Defining the melodies of Dead Can Dance as world music is only partly right. The duo's use of Arabic chants, African rhythms, and Celtic bagpipes certainly fits the "world music" bill, but their music could also be defined as classical music or New Age because of their use of orchestral arrangements and ethereal sounds.
"This has caused consternation to those who would attempt to classify our music," says band member Brendan Perry in the band's 1996 tour program (the band just completed their North American tour). "In the beginning, we were berated for being gothic two years too late; today we are applauded for being at the vanguard of World Music."
To get a sense of how much range they have, take a look at where their music has appeared: the San Francisco Ballet, a documentary on Hitler and Stalin, a Hermes perfume commercial, and in recent motion pictures such as "Heat" and "The Crossing Guard."
The Australian band, formed in 1981, is made up of Mr. Perry and Lisa Gerrard. The pair has been together for seven studio albums and their sound is ever-changing.
Depending on the album, they express themselves in different ways by exploring sounds from regions such as the Middle East, Asia, and the Mediterranean - sometimes without lyrics. When they do sing, their voices are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Gerrard's ethereal voice is more beautiful and soothing; Perry's voice is heavier and dense. Sometimes he uses a monotone voice, much like a speaking voice.
Their blend of ethnic sounds from South America and Africa creates a peaceful atmosphere that takes you on a journey through a jungle or a rain forest and may even evoke images of native American Indians performing a ritual dance. Their new album "Spiritchaser" has these elements because of its heavy use of African percussion. The album was recorded at Quivvy Church in Ireland over nine months. As Perry explains it, they tried to "bring elements of nature through, like bird song, which suggest woods, snakes, water, atmospheres ... to express animal nature rather than music that was coming from a technological background."
Their blend of ethnic music creates an atmosphere that takes you on a journey through a jungle or a rain forest.