2010 release, the second solo album from Brendan Perry, formerly one-half of Dead Can Dance. Recorded in his own studio in Ireland, Ark is truly a solo album, Brendan playing every instrument, writing all the lyrics and being the sole creative force across the eight tracks. All of the instrumentation on Ark is derived from samples and synthesizers and, in its creators own words, is predicated on a theory of creating 'a neutral electronic soundscape which would in turn mirror a world that is becoming increasingly more dependent upon machines to perform tasks for us'.
There's an old saying that one is only as good as the people with whom one collaborates. Judging by the list of musical contributors to Hector Zazou's Sahara Blue, Zazou is quite good indeed. Among many others, those adding their own touch to Zazou's album include Bill Laswell, Dead Can Dance, John Cale, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Tim Simenon. Zazou devised the album as a mix of musical styles set to lyrics/vocals taken from the pen of Arthur Rimbaud. While it might appear like a pretentious undertaking on paper, the album is a cohesive slice of eclectic music-making. Jazzy spoken word songs such as "Ophelie" intermingle with throbbing dance-oriented numbers like "I'll Strangle You" and quiet, peaceful piano-based meditations such as "Harar et les Gallas." Dead Can Dance duo Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard work their particular magic on "Youth," exchanging vocals, and on "Black Stream," where Perry's dark, somber synth weeps around Gerrard's stunning vocals and yang chin. Zazou himself mostly stays in the background, providing production and electronic sounds, allowing the players to showcase their abilities.
Listening to Dead Can Dance is a transcendental experience. Enriched with dedications to the living Gaia, their creations subsist in natural and other worldly realms. Initially crafting songs which augmented their Australian roots with Gothic and Renaissance traditions, the group have since grown to encompass a hybrid of global sounds. On Spiritchaser the enchanted souls of founding members Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard shine in this, their most ethereal LP to date. Whereas earlier endeavors succumbed to genres grounded in eras of the past and non-Western present, it's immediately apparent that this album has loftier aspirations. Hypnotically threaded with traditional and electronic instruments, the exorcism of each song touches upon the universal essence beyond. While Gerrard's heavenly vocals are used primarily for instrumental effect, Perry's fertile lyricism both compliments her efforts and expresses the spiritual associations related to the album's title and meaning. Intrinsically delivered with shamanistic connectivity, the sensations ritualize the modern mortal.
With source material like this, how can you go wrong? Like Nick Drake, Tim Buckley had a body of work that survived not only the ignominy of commercial oversight but also his own untimely death to live on in the imagination and influence of a new generation of artists and music lovers. The fruit of that influence is realized on Sing a Song For You, a two-CD collection of Buckley covers from a wide range of contemporary artists. The holy trinity of Tim Buckley's appeal were his amazing voice, which could swoop its way through multiple octaves; his lyrical strength and formidable songwriting skills; and his incessant experimentation with new forums and formats for his musical vision. Though Sing a Song For You lacks the first of these, it has the last two in mighty doses. Many of the tracks on these two CDs rely on the power of the original songs; others grasp Buckley's improvisatory spirit and recast them in new and startling light. Brendan Perry's (Dead Can Dance) version of "Dream Letter" is sparse and interpretive, riding on Perry's haunting voice. Mike Johnson's "I Woke Up" drops the original's light jazz breeze for a loose and dark arrangement. The Lilys amp up "Strange Feelin'" with a joyful, crazed-rock vibe. Though Sing a Song for You will be of great interest to fans.