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Dead Can Dance, the long-running project of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, are inextricably linked to the 4AD that defined a different generation. Not the current one of Bon Iver or Grimes, but the one of Bauhaus, This Mortal Coil and the Cocteau Twins — 1980s art goth of a particular kind. But neither label nor their bands sought that tag. And since Dead Can Dance’s music incorporated sounds from around the globe and across the centuries, the description seems particularly limiting. Anastasis, the duo’s first new album together in 16 years (following a variety of solo works and collaborations as well as a retrospective 2005 tour), finds Dead Can Dance firmly in their comfort zone, at a time when neither Gerrard nor Perry should feel they have anything left to prove.
Dead Can Dance always avoided a curatorial or purist approach to global music, and that trend continues here. They’re as open to new technologies and recording possibilities as they are to ancient instruments like the yangqin and the bodhrán, but they also eschew the collision of samples and beats that often defines other experimenters in the field. But over time, the influence of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard has reached far and wide. From Future Sound of London’s early techno landmark “Papua New Guinea”, which samples Gerrard’s voice, to cover versions by bands such as arty metal types the Gathering and the more experimentalist impulses of recent bands like Prince Rama — not to mention Gerrard’s own now extensive work on a wide variety of film soundtracks — Dead Can Dance’s approach to sound has resonated widely.
Despite the long layoff, Anastasis is a logical progression from the band’s mid-90s albums as well as Brendan and Gerrard’s respective solo work since. There’s a suffused steadiness that steers the album, but with time, the individual strengths of each song manifest; the slow vocal and instrumental raptures toward the conclusion of “Agape”, the beguiling sway of “Opium”, where Perry sings about being unable to choose a way forward. And “Return of the She-King”, one of the band’s very few duets, sums up the exact reason Dead Can Dance retain their appeal. It’s the kind of impact and elegance that can be hard to put into words, but searching for a perfect expression is arguably exactly what Dead Can Dance have always strived to achieve. Here, they find it more often than not. — Pitchfork