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Dead Can Dance - Aion CD (album) cover


Dead Can Dance


Prog Folk

3.31 | 110 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars "Aion" was my introduction to Dead Can Dance, a band whose name I'd frequently heard in the past, but had never had the opportunity to explore. When they were added to the site a few months ago, I got to watch their videos, and was hooked. Pop music it may be (though I wish all pop was of the same high quality), but very appealing indeed. From the eerily beautiful cover, which reproduces some details from Hyeronimus Bosch's weird "The Garden of Earthly Delights", to the intriguingly evocative titles of the twelve tracks, "Aion" is a trip through different moods and textures - shorter than most of the albums currently released, but no less rich in musical content.

In spite of their Australian origins, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard delve deep into the rich heritage of ancient European folk and church music, producing an album of haunting, wistful beauty. Their voices complement each other and the music perfectly - Gerrard's a magnificent contralto, so different from the lilting sopranos so frequent in Prog Folk outfits, Perry's a velvety baritone - and enhance the album's overall melancholy, stately mood. Many traditional instruments feature in the compositions, notably the mournful sound of the bagpipes, and various kinds of percussion that give a strongly rythmical quality to many of the tracks.

It is not easy to single out individual compositions in such an album, though there are quite a few highlights - my personal favourites being the two tracks sung by Brendan Perry. "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book" features lyrics by Spanish 16th-century poet Luis de Gongora, and showcases Perry's compelling voice perfectly; while in "Black Sun" the vocals are preceded by a hauntingly intricate, instrumental section. The 16th-century Catalan "The Song of the Sybil" sees instead a great vocal performance by Gerrard, truly one of the best female singers I have ever come across - commanding and intense rather than angelic. In a slightly patriotic vein, I'll also spare a mention for the instrumental "Saltarello", a lively, traditional 14-century dance which was once widespread in most of Central and Southern Italy.

Though some may have expressed reservations on DCD's 'prog quotient', I see them as representing another side of our favourite genre - perhaps possessed of a more mainstream appeal than other bands featured in the Prog-Folk subgenre, but still challenging and deeply fascinating. An excellent album by a truly interesting outfit - highly recommended to anyone wishing to expand their prog boundaries.

Raff | 4/5 |


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