Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard might not be familiar names to some, but as Dead Can Dance they've created some of the most unique collections of music to emerge from the underground. Having formed in Melbourne during the summer of 1981 as post-punk was slowly evolving into gothic rock and its many sub-genres, Perry and Gerrard signed to 4AD, at the time a fledgling independent label, setting to work on their then-new collaboration, emerging with the groundbreaking self-titled long player three years later. Pre-dating the subtle ambient textures that would evolve into shoegaze by several years while fusing melodies from styles and cultures twice the world over, their experiments in sound were a breathtaking joy amidst a sea of predictability. Six albums and fourteen years later, Perry and Gerrard went their separate ways, the seeds of their next record apparently sewn beforehand.
Fast forward another fourteen years and the alliance that is Dead Can Dance are back. Although reforming briefly in 2005 for a series of shows across Europe and North America, 'Anastasis' represents their first collection of recorded output since 1996's 'Spiritchaser'. While still predominantly a duo; Perry and Gerrard at the heart of its creative core; they've enlisted the services of a chamber orchestra among other musicians to help bring their latest creation to fruition. Never staid or sticking to any one given formula, 'Anastasis' weaves and wanders through an array of exploratory paths throughout its eight pieces, never once settling for the obvious. But then of course Dead Can Dance never practiced the norm, hence the reason why they still held in high esteem, nearly thirty years from that first pivotal release.
No longer signed to 4AD. That association dissipating in 1998 when the duo initially split, their subsequent reunion culminating in a deal with PIAS, there's little doubt Perry and Gerrard's music had a lasting impact at their previous home, augmenting many 4AD artists music both past and present from the Cocteau Twins to the likes of Ariel Pink. Each one of 'Anastasis' individual parts represents its own monolith in itself. Take the opening 'Children Of The Sun' for example. Perry assuming vocal duties here, its bold symphonic fanfare setting the scene a seven-and-a-half minute mantra that echoes The Doors had they been an electronic orientated outfit from Dusseldorf rather than a rock and roll based combo from California. "All the queens horses and all the kings men, will never put these children back together again," decrees a wistful Perry.
The title track and the more Eastern tinged 'Agape' see Gerrard come to the fore, her wordless voice-as-instrument paeans rivalling some of Liz Fraser's finest recordings, albeit from a more classical perspective. The latter's combination of trance induced beats coupled with Gerrard's dulcet tones creating a delightfully mystical fusion somewhat akin to Ofra Haza fronting The Banshees. The dubby overtones of 'Amnesia' take the record into altogether darker climate, 'Kiko' dropping 'Anastasis' one notch further into semi-acoustic territory that mirrors 'Disintegration' era Cure from an all encompassing, worldly perspective.
Perry returns to the fore on 'Opium', its cathartic beauty amidst a flurry of beats and orchestral sounds suggesting complexity brings out the best in its creators. Not dissimilar in many ways to Wild Beasts on 'End Come Too Soon' as far as the arrangement's concerned, 'Opium' stands proud as one of the highlights on 'Anastasis', although to be fair there's little here that does disappoint.
'Return Of The She-King' perhaps has the most dated feel on the album here, Gerrard's vocal across the bagpipes and bells arrangement reminiscent of Clannad performing the theme to 'Harry's Game' or worse, Enigma. Minor glitches aside, 'Anastasis' and Dead Can Dance save the best for last. "You taught me hatred was a virtue," insists Perry in hymn-like fashion on the closing 'All In Good Time', its cold and atmospheric tones delivering 'Anastasis' to a natural state of closure.
Experimental without being superfluous, 'Anastasis' signifies a triumphant return for Dead Can Dance that can only bode well for their world tour this autumn. They say everything comes to those who wait. Hopefully where the follow-up's concerned that won't take another sixteen years.
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