Dead Can Dance
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|Dead Can Dance|
Brendan Perry (left) and Lisa Gerrard (right)
New Age/Ethnic Fusion
|Label(s)||4AD Records (world)
4AD/Warner Bros. Records (US)
Dead Can Dance is a band comprising Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry. Formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1981 and initially based there, it disbanded in 1998 but reunited temporarily for a world tour in 2005.
Though the band was formed in Australia, Gerrard and Perry moved soon after to London, where after one year they signed up to alternative rock label 4AD Records, a legendary label on the alternative-music scene. They continued to work closely together until the late 1990s when they started to grow apart. Gerrard returned to Australia, while Perry moved to Ireland, where he bought the old Quivvy Church in which he lives and works. It is speculated that the distance between the members was an influence in the duo’s eventual break-up, although Perry himself said that distance helped in maintaining a certain individual freedom in creativity.
Assigning a musical genre to Dead Can Dance is difficult, as its style is particularly eclectic. However, its early work could be considered darkwave and Gothic, with the song “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” achieving instant classic status on play-lists at Gothic dance clubs. In their later work, including and subsequent to the release titled The Serpent’s Egg, Dead Can Dance would take ancient or various musics from around the world as primary sources, with Gerrard singing glossolalia, giving it a very distinctive style. As a result, their later albums sound quite different from the first three. Various sources have labeled those latter releases as neo-classical, ethereal, or dark world music.
The name “Dead Can Dance” is inspired by the Danse macabre allegory and also is a pun on the word “decadence”. The instruments that are used are either ancient, forgotten or no longer desirable to most musicians. Another understanding of the name is the idea of giving a life to the inanimate, as Perry said:
- The album artwork [of their self titled first album], a ritual mask from New Guinea, attempted to provide a visual reintrepretation of the meaning of the name Dead Can Dance. The mask, though once a living part of a tree is dead; nevertheless it has, through the artistry of its maker, been imbued with a life force of its own. To understand why we chose the name, think of the transformation of inanimacy to animacy. Think of the processes concerning life from death and death into life. So many people missed the inherent symbolism, and assumed that we must be morbid gothic types, a mistake we deplored and deplore. 
In the United States, the group’s albums were not released until the mid-1990s, when 4AD had a distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records. After this deal ended, 4AD allied itself with the Beggar’s Banquet Group, which included that eponymous label and XL Recordings in the USA, but the band’s recordings remained distributed through Warner Bros. Subsequent releases, however, have been licensed to Rhino/Atlantic Records, a sister label within Warner Music. A Passage in Time remains with 4AD independently of the Rhino and Warner Bros. deals.
A 1998 follow-up album to their last album Spiritchaser was planned, but the band separated before it was largely realized. One song that was to have appeared on it was fully recorded in the studio and is titled The Lotus Eaters. Though the album was never completed, it was eventually released on the box set Dead Can Dance (1981-1998) as well as the 2-disc Wake.
Many unofficial live bootlegs exist of concerts spanning their career, which contain several rare songs that were only performed live. Though Toward the Within is the duo’s only official live album, Dead Can Dance released limited-edition recordings of 13 shows from its 2005 European tour, as well as a compilation titled Selections from Europe 2005. These concerts were recorded and released by The Show.
 Dead Can Dance in films and TV
One of the band’s more noteworthy tracks features in Episode 1, Season 5 of The West Wing. Sanvean can be heard during the poignant final scene when members of the Bartlett family are attending a private church service following the kidnapping of the youngest daughter, Zoey.
Another poignant scene can be found in the movie Unfaithful where two songs from Spiritchaser are played simultaneously: “Devorzhum” is a soft, lullaby song that is transposed over “Dedicacé’ Outò,” which contrastingly is filled with various up-tempo percussion. Together the two songs create a visceral tension that complements well the visual stress on the screen of how Diane Lane’s character is fighting her will to stay faithful, yet still gives into the passion of adultery.
Additionally, one can find snippets of Dead Can Dance’s music permeating popular culture, such as
- “Summoning of the Muse” from Within the Realm of a Dying Sun as an introduction for a national women’s gymnastics program and Arch Enemy also used it as an intro for their last tour.
- portions of “De Profundis” from Spleen and Ideal and “Nierika” and “Song of the Stars” from Spiritchaser as theme and background in a Pioneer Productions/Channel 4/Discovery Channel/ABC TV documentary program on black holes featuring Homer Simpson
- The opening of “The Host of Seraphim” from The Serpent’s Egg in a trailer for the film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and is featured in the Japanese CGI film Vexille 2077 Nihon Sakoku. It is also used in the 2002 film ‘Ripley’s Game’ starring John Malkovich. A mixed version of “The Host of Seraphim” is used in the trailer of the 2006 Iraq War drama Home Of The Brave starring Curtis Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, and Brian Presley. The song was not featured in the actual film.
- “Rakim” during the opening scenes/magic act of the CSI/Season 3 episode “Abra_Cadaver.”
- “The Host of Seraphim” also plays over the climactic scenes of Frank Darabont‘s film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist.
- “The Host of Seraphim” is used in Baraka.
 Cover versions of Dead Can Dance songs
Shoegaze band Ride recorded a version of “Severance,” which was released on the 2003 album Waves. Australian death metal band Abramelin covered the “Cantara”. Bauhaus performed “Severance” during its 1998 reunion tour, and included a studio version on the album Gotham. Czech folk/doom metal band Silent Stream of Godless Elegy released their version of “Summoning of the Muse” and “Cantara” in 1998 on the “Behind the Shadows” album. “Cantara” is sometimes performed during their live gigs till nowadays. Helena Iren Michaelsen‘s band Imperia covered “The Lotus Eaters” in 2004 on the tribute album, The Lotus Eaters. Progressive doom rock band Noekk covered the song “How Fortunate the Man With None” which also appeared on The Lotus Eaters. Gothic Metal band Paradise Lost covered “Xavier” in 2002, which appeared as a bonus track on the limited edition version of the Symbol of Life album. Dutch rockers The Gathering released their cover of “In Power We Entrust The Love Advocated” in 2005, on a compilation of B-sides, live material and other rarities Sarah Brightman covered the song “Sanvean” on her 2008 album Symphony.
 Samples of Dead Can Dance tracks in other works
- Dead Can Dance (1984)
- Garden of the Arcane Delights (1984)
- Spleen and Ideal (1985)
- Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (1987)
- The Serpent’s Egg (1988)
- Aion (1990)
- Into the Labyrinth (1993)
- Toward the Within (1994)
- Spiritchaser (1996)
 Live albums (limited editions)
- Closer to Heaven (1992)
- Dublin (10/03/2005) 2CD
- The Hague (12/03/2005) 2CD
- Paris (14/03/2005) 2CD
- Lille (16/03/2005) 2CD
- Brussels (17/03/2005) 2CD
- Madrid (21/03/2005) 2CD
- Barcelona (22/03/2005) 2CD
- Milan (24/03/2005) 2CD
- Cologne (26/03/2005) 2CD
- Munich (27/03/2005) 2CD
- London (06/04/2005) 2CD
- London (07/04/2005) 2CD
- Selections from Europe 2005, 2CD
- Seattle (17/09/2005) 2CD
- Seattle (18/09/2005) 2CD
- Toronto (01/10/2005) 2CD
- Montreal (02/10/2005) 2CD
- Montreal (04/10/2005) 2CD
- Boston (05/10/2005) 2CD
- Washington D.C. (10/10/2005) 2CD
- Chicago (12/10/2005) 2CD
- Chicago (12/10/2005) 3LP
- Selections from North America 2005, 2CD
 Promotional CDs
- The ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove (CD promo)
- The carnival is over (CD promo)
- American dreaming (CD promo, edited live version)
- The snake and the moon (CD promo)
- Sambatiki (CD promo)
- A Passage in Time (1991) (U.S. only compilation)
- Dead Can Dance (1981-1998) (2001)
- Wake The Best of Dead Can Dance (2003)
- Memento The Very Best of Dead Can Dance (2005) (single-disc greatest hits)
 Tribute Albums
- It’ll End in Tears (This Mortal Coil, 1984 “Waves become wings” & “Barramundi” & “Dreams made flesh”)
- Lonely Is an Eyesore (4AD compilation, 1987 “Frontier -demo” & “The protagonist”)
- Sahara Blue (Hector Zazou, 1992 “Youth” & “Black stream”)
 Movie scores
- Demoni 2 (1986)
- El niño de la luna (aka Moon Child; 1989)
- Baraka (1992)
- In the Kingdom of the Blind (1992)
- Ruth’s Journey (1996)
- In the Presence of Mine Enemies (1997)
- Nevada (1997)
- La Chacala (1998)
- Killing the Afternoon (2005)
 Live performances
 External links
- Dead Can Dance at discogs.com
- Dead Can Dance discography at MusicBrainz
- Dead Can Dance at Last.fm
- Dead Can Dance interviews from the Echoes public radio show
Dead Can Dance
|Lisa Gerrard · Brendan Perry|
|Albums||Dead Can Dance · Spleen and Ideal · Within the Realm of a Dying Sun · The Serpent’s Egg · Aion · Into the Labyrinth · Spiritchaser|
|Compilations||A Passage in Time · Dead Can Dance (1981-1998) · Wake · Memento|
|Live albums||Toward the Within|