Dionysus – Dead Can Dance (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

PIASR440_cover_lo-res_600x600px_WEB.jpgAs every student of Greek mythology will know, Dionysus was the son of the mortal Greek Princess Semele and was fathered by Zeus, but after Semele’s death (of fright after Zeus revealed his Godly power to her) Zeus took the unborn Dionysus and attached him to his thigh until his birth.

Pretty grand stuff, even for the Greeks.

This album, by London-based Australian duo Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, is written around the myth and legacy of Dionysus but, to my ears, it’s so much more. The album is split into two ‘acts’, each over 15 minutes in length and it’s sounds like an audio journey into history and geography.

Act One begins with ‘Sea Borne’ and has such grandeur and cinematic awareness that you can almost picture an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh surveying the landscape while slaves and labourers drag and position mighty rocks towards the under-construction Pyramids as the white sun bears down. The tempo and feel of the song put me in mind of hundreds of feet pressing into the sand while ropes are pulled, and whips are cracked.

‘Liberator of Minds’ has the gentle lapping of water as the introduction, we’ve moved away from the sand and dust of the desert onto the banks of the river Nile or the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, palm trees slowly shift, and barges travel silently as the music rolls and pounds with traditional North African percussion and chants.

It feels as if I’m writing a review for an album firmly cemented in World Music but this is so much more than that, yes it takes it’s influence and energy from Africa and the Middle East but this is music to lose yourself in, a journey to far off lands from forgotten times taken from the comfort of your living room or headphones, this takes the sounds of Moroccan markets, from traditional folk, from electronic music, from private prayers and carefully, and beautifully moulds and shapes it into something so well produced that it’s easy to find yourself lost in it’s complex avenues and passages.

Two years in the making this album is interesting, exciting, powerful and could possibly nudge its way into your favourite albums of 2018.



Scene and Heard  –  CCLXXXV : Hourglass – Daarien feat. DJ Tallah (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

artworks-000310810638-hr2t2c-t500x500Hourglass is a song which says so much about the musical world we find ourselves in today. With the abandonment of the old tribal allegiances, the hard and fast rules which created rigid styles, musicians are freer to make music which wilfully fuses genres, cross-pollinates sounds and gene-splices musical DNA. Less and less are we presented with music which conforms strictly to one form or another, but which is instead free to pick and chose the sonic building blocks it uses from a wide and ever changing source.

What Daarien has created takes that idea to its logical conclusion and what we find is that classical grandeur sits comfortably alongside trip-hop cool, chilled electronica with hazy dream-pop landscapes, the urban with the urbane. The real charm is this seamless blend of an ambient  vibe with seeping electronica, of majestic but distant atmospherics, of intrigue and anticipation, of restraint and understatement. Even when the textures and sonic layers are writ large they are done so in a water-colour style application rather seeking to make their point through vibrant, thick oils. (Not the best of analogies but I’m sure you understand the point I’m making.) The result is a series of windswept and gossamer like sounds hanging around the lead lines rather than anything more intrusive or bombastic.

Neo-classical charm is threaded through futuristic beats, plaintive electronica washes through vocal delicacy, dance floor culture is turned into smoke and anagrams and dream-pop vibes soak into a wholly new sensual and understated EDM sound. This understated and majestic grace runs through the video as well, as it leads us through a narrative filled with sumptuous backdrops and rich colours and upmarket locations.

But more than anything this song is all about the vocals which hang somewhere between classical choral, almost religious tones and the sort of dramatic world-pop that came so easily to the likes of Lisa Gerrard and Dead Can Dance. It contains the same music as an instrument qualities which make it occasionally merge into the music to become another beguiling and exotic layer in the songs make up rather than merely the narrative device.

Timeless is a word that is much over used when applied to music, but here Daarien does indeed fashion something timeless, something that references the past but looks to the future but also something without genre, location or direction. Why road sign your music for the listener, far better surely, to have them follow you off the beaten track with eyes full of wonder, open to adventure and ready to go with the flow?

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices ft. Lisa Gerrard – Pora Sotunda (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

6ed4e945581e9dd3046134695fa1fe5fa35e6d46As one half of Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard explored wonderful sonic territory and created music which wandered between re-imagined world sounds and  soundtrack style arrangements, she painted with cinematic and widescreen musical colours, and balanced the ethereal and the neo-classical. She has since been associated with numerous big budget soundtracks but is equally likely to be found exploring niche world sounds and highlighting cultural traditions.

As the name suggests The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices falls squarely in the latter territory, a brilliant splicing of the countries traditional sounds and a sweeping arrangement with Gerrard’s voice threading through but always happy to defer to the sumptuous vocal arrangements which act as the platform upon which she works.

It is a piece which steps between worlds, the timeless musical footprint of the region is at its heart and it is also music which could easily have been found on a Dead Can Dance album, especially the later, more musical ethnically linked ones such as Into The Labyrinth or Spiritchaser. It also offers the same wonderful “vocals as music” feeling as the likes of Karl Jenkins, though less intentionally, but unless you are fluent in Bulgarian then the appreciation has to be sonic rather than lyrical and that is a wonderful problem to have as the overall effect is stunning. Maybe the lack of understanding means you appreciate its hidden subtlety and musical beauty rather than focusing on the communication of language.

So of course the piece is stunning, this is Lisa Gerrard after all and that is generally her default setting. If you want something that transcends language and instead speaks in a more universal musical form, that of emotion and ethereality, then she is your go to girl. But you always knew that anyway.

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