- Nierika
Dead Can Dance -- Don't Fade Away
Dead Can Dance started in the early 1980s as a quartet--Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerard, Paul Erikson, and Simon Monroe; I first heard them about 10 years later. The album I'd heard first was their debut, and it didn't interest me much--too dark, too synthy--but I gave them another chance. I missed their next four albums, jumping to their (then-recent) Into the Labyrinth, which was much more my speed. Their next, Toward the Within, was a live album, somewhat uneven but with some standout tracks; but for my money Spiritchaser was the best out of the four I'd heard. They released that album and then they quit.

Along the way Erikson and Monroe had left, and Perry and Gerard brought in different collaborators on their albums; here they were making some jaw-droppingly beautiful tracks: typically mellow and haunting, with an other-wordly quality about them, piercing singing and a percussion that struck me as somehow organic and soothing.

Spiritchaser came out in 1996, shortly after my father died (or, as Stephen King might say, "reached the clearing at the end of his path"); those were hard times, and I spent most of my time casting about for some meaning or purpose, and spent most of the rest of it flirting with alcoholism and lying in bed listening to the CD, trying not to think. Yet that loss hasn't tarnished the music: the music has a sense of loss about it already, a bit of foreboding, but it also has abundant beauty and hints of optimism. I'm not a very poetic person and I'm not sure there is any clearing at the end of the path--it depends on a notion of self that lives on after the body--but if there is, and the clearing has music like this, then arriving there won't be as much of a blow as feared. (There might even be dancing--the group does have some uptempo numbers, though I haven't posted any here).

On a much less morbid note, I'd like to give a shoutout to Apple for Balkanizing my music collection. iTunes is a killer app, no doubt, and before the win2000 port came along I'd been ripping all my CDs to .ogg (smaller filesize, as good or better audio). iTunes doesn't play .oggs (except through a third-party plugin that makes the computer lock up briefly every time you start to play one or edit a tag), and so I'd forgotten about nearly half of my record collection; I've only begun to re-encode them.

None of which means I'll be blogging for longer than I'd thought--most of the music is by groups like Radiohead and The Beatles, who've had enough attention already. But there are the occasional semi-obscure gems like Dead Can Dance: an old friend I'd wrongly neglected, still faithful, still true. It's time to get reacquainted: there are four more albums by them I've never heard, and solo and side projects to boot.

update: Dead Can Dance are getting back together for a tour of Europe and North America. More info here.
[Toward the Within]


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