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Dead Can Dance - Dead Can Dance CD (album) cover

DEAD CAN DANCE

Dead Can Dance

 

Prog Folk

3.32 | 92 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Once upon a time, DEAD CAN DANCE was a nebulous concept in the founding members' fertile imaginations that had not yet transpired all the way down under in their native Australia before forming in 1981. Long before the Australian turned British act that would relocate to London and become one of the most successful experimental neoclassical dark folk ambient musical acts of all time, this ethnic inspired fusion band would emerge quite differently. Originally founded as a quartet with not only Lisa Gerrard (ex- Microfilm) and Breden Perry (ex-Marching Girls), but would also include Paul Erikson on bass and Simon Monroe (also of Marching Girls). Once in the UK however, Monroe would soon be replaced by Peter Ulrich who was a multi-instrumentalist, a trait shared by many members of the band throughout the years.

While DEAD CAN DANCE is best known for their unique experimental approach on the timeless ethnic infused style of neoclassical darkwave wrapped in ethereal ambient dressing, the band initiated their humble beginnings as an early 80s post-punk band with extra helpings of gothic rock and darkened dream pop. It didn't take long after they landed a record deal with the alternative rock label 4AD and release their eponymously titled debut in 1984. While clear influences that range from The Cure and The Cocteau Twins are at full front on album #1, DEAD CAN DANCE emerged as a rather unique sounding band right out of the gates with a dreamier space pop based production that fortified a rather darkened ambient atmospheric presence. Despite the gothic touches, DCD was already showing signs of its love for ethnic folk and international flavors in not only the music but by the ritual mask from Papua New Guinea that the album cover sported alongside Greek letters that added an artistic flair to their name.

Despite DCD founding as a band, the pecking order was quickly established since back then Gerrard and Perry were a couple who clearly dominated the musical development with their own sense of direction. Some things were already set at this stage, namely Gerrard and Perry would tradeoff vocals with one track featuring Perry's rather one-trick-pony style of his famous Frank Sinatra type crooning augmented with a touch of new wave hipness from the likes of Paul Humprheys from Orchestral Monoeuvres In The Dark. Lisa Gerrard, on the other hand, has always been the showcase with her sly as a fox adaptability vocally speaking and on this debut, she perfectly blends her ethereal feminine touch to the darkened space pop fueled Gothy darkwave with ease. In fact, the tracks that feature her remarkably resemble a Cocteau Twins edge especially from the "Victorialand" phase which wasn't released for several years yet. The gothic touches mostly result from the frigid industrial beats accompanied by a thick atmospheric haze.

Despite all the references to the contemporary alt rock scene in the form of goth and dream pop, DEAD CAN DANCE were already incorporating world influences from the beginning. On this debut there are ample samplings of Indian percussion and Celtic folk stringed instruments. Despite all the little touches that in hind sight point the direction in which the band would be heading, the clear and dominate sound of this debut is clearly the heavy rock guitar which makes this album not only the band's heaviest but also the only one that clearly could be exist in the rock universe. Having coming to this debut well after all the albums that follow, what struck me most was how Perry pretty much sounds exactly the same despite the radically different instrumentation swirling around his singing style whereas Gerrard was already an extraterrestrial angelic force with talents too great to be contained by the somewhat forced display of musical performances in a rock music prison.

While the DEAD CAN DANCE debut is clearly the odd album out of their eclectic canon with its primeval focus on the early 80s underground, it is an eerily entrancing album nonetheless and an excellent display of experimental touches being teased out within the context of the era. Clearly the more inspiring albums that followed would garner international attention and success for their total out of the box unorthodoxies, but the debut album by DEAD CAN DANCE remains a musical mastery in its own right for its interesting blend of gothic grooves, dream pop atmospheric and sprinklings of ethnic influences that would become more prominent very quickly. For my money, this debut is just as interesting as many early Cure albums and much better than some of the Cocteau Twins lackluster offerings. While the album may not be as cohesive as others from the era, it doesn't suffer from the barrage of ideas finding their way into the mix as they aren't stuffed into every nook and cranny. Instead the music is composed as rather period piece and fortified with experimental offerings. This one is very much worth exploring.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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