Song of the Stars

The dead can be many things. They can be buried or incinerated; they can be forgotten or revered. They can star in zombie films. They can even be grateful. But there’s very little that the dead can do. And yet, according to one Australian duo, the dead can dance.

Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard formed Dead Can Dance in Melbourne in 1981. After moving to London the following year they released their eponymous debut album in 1984. Their musical style was dark, ethereal and gothic. Neither punk nor disco, DCD ploughed their own furrow from the start.

For their second album, Spleen and Ideal, Perry and Goddard dispensed with their bassist and drummer, augmenting their own guitar, vocals and percussion performances with session musicians on violin, cello, trombone and timpani. Though straying far from the madding pop charts this album nevertheless reached No. 2 on the UK indie charts.

Perry and Goddard split as a couple in 1989 but stayed together as a band into the nineties. They continued to mine different veins in the bedrock of music, carving out their own multi-faceted style. In 1996, Dead Can Dance released their seventh studio album, Spiritchaser; this track from it was recommended on my Hubzilla feed.

Having wandered through post-punk, gothic rock, Gregorian chant, gaelic folk, Middle Eastern music and art rock for more than a decade and a half, Dead Can Dance disbanded in 1998. But one thing the dead are uniquely capable of doing is rising again. The band was resurrected in 2005 for a tour, accompanied by limited-edition live recordings and a compilation album.

After the tour, DCD returned to the music industry graveyard. Nothing more was heard from them until faint stirrings were detected in 2010. Possibilities slowly became probabilities and, in 2012, DCD’s eighth album, Anastasis was released.

The band then succumbed to the sleep of the half-dead once more, awakening again in 2018 with the release of their ninth studio album, Dionysus. And signs of life remain to this day. But for Covid-19, Dead Can Dance would have been on tour again in the Spring of 2020; that tour has been rescheduled for Spring 2021.

Song of the Stars conjures up images of a Native American tribe gathered round a big camp fire. Tepees, feather headdresses, animal hides, squatting squaws, chanting braves. And overhead, a jet black sky studded with pin-pricks of light. But this is a very myopic perspective on DCD’s extensive catalogue of songs. If Dead Can Dance is new to you, check out their other albums – Crotchety Man and Hubzilla recommend them all.

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