Big Black Disk

Big Black Disk

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DEAD CAN DANCE: ANASTASIS

September 11, 2012

This is a review, or not so much a review but a fragment of criticism that I kind of dread writing. Dead Can Dance is one of my favorite bands of all time, since being introduced to them ages ago on a mix tape made by a friend back in 1984’ish who had gotten a hold of the import. That was a revelatory record for me, and I still have it, and when I play it – it’s like a time machine of distant and familiar emotions washing like a wave over my soul. Just like Echo And The Bunnymen’s “Crocodiles,” like Joy Division’s “Closer,” like Bauhaus’ everything … Dead Can Dance’s eponymous first record is anchored in my past like a waypoint, a reference to return to when I’m seeking clarity or authenticity or just relief from being this much older, crankier … older.

But, as is the way of the world, I didn’t grow old alone. Brenden Perry and Lisa Gerrard came right along with me, and along the way there were some good records and some not so good records … but I never really thought there were any inauthentic records. Until Anastasis.

I was utterly hopeful that this would be the acme of their careers, a culmination of all the style and emotion and wisdom and spirit that made DCD the band you tuned to when you really needed to shake the rust off your heart. Rather, I think in Anastasis we have a white flag and clear intention to surrender, as if they were somehow chided out of retirement to do … something. Something new. For the adoring fans and whatnot. There’s money to be made in nostalgia, after all.

I could pick this record apart track by track – but I suspect it would be painful for both of us to go through that exercise. Instead I’ll offer that the record seems impeccably produced – overproduced – “Soundtrack To Gladiator” overproduced, lacking nuance in favor of big bass and tingling highs. Not overly compressed for the most part, nicely dimensional if a little bit simple. The record sounds very impressive – perhaps fatiguingly so – and yet, at least for me, fails to deliver on the nutrients I was hoping to wring out of it.

Maybe my expectations were unreasonable and therefore easy to disappoint. I can own that. But I tend to think that Anastasis was an opportunity to come full circle, reexamine, and reinterpret the core of a DCD record from a more experienced and prudent perspective – and it rather seems to have turned out to be a somewhat cynically overproduced soundtrack, a sort of high-concept Blue-Ray Hollywoodified version of a DCD record with a wizened Vigo Mortensen as Brenden Perry and a blonded Helena Bonham Carter as Lisa Gerrard, directed by Ridley Scott (of course).

I’ll keep it, as I must, as a fan, to round out the collection. But it seems to me to be more of a filler-record than a proper denouement to DCDs improbable, and yet beautiful history.

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