In the late 1980s, effusive music journalists were in the habit of eulogising spectacularly ornate or baroque pieces of arthouse music – particularly on the 4AD label – as cathedrals of sound. Understandably, the phrase rapidly fell into ridicule, yet no artists ever appeared quite so deserving of that appellation as Dead Can Dance.
Having split around the millennium, Australian duo Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry this year released their first album in 16 years, Anastasis. The record cleaves to their trademark formula of melding gothic and classical stylings to world-music tropes in an audacious bid to create music of a sublime, sculpted beauty.
They are helped in this quest for transcendence by the fact that both possess voices of a rare, exquisite timbre. As he sings an 800-year-old Moorish lament, Lamma Bada, Perry’s rich baritone evokes the young Scott Walker, yet Dead Can Dance’s trump card remains Gerrard’s operatic, multi-octave glossolia: voluptuous cadences of rapt, wordless melodic vocalisations.