"ANASTASIS," Dead Can Dance
With any luck, this is a new beginning.
Dead Can Dance has resurrected, launching into its first tour since 2005, driven by its first new-material album in 16 years, "Anastasis."
Even better news for fans: The core duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry haven't lost their magic (and "magic" is the right word here). "Anastasis" is a breathtaking spotlight on the extraordinary voices of Gerrard and Perry backlit by a blend of mystical world music and otherworldly electronica.
The bad news is, at eight tracks and with its narrow rhythmic range, "Anastasis" doesn't rate with 1996's "Spiritchaser," let alone the most classic Dead Can Dance release, 1993's "Into the Labyrinth."
Still, "Anastasis" feels like a gift, an unexpected surprise for fans who might have given up on hearing anything new from the duo.
Perry commandeers the grand opener, "Children of the Sun," his cinematic croon worthy of the best Bond themes. He's more of a seductive soothsayer on the ponderous, dramatic "Amnesia," and his manly delivery is fittingly narcotic on "Opium," though he submerges in the mix all too often for all too long.
Gerrard, who usually seems to be operating separately from Perry (the two rarely both sing on the same song), mesmerizes at the forefront of "Anabasis," a kind of space age, Middle-Eastern-tinged exotica accompanying her gorgeous voice.
Rating (five possible): 4
"CABIN FEVER," Corb Lund
Americana couldn't ask for a much better ambassador than Corb Lund.
He's talented, smart and, as a fourth-generation Alberta cowboy, he's authentic. He often revives the classic-country ethos on his refreshing new "Cabin Fever," an antidote to the sterile cliches that now dominate the genre.
Yet the former member of a speed-metal band (in the 1990s) isn't trying to be the reincarnation of Hank Williams. "Cabin Fever" is folkish, it's honky-tonk. In the stomp-along grit of "Dig Gravedigger Dig" it's so bluesy you can feel the room fill with swampy humidity.
There's also a beautiful spin through Western swing on "Cows Around" ("Everything is better with cows around") and a spirited jaunt through '60s hot-rod songs with "Mein Deutsches Motorrad" (a nod to Lund's love of BMW motorcycles).
Of course there are drinking songs -- including the Western two-step "Drink Like You Mean It" and the mopy delight "(You Ain't a Cowboy) If You Ain't Been Bucked Off" -- and yodeling throughout the funny "Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner."
Then there's his hilarious duet with Hayes Carll, "Bible on the Dash," where the two rascals discover nothing gets them out of trouble like having a holy book on the dashboard (which backs up the excuse for excessive speeding to a police officer, "My foot is heavy with redemption").
Always charming, "Cabin Fever" is insanely infectious.
Rating: 4 1/2
"SILENCIO," Laetitia Sadier
Laetitia Sadier's mission is to provoke on "Silencio," and the contradictions she employs can be disorienting. ... Well, at least for those unfamiliar with Sadier. For the rest of us, "Silencio" is par for the course.
Best known as the enigmatic, French-born lead singer of Stereolab, Sadier hasn't changed her unusual performance persona with her second solo release, which she uses to encourage her audience to be both introspective and world-aware. Her voice is often calm to the point of deadpan, a peculiar fit for her sometimes punk-like lyrics offered with offbeat enunciation and unconventional phrasing. Her words may call for screeching guitars and heavy feedback, but her tone would be better suited against a backdrop of ocean waves and wind chimes.
Sadier splits the difference, sort of, and opts for a lounge-esque context that combines cool Europop remoteness with steamy, tropical inflections -- a more elegant presentation than Stereolab's electro-quirk, but still not that much of a stretch.
And as she languidly strolls through the narcotic arrangements, she oscillates between French and sometimes-hard-to-understand English, mixing politics with romance and New Age notions.
It's easy to get lost in this one.