Dead Can Dance,
Spiritchaser
(4 A.D./Warner Brothers, 1996)

The quote from the CD's liner notes sums up the magical feel and intent of this album.

"In most musical instruments the resonator is made of wood while the actual sound generator is of animal origin. In cultures where music is still used as a magical force, the making of an instrument always involves the sacrifice of a living being. That being's soul then becomes part of the instrument and in the tones that come forth, the 'singing dead,' who are ever present with us, make themselves heard." (From Harmonies of Heaven and Earth by Joscelyn Godwin, 1987, Thames & Hudson.)

The songs on Spiritchaser blend into each other, sounding out different themes and cultures in yet another musical exploration by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, who, as Dead Can Dance, wrote and arranged the music, provided all of the vocals and performed most of the instruments on the album.

"Nierika," the first track, has a strong backbeat highlighted by smooth vocals. The voices reminded me of meditative chants, and the track makes for a conducive opening to the album. The words, which may or may not be another language -- the liner notes do not say -- force the listener to listen to the sound of the singing, as opposed to thinking about the meaning of the words. "Song of the Stars" provides the lyrics in both English and Algonquin, heightening the meaning and experience, again allowing the listener to enjoy the sound of the voices as well as the spiritual meaning of the words.

Track 3, "Indus," has an ethereal tone that evokes the beauty of eastern mysticism. Again, this is a piece that as a whole encourages meditative movement or dance. "Song of the Dispossessed" combines political words with classical guitar and Latin-inspired percussion, creating a piece that makes the listener think about the many dispossessed peoples of the world, while at the same time relaxing into the almost hypnotic beat.

"Dedicacé Outó," track 5, is a very short drum piece, which confused me at first into thinking it was part of another song. This spirited piece changes the mood of the album without breaking it.

"The Snake and the Moon" begins with cheerful clapping and soaring tenor vocals. The guitar and vocals mix with the percussion, which includes the clapping, so that no one aspect dominates another. Instead, the blend is both meditative and active, encouraging one to let the imagination fly where the music takes it. "Song of the Nile" elicits the spirit of the Amazon rainforest with birdcalls, rain sticks and sweet vocals that lead the listener gently into a more serene state. Subtly, the song transforms into music that evokes the gardens and mountains of Japan with plucked strings and rattles.

Finally, "Devorzhum" transports the listener once again halfway around the world, with velvet vocals by Lisa Gerrard creating the atmosphere of the desert and ancient lands.

The album in excellent for any sort of meditative work, or just for relaxation.

[ by Beth Derochea ]



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