Archive for the ‘Dead Can Dance’ Category

[POSTPONED: April 23, 2021] Dead Can Dance / Agnes Obel [rescheduled from April 17, 2020; moved to October 12, 2021]

indexAs April came closer and closer I was sure that Dead Can Dance was going to cancel this tour for good–so many other bands have done so.  But I’m happy they didn’t–even if I don’t have fantastic seats for this show.  This just feels like one of those shows that I’m going to be really happy to experience and I can wait a few more months.

I really enjoyed Dead Can Dance’s mix of cultural touchstones on their earlier albums. I have a bunch of their releases up until they broke up.

Somehow I missed their reunion entirely.  I also missed their subsequent reunion and new albums.

They haven’t played in this area for 8 years and I was pretty pleased to finally experience them live.  I bought a ticket for this show and then a few days later it was announced that they would be playing the State Theatre in New Brunswick.  Since that venue is about three times closer to me, I snatched up a great seat for that show and figured I could sell the Philly ticket.

Then a couple months ago the Theatre announced that the New Brunswick show was unexpectedly cancelled. No reason was given.  I don’t think it was sales as it looked like they sold well.  So that sucked, but I was glad I still had this ticket.

Agnes Obel is a Danish born singer who plays quirky atmospheric chamber pop.  I have heard great things about her for many years but never really investigated her music.  I was looking forward to learning about her in this setting.

She was actually scheduled to open for The The on their 2018 tour.  However, the three New York area shows had different openers, so I didn’t get to see her then.

I hope they all come back around together.

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[POSTPONED: April 17, 2020] Dead Can Dance / Agnes Obel [moved to April 23, 2021]

indexI really enjoyed Dead Can Dance’s mix of cultural touchstones on their earlier albums. I have a bunch of their releases up until they broke up.

Somehow I missed their reunion entirely.  I also missed their subsequent reunion and new albums.

They haven’t played in this area for 8 years and I was pretty pleased to finally experience them live.  I bought a ticket for this show and then a few days later it was announced that they would be playing the State Theatre in New Brunswick.  Since that venue is about three times closer to me, I snatched up a great seat for that show and figured I could sell the Philly ticket.

Then a couple months ago the Theatre announced that the New Brunswick show was unexpectedly cancelled. No reason was given.  I don’t think it was sales as it looked like they sold well.  So that sucked, but I was glad I still had this ticket.

Agnes Obel is a Danish born singer who plays quirky atmospheric chamber pop.  I have heard great things about her for many years but never really investigated her music.  I was looking forward to learning about her in this setting.

She was actually scheduled to open for The The on their 2018 tour.  However, the three New York area shows had different openers, so I didn’t get to see her then.

I hope they all come back around together.

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dreamcactehr[ATTENDED: September 18, 2014] MOMIX Dreamcatcher

Sarah and I have enjoyed Momix twice in the last two years. So when we saw they were coming back with a new show called Dreamcatcher, we were right there at the box office.

As it turns out Dreamcatcher is a “greatest hits’ collection, not unlike Momix Remix, the first one we saw.  Since last year we saw the show Botanica, which has a few greatest hits of its own, that means we have seen some of these performances three times now.  That was a little disappointing. On the plus side, this is the first time we had seats in the balcony.  Our first time we had middle of the floor level, which was very cool.  Second time we were very close to the stage which was interesting for different reasons.  But from the balcony, you can see the patterns that the dancers make and you can’t see the dancers in the pieces where they are “hidden.”  (When we were close I could see the dancers, which was interesting in and of itself, but it did remove some of the magic).

I wish that I had included a “setlist” from the previous shows, to see just how many we have seen multiple times (there were a couple that were similar but definitely different in some aspect or another).  So this time I will be placing the setlist at the bottom. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF-“Funeral for My Future Child” (2013).

anna-von-hausswolffThis was selected as one of NPR’s favorite songs of the year (so far).

It’s probably hard to like a song with a title like that, but there’s something strangely compelling about the whole proceeding–the great intricate percussion and drums that start the song, the ponderous pipe organ that lays down the melody, and then Anna’s voice which has a country-ish feel (kind of like Neko Case), but also has a kind of Dead Can Dance vocal style.   Or perhaps that’s just because she is Swedish.

By the time the chorus comes around, the ache of the song is apparent.  And the end has more of that amazing percussion.  I rather like the beginning and the end of the song more than the middle, which I guess doesn’t say a lot for it, but it is intriguing.

Evidently this album is primarily full of pipe organ, an interesting choice for a rock album.  I’d be curious to hear more.

[READ: June 17, 2013] “Twisted”

As if anticipating that I would not be able to write posts this week, the New Yorker has supplied me with a series of very short “True Crimes” pieces.  In fact, the whole issue is a fiction issue, which means a half a dozen or so stories as well.   But it’s these “True Crimes” that will keep me posting this week.

The first is from George Pelecanos, and it’s a story of his own crimes.  He explains that when he was younger, he did all manner of illegal things but had never been caught (aside from a few minor infractions).  He broke into houses and stole records from someone he didn’t like.  He rode in a stolen car, stole wallets from strangers at stores (at this point I really don’t like this guy).  But he doesn’t try to make excuses for himself.  He was a boy and he was having fun.

But the crimes continues long past adolescence.  In 1985 he was 28 and got involved in a high-speed chase.  He was drinking and smoking pot at a wedding.  He and his fiancée stopped at a convenience store where he backed  into someone’s car.  A gang of people came out and the threat of violence was imminent.  But he hopped in his car, drove on the sidewalk and sped off with the police in pursuit. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_02_25_13Ulriksen.inddSOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-Shaking the Habitual (2013).

theknife2Since I reviewed the 19 minute song from this album yesterday I thought I’d check out the rest of the disc (still a handful).  I kept bearing in mind that The Knife are pretty much a dance duo.  So this departure is not only radical, it pretty much undercuts the kind of music they make.  The progress is probably exciting but I imagine fans would turn away in droves.  I wonder how this record will play out for them in the long run.  Incidentally, I wasn’t a fan before, so I don’t really have a horse in this race.

“A Tooth for an Eye” opens the record with an interesting percussion sound an a pulsing keyboard melody.  The keening vocals come in sounding weird and distant and more than a little eerie.  “Full of Fire” is a 9-minute song with a weird skittery “melody” that seems to float above the battered mechanical “drum.”  The whispered vocals are strained and also a little creepy.  The middle section has the skittery music jump around while the vocals get even more processed—making it simultaneously more friendly and less so.  It’s probably the coolest weird song on the disc, with parts that are catchy and interesting and parts that are just peculiar.  This is the single, by the way.

“A Cherry on Top” is 8 minutes of reasonable quietude, with the second half introducing an autoharp.  It’s certainly the most mellow thing on the disc.  Although it’s not exactly relaxing.  “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” seems like it should be the single—it is propulsive and while the vocals are certainly odd, they are the most conventional thing on the album.  “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” has big electronic pulsing drums and whispered vocals.  It’s a fairly normal sounding song (at least for this album), and could easily play in a goth club.

“Crake” is 55 second of squalling feedback.  The album also has “Oryx” which is 37 second of wailing noise.  In between is the 10 minute “Raging Lung” which is not available on Spotify.  “Networking” a skittering beat with a second beat that may just be a sample of a person making noise in his or her throat.  The “voices” get stranger throughout the song, keening, twisting and spinning, reminiscent of The Art of Noise.

“Stay Out Here” is a ten minute song.  It starts with a fairly standard electronic drumbeat.  Whispered vocals come in giving it a kind of Nine Inch Nails vibe, until the female vocals come in (and are quickly manipulated to sound kind of male).  The switch from male and female vocals is interesting, giving it an almost modern sounding Dead Can Dance feel.

“Fracking Fluid Injection” has sounds like scraping, rusted gates as the beat with sampled voices overlaid.  Again, this is nearly 10 minute long.  The problem with things like this, aside from their relative tediousness, is that they aren’t all that original.  Now originality is nothing to hold a band to, we all know, but if you’re going to do non-form sounds that are echoed with little else to it, it would be more interesting if there was something original to pin to it.  “Ready to Lose” ends the album with a steady beat and a pretty standard vocal line (even if the voices are processed).

So this album us a pretty radical departure for the band and it’s a pretty radical departure for dance music as a whole.  I’m curious to see if this will lead to a anything or if this will be their one weird album.

[READ: April 15, 2013] “The Furies”

The story opens with a rather creepy man stating at his wedding reception that he is in an exclusive club: “There are not too many men who can say that they’re older than their father-in-law.” Ew.  He was fifty-eight, his new wife 31.  His father-in-law is 56.  The father-in-law seems okay with this, but really how could he be?

Ray is a dentist and his new wife, Shelly, had been his hygienist for years.  When Shelly told him she was thinking of getting a new job, he professed his love for her, and informed his wife, Angie that he was in love with Shelly.  Angie took it badly, but he was surprised when she seemed mad that he didn’t do this years earlier while she still had a chance to meet someone (rather than being distraught that he was leaving her).  As a parting shot she says that she wishes him ill.  And she hope he suffers with the woman who took him from her.

But they had no children, just assets, and things were divided evenly and cleanly.  And he thanked his lucky starts to be with a new woman, someone who was fun and so different from his first wife. (more…)

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vormSOUNDTRACK: DEAD CAN DANCE-“Children of the Sun” (Live at KCRW, April 24, 2013).

deadcandanceDead Can Dance are timeless.  Their music sounds ancient and modern at the same time.  And Brendan Perry’s voice has an unearthly majesty to it that never seems to age.

I’ve known the band for decades (during which time they have broken up and reunited and broken up and reunited).  And in all that time, while their sound has changed in subtle ways, the band is instantly recognizable.  I’ve never really thought of them as a live entity–they just seem like such a creation of the studio that it would be impossible to do justice to their wash of music live.  Of course that was truer three decades ago before it was easy to fit an entire orchestra on an iPod.

You can watch this song on NPR.  It’s fun to watch a band with two keyboardists (and Lisa Gerrard on…autoharp?) and see all of them making very different sounds.  The only disappointing thing about watching this is that they have so many cool instruments strewn about which do not get used on this song (you can see the whole show here and watch him bust out that bouzouki).

This song is a new one and it doesn’t have quite the ponderous nature as their older material.  Which is a bit of a shame, as they were so over the top it was fabulous, but maybe they’re just settling into New Old Age.

[READ: April 20, 2013] Trinity

Sarah brought this book home because it was on YALSA Hub Reading Challenge for 2013. I’m unlikely to do the challenge as I have so many other books to read, but I have already read 5 of the required 25.  Not too bad, although since the challenge is from Feb to June and I read a couple last year, I don’t even qualify for some of the ones I DID read.  Anyhow, she told me I’d like this and she was right (as usual).

Trinity is the story of the development of the atomic bomb done as a graphic novel.

It outlines how we came to develop and test the bomb and of course, the aftermath of its use.  What I liked about the story is that leading up to the detonation of the bomb, the quest for its discovery is presented in a fairly neutral way.  Essentially, once it was discovered that we could split the atom, it was deemed inevitable that someone would make a bomb out of it.  It stood to reason that if Hitler or the Japanese figured it out before us they would use it on us (since we were at war with them).  The intention was that America would be decent and not use it with impunity (which is not to say we wouldn’t use it at all).  The book presents that American can do spirit that the forties seem to be all about–a sort of gee whiz, let’s figure this out mentality.

I knew some of the history of the bomb, but there was a lot here that I didn’t know: that thousands of people moved to New Mexico to work on the bomb—housing was put up and families moved in, some 80,000 people in all.  And most of the people had no idea what they were working on.  It’s hard to fathom that there were thousands of people whose work helped to create a nuclear bomb and yet they can feel neither pride nor shame because they had no idea that’s what they were doing.  Weird. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 20, 2012] MOMIX Remix

One of Sarah’s surprises for her birthday was that after an evening of fine dining at The Frog and the Peach, I had gotten us tickets to Momix.  This was a total surprise because neither one of us had ever heard of Momix.  I wanted to so something fun for us, and this show was being performed on her birthday weekend.  The write-up at the State Theatre made Momix seem weird, interesting and very cool.  So, even though we’d never heard of them, it seemed worth the risk.

A rose waited for us at our seats (A date night package for us).  The curtain went up and the music started and we were blown away from that moment on.

We decided the best description of Momix is as kind of dancey version of the Peking Acrobats (they do show up a lot in my posts).  I’ve never really seen modern dance on any grand scale, so I hesitate to call this modern dance, but what else can it be?  The music (none of it original) was primarily world/ambient (Dead Can Dance was a band I recognized).   And the men and women of the troupe performed nontraditional dances to it.

Okay, but what’s this about acrobats?

Well, the dances were more about showcasing the body–in its beauty, in its strength and in its grace.  And it was amazing to watch. Our favorite piece, called “Tuu,” featured a man and a woman.  She began the dance wrapped around his neck (by her knee?!) and proceeded to uncurl herself into amazing positions, all while he himself balanced and did wonderfully graceful moves.  And here’s the difference between a dancer and an acrobats–these dancers never wavered, never wiggled, never seemed for a second that they were uncomfortable–they were beyond graceful.  So at one point when he did a hand stand and she id a handstand on his back, it was fluid and amazing.  I mean, look at that picture. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RED BUDDHA-Raindance (2007).

My Aunt Marg gave me this disc for Christmas a few years ago.  She said that she knew it from a spa that she went to.  And I can totally tell. I don’t know anything else about the artist, and it’s even hard to find stuff about him online.

The disc has an Indian (Eastern) vibe (which surprises me given the name of the artist and the African-looking person on the cover).  It also has a real world music feel.


Overall, I like the music quite a lot.  It’s certainly new agey, but not treacly new age or anything.  It showcases some cool world music without resorting to clichés.  However, I admit to not caring much for the spoken lyrics of the opening track,  “Sometimes.”  His voice is deep and distracting, especially over such mellow music.  Despite the very Indian feel of “Sometimes,” the rest of the disc explores other sounds as well.  “Kokou” has a 70s kind of organ and bongos (with more appropriately world musicy chanted vocals).  “Raindance” has a cool flute over some bongo beats (all very soothing…with crickets).


I really like “Girl from Orissa” with its cool Eastern instrumentation.  There’s a sarod, a veena and a sitar on the disc.  (Orissa is located on the eastern side of India).  “Khali Gandaki” also features this cool instrumentation. (The Khali Gandaki valley is in Nepal).

“Mswati” opens with some percussion. But this track differs because of the interesting riff that plays throughout the song (whether guitar or keyboard, I can’t tell).  “Touba” has a nice bassline, which really stands out on a disc with minimal bass. It also has some neat wah-wahed guitars.  And “Preaching of Buddha” has a kind of Dead Can Dance feel to the vocals (they’re my go-to band for world music).


“Katarajama” (a pilgrimage site for Sri Lankans and South Indians) has a great riff to it, and it’s even better when the other instruments play along.  “Patan Part 1” also has a cool sitar riff.  Although if Part 1 is 8 minutes, how long is  the whole song?

The final song, “Sufi Kalaam” has a somewhat more sinister or perhaps just movie soundtracky sound (low bass chords underpin the beginning of the track).  There are chanted vocals and lead vocals in another language.  I rather like the song, but it doesn’t really fit on the disc.

The whole disc is definitely a background/new agey kind of deal.  I can hear it all (except the first and last songs) working well for a relaxing evening of massage.  Just don’t listen to it while driving!

[READ: February, 17 2012] “Lorry Raja”

“Lorry Raja” won Narrative magazine’s “30 Below” contest for 2011.  After the wonderful stories that came in second and third place I expected something pretty amazing to win.  And I was maybe a little disappointed by this story because of it.  And I think I have to blame a cultural disconnect for that.

This story is set in Karnataka, India, a poor state in the south of the country.  People there are so poor that they live in tents and work in the mines–smashing up rocks to get at the iron ore inside.  The children can’t afford to go to school, there’s no electricity and everyone is covered in a red dust from all of the dirt in the mines.

Madhuri Vijay is able to create a compelling story out of this harsh environment.   The story concerns one family as they struggle to survive under these conditions.  The father (I had a really hard time keeping the names straight, so I’m not going to include them here) had an accident and cannot work to his full capacity, so he is stuck working less lucrative jobs. The mother works smashing up iron ore.  The middle son, 12, works and plays around the mine (collecting a few rupees each day).  They put some money aside for his eventual education.  The older brother has just gotten a job as a lorry driver for the mines–he takes the ore out to the port cities.  He is only 14, and, being 14, he takes especial care of his lorry–cleaning it from all the red dust and driving it in a very proud manner.  So much so, that everyone starts calling him Lorry Raja.  There’s also a baby brother who doesn’t play much of a part except (in the way I read it) to show off how hopeless things are (the boy is playing in the dirt and when it is time to feed him, his mother just takes her breast out in front of everyone).

The story is narrated by the middle son.  And we watch as he grows jealous of his brother–the Lorry Raja.  We see the narrator break up rocks, spy on his mother, spy on his father (who is lowered by a rope in to a deep mine (!)).  And we see him talk to the owner of the mine (who has a car, a generator and drinks Pepsi).  And finally we see him spend some time with his brother’s ex-girlfriend (they broke up more or less once he started driving his lorry).

When the girl casually remarks that the narrator should get his lorry license and then he could drive her to China, that sets a new part of his life in motion.  (They are thinking about China because the “Lympic Games” (“Whatever they are” he says) are being played there this year). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LES MOMIES DE PALERME-Brûlez de Coeur [CST070] (2011).

This is the second disc from Constellation’s MUSIQUE FRAGILE 01.  Les Momies de Palerme, comprised of Marie Davidson and Xarah Dion, create ethereal music that would not be out of place on NPR’s Echoes (wonder if John Diliberto knows about the album).

There is a female vocalist who has qualities of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser (big surprise there) as well as early Lush.  But while the music is often swirling and intriguing, it is also sometimes odd.  There are moments in “Solis” which remind me of Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.” (That’s the second time I’ve mentioned this song in just over a month).

“Incarnation” has a vaguely middle eastern feel and works more in a Dead Can Dance kind of vein and “Le Cerf Invisible” has some really cool sound effects that spring up throughout the song.

The title track has a spoken word section that reminds me of the spoken word part in Sinéad O’Connor’s “Never Get Old” from The Lion and the Cobra (probably because it’s spoken by a woman and is in a foreign language, although on Sinéad’s album it’s Gaelic (spoken by Enya(!) and on this one it’s French).  I rather like it.

Most of the songs are longer than five-minutes, but there are two short ones: “Médée” is just under three and “Outre-Temps” is just under two, but they retain the same style of music, although “Médée” introduces acoustic guitars.

“Je T’aime” ends the disc with a bit more acoustic instrumentation.  The album kind of becomes more grounded as it goes along.  But it’s always ethereal.  It’s a neat experience.

Their website has a great front page, too.

[READ: January 23, 2012] Five Dials Number 22

Most Five Dials issues are chockablock with different ideas: contemporary issues, flashbacks to the past, fiction, poetry, ethics, music.  A wonderful melding of interesting ideas.  But Number 22 is entirely different.  Simon Prosser and Tracy Chevalier co-edited this issue and as they say in the editor’s note, they asked a group of contributors “to write grown-up fables about nineteen trees native to the UK.”

This issue is also promoting trees by highlighting the work at http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk, an organization with three aims:

1 Work with others to plant more native trees…

2 Protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future…

3 Inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees…

Simple but noble goals.  You can even buy a copy of this book in print from them at their store.

Even though I love nature and like being in the woods, I don’t know a lot about different kinds of trees.  I’m always stumped when it comes to tree identification.  So this issue was kind of enlightening for me.  Each fable has a picture of a leaf (presumably from that tree) which were painted by Leanne Shapton.  The fables also create backstory for what tree-lovers know about their favorite trees, and so this was also helpful just to learn what people know about trees.

But at the same time, it makes me uniquely unequipped to really talk about these fables.  So I’m just going to list the authors and their trees and say a word or two about their style. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRENDAN PERRY-Live at KEXP, July 26, 2011 (2011).

Brendan Perry was the mastermind behind Dead Can Dance, one of the more influential bands on the 4AD label.  I really haven’t listened to them in ages (goth is so 1990s), but I was delighted to see that Robin Guthrie and Brendan Perry performed a live set at KEXP.

There’s an interview explaining what Perry has been up to since his last solo album (in 1999)–he has a new one from 2010 that was just released in the States.  He explains a lot about his early musical career and his interests (and living in New Zealand).  But the magic really comes when he starts singing.  And sadly his set has only two songs: “Song to the Siren” and “The Carnival is Over.”

Indeed, I had forgotten what a great, resonant voice Perry has.  It is instantly recognizable and brought me back to Dead Can Dance immediately.  “Song to the Siren” is a Tim Buckley cover, which he (and others) recorded for This Mortal Coil’s It’ll End in Tears album.  This version has Robin Guthrie on guitar. 

The other song, “The Carnival is Over” is a Dead Can Dance song (from Into the Labyrinth).  This song is piano and strings and is immediately recognizable as a Dead Can Dance song.  I admit it’s not as moving as the Tim Buckley song but that would be hard to accomplish (what is it about Guthrie’s echo pedal that is so amazing?).  Nevertheless, it’s a great reunion and wonderful to hear his voice again.

[READ:  July 19, 2011] Modelland

When I was at BEA, there was a lengthy line forming at one of the publisher’s tables.  I found out that it was for Tyra Banks, who was making a “surprise” appearance.  I certainly wasn’t going to wait for her, but after a few minutes, I heard people saying that she would be coming momentarily.  So I hung out and when she arrived with her entourage, I snapped a few pictures and left.

A few days ago, my former co-worker Sandy came to work and left me a [signed!] copy of this excerpt (she had waited for Tyra and got her autograph).  I really had no intention of reading the book, but I was delighted to have a copy of it.  In the interest of embarrassing full disclosure, Sarah and I watch ANTM.  However, in our defense, we FF just about every time someone speaks.  We basically like it for the photo shoots and the final pictures.  But we both feel that Tyra is a looney-tunes egomaniac. 

But seeing the book on our table made me have to read it. 

So how good could this book possible be, especially when the main character is named (seriously) Tookie de la Crème (and her sister is named Myrracle).  Oh and holy cow Tyra’s own introduction says that this is the first book in a trilogy!  Good grief.  

The summary of the story is:

Welcome to Modelland, where every girl dreams of the beauty and glamour of the Land on the top of the mountain. Every girl but one.


Well, surprise, surpise…the story is actually quite interesting. (more…)

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