New Music 08/2020 – Dead Can Dance, Aurora

Playing catch-up with a long-time musical love and my new favourite Norwegian singer-songwriter.

Dead Can Dance – Spiritchaser

I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to get around to this album when the heavenly team of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry have been my big favourites for ages. This 1996 release was the last one before the dissolution of their musical partnership a couple of years later, until they recovered their senses and reunited in 2012 for the Anastasis album and tour, which I was lucky enough to see.

Spiritchaser takes Dead Can Dance further away from their gothic/medieval roots, and into the realm of the world music (for the lack of a better term though I’m not a fan) that they started exploring on Into the Labyrinth. It’s more tribal, textured and mellow, with Middle Eastern, Indian and African influences; the songs are longer and more hypnotic. While it’s missing the drama and intensity of their earlier albums, and the duo’s breathtaking vocals feel toned down in order to blend better with the music, it’s a wonderful and relaxing addition to my Dead Can Dance collection.

Aurora – Infections of a Different Kind (Step 1) & A Different Kind of Human (Step 2)

I fell in love with this enchanting and eccentric Norwegian singer when I saw her live show last year

<solemn pause to mourn the live music in this COVID-19 nightmare we’re living in>

and I’m finally onto investigating her back catalogue. These two releases act as two halves of one double album, though Step 2 is more like a full-length album in itself. At this point in her career, I’d say that Aurora’s electro-pop music maybe doesn’t quite match the appeal of her astonishing crystal-clear voice, which seems to belong to a mysterious fairy-like creature from the woods. On the other hand, since I recognised a lot of these songs from just one live show more than a year ago, she must be doing something right.

There’s enough pleasing variety and left turns (like hip-hop touches on Apple Tree), but to me Aurora is at her most compelling when her music takes on a more haunting and ghostly feel, such as on the lyrically harrowing Churchyard, still my favourite track by a long shot. She’s such an unusual soul you can only hope that she never gets her quirks ironed out.

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